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Weddington v. Brinker International Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

March 7, 2019

Eugene M. Weddington, Plaintiff,
v.
Brinker International, Inc., d/b/a Chili's Grill and Bar, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration filed by Defendant. [Doc. 6.] Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g), D.S.C., all pretrial matters in employment discrimination cases are referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for consideration.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was employed as a server and bartender by Defendant at the Chili's restaurant in Anderson, South Carolina. [Doc. 1 ¶ 6.] He began his employment on November 4, 2015, although he had previously worked at the same restaurant several years before. [Id.] Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a Complaint in this Court on June 14, 2018. [Doc. 1.] Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that Defendant discriminated and retaliated against him during his employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. [Id.]

         On September 21, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. [Doc. 6.] Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion on October 19, 2018 [Doc. 11], and Defendant filed a reply on November 2, 2018 [Doc. 16]. On December 19, 2018, the undersigned issued an Order requiring additional briefing. [Doc. 17.] Plaintiff appealed that Order, and it was affirmed by the Honorable Timothy M. Cain on January 29, 2019. [Doc. 25.] Defendant filed its supplemental brief on February 20, 2019 [Doc. 28], and Plaintiff filed his reply on March 1, 2019 [Doc. 30]. In that reply, Plaintiff withdrew his prior objection to Defendant's motion to compel arbitration. [Id. at 1.] However, Plaintiff asserts “that the appropriate remedy here is to stay the case and compel arbitration, not to dismiss the case outright.” [Id.] For that reason, Plaintiff “requests that the Court retain jurisdiction over this matter to enforce any potential arbitration award that might be provided to Plaintiff.” [Id. at 2.] Defendant's motion is now ripe for review.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant seeks to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) of the claims alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint. [Doc. 6-1.] As stated, Plaintiff has now withdrawn his prior objection to Defendant's motion to compel arbitration, and the Court recommends that that motion be granted.

         Having concluded that arbitration is proper in this case, the Court must now consider whether to dismiss this action. Defendant has requested that the Court dismiss this case with prejudice. [Id. at 8.] Plaintiff asks the Court to stay the case rather than to dismiss it. [Doc. 30 at 1.]

         “When an order to arbitrate has been issued for all claims brought before a court, courts are split on whether the filed action should be dismissed or stayed pending the outcome of the arbitration.” Richard A. Bales & Melanie A. Goff, An Analysis of an Order to Compel Arbitration: To Dismiss or Stay?, 115 Penn St. L. Rev. 539, 541 (2011) (collecting cases). The FAA requires a district court, upon motion by any party, to stay judicial proceedings involving issues covered by written arbitration agreements. 9 U.S.C. § 3. However, the FAA is silent as to whether a court may dismiss a case when all issues involved are covered by the applicable arbitration agreement.

         The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that, although the FAA requires judges to stay a case involving issues covered by a written arbitration agreement, dismissal is the proper remedy when all of the issues presented in a lawsuit are subject to arbitration. See Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. BSR Tropicana Resort, Inc., 252 F.3d 707, 709-10 (4th Cir. 2001) (“Notwithstanding the terms of § 3 [of the FAA], however, dismissal is a proper remedy when all of the issues presented in a lawsuit are arbitrable.”); Greenville Hosp. Sys. v. Emp. Welfare Ben. Plan for Emps. of Hazelhurst Mgmt. Co., 628 Fed.Appx. 842, 845-46 (4th Cir. 2015) (affirming dismissal and holding that when “a court determines, after applying this presumption in favor of arbitration, that all of the issues presented are arbitrable, then it may dismiss the case, as the district court did here”). Courts in this District have routinely held that dismissal is the proper remedy when all claims asserted in a case fall within the scope of an arbitration agreement. Rock v. Solar Rating & Certification Corp., No. 8:17-cv-3401-DCC-JDA, 2018 WL 3750617, at *8 (D.S.C. July 23, 2018) (collecting cases), Report and Recommendation adopted by 2018 WL 3745057 (D.S.C. Aug. 7, 2018). Based on the foregoing, and because it is undisputed that all claims in this dispute are subject to arbitration, it is recommended that the Complaint be dismissed.

         CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

         Accordingly, for the reasons explained above, it is recommended that Defendant's motion to compel arbitration [Doc. 6] ...


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