United States District Court, District of Columbia
March 21, 2001
YONIS H. NUR, PLAINTIFF,
K.F.C., USA, INC. AND K.F.C., NATIONAL MANAGEMENT COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kennedy, District Judge.
Plaintiff Yonis Nur ("Nur"), a native Somalian and practicing Muslim,
was formerly employed as an Assistant Restaurant Manager with defendants
K.F.C. USA Inc. and K.F.C. National Management Company (collectively,
"KFC"). In this suit, Nur alleges that KFC discriminated against him on
the basis of his gender, religion, race, and ethnicity in violation of
the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"). Nur also claims
various Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") violations, wrongful
termination, and defamation. Before the court is KFC's motion to dismiss
for lack of jurisdiction. Upon consideration of the motion, the
opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the court concludes that
KFC's motion to dismiss should be granted.
Nur began working for KFC on September 9, 1997. For the first eight
weeks of his employment, he worked as an Assistant Unit Manager Trainee
at a KFC restaurant located in Capitol Heights, MD. From June, 1998 to
June 7, 1999, Nur worked as an Assistant Unit Manager at a KFC restaurant
located in Washington, D.C. Nur claims that during these periods of
employment KFC did not pay him any overtime for the hours he worked in
excess of 40 hours per week. Nur also claims that his supervisor, KFC
Market Manager Clinton Polk, falsely accused Nur of reducing the hours of
KFC hourly employees who worked under Nur's supervision. Polk later told
Nur that unless he sign a written admission of wrongdoing, he would be
fired. Nur refused to sign the
admission, and he was subsequently terminated. This suit followed.
KFC argues that Nur signed two binding agreements to arbitrate any
claims that arose between himself and KFC. The first agreement, entitled
"Arbitration of Employee Rights," was included on Nur's employment
application form; the second agreement, entitled "Agreement to Arbitrate,"
was provided as part of Nur's receipt of the KFC Restaurant Management
Handbook. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction at 2
("Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss"). These arbitration agreements, attached as
Exhibits A and B to KFC's motion, both state:
Because of the delay and expense of the court
systems, KFC and I agree to use confidential binding
arbitration for any claims that arise between me and
KFC, its related companies, and/or their current or
former employees. Such claims would include any
concerning compensation, employment (including, but
not limited to any claims concerning sexual
harassment), or termination of employment. Before
arbitration, I agree: (i) first, to present any such
claims in full written detail to KFC; (ii) next, to
complete any KFC internal review process; and (iii)
finally, to complete any external administrative
remedy (such as with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission). In any arbitration, the then prevailing
rules of the American Arbitration Association (and, to
the extent not inconsistent, the then prevailing rules
of the Federal Arbitration Act) will apply.
Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at Ex. A, Ex. B (slight additions).
KFC contends that these agreements, which Nur purportedly signed as a
condition of his employment, are enforceable and preclude Nur's claims
before this court. Nur responds that at the time the Complaint was filed
he did not know that he had signed an arbitration agreement and that KFC
did nothing to inform him about "the implications of arbitration v.
judicial relief." Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 1, 4 ("Pl.'s
The Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") provides that "an agreement in
writing to submit to arbitration an existing controversy . . . shall be
valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at
law or in equity for the revocation of any contract." 9 U.S.C. § 2.
Federal courts have recognized a strong policy favoring alternative means
of dispute resolution and "[a]ny doubts concerning the scope of
arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of arbitration." Moses H.
Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25, 103 S.Ct.
927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983). Following this mandate, the Supreme Court in
Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 26, 111 S.Ct.
1647, 114 L.Ed.2d 26 (1991), held that employment discrimination claims
filed pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act were subject
to a binding arbitration agreement signed by the plaintiff-employee. The
Gilmer court noted that "[b]y agreeing to arbitrate a statutory claim, a
party does not forgo the substantive rights afforded by the statute; it
only submits to their resolution in an arbitral, rather than a judicial,
forum." Id. (quoting Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler Plymouth,
Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 628, 105 S.Ct. 3346, 87 L.Ed.2d 444 (1985)). See also
Cole v. Burns Intern. Sec. Services, 105 F.3d 1465, 1482-83 (D.C.Cir.
1997) (relying on Gilmer to enforce an arbitration agreement in a Title
Before ruling on KFC's motion to dismiss, the court must first
whether Nur and KFC entered into a binding arbitration agreement. See AT
& T Technologies, Inc. v. Communications Workers, 475 U.S. 643,
648-49. 106 S.Ct. 1415, 89 L.Ed.2d 648 (1986). Nur does not dispute that
he signed the arbitration agreements, but maintains that he did not know
"the implications of his opting for arbitration" and that KFC did nothing
to encourage him to "think the matter through before signing." Pl.'s
Opp'n at 3. Nur's arguments are without merit. First, under basic contract
law, "[o]ne who signs a contract which he had an opportunity to read and
understand is bound by its provisions." Paterson v. Reeves, 304 F.2d 950,
951 (D.C.Cir. 1962) (emphasis added). That Nur may not have comprehended
the implications of his decision is irrelevant as to whether the
agreement is valid. Second, Nur cites no case law, and the court is aware
of none, that requires employers to "go out of [their] way . . . to
recommend to the employee that he or she think the matter through before
signing" an arbitration agreement. Pl's Opp'n at 3. Indeed, it is Nur's
responsibility to "think the matter through" before he signs any
contract. Id. Nur has presented no support for the notion that employer
somehow have an affirmative duty to make sure their employees `think'
before signing employment agreements. Id. In the absence of some special
circumstances such as duress, fraud, or coercion — which Nur does
not allege here — the court finds that the arbitration agreements
Nur signed are valid and enforceable. See Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson
Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 33, 111 S.Ct. 1647, 114 L.Ed.2d 26 (1991);
Paterson, 304 F.2d at 951.
Next, the court must determine whether the arbitration agreements
encompass the claims Nur raises in his Complaint. See AT & T
Technologies, Inc. v. Communications Workers, 475 U.S. 643, 648-49, 106
S.Ct. 1415, 89 L.Ed.2d 648 (1986). Here the agreements cover "any claims
that arise between [plaintiff] and KFC . . . includ[ing] any concerning
compensation, employment . . ., or termination of employment." Defs.'
Mot. to Dismiss at Ex. A, Ex. B (slight additions). All of Nur's claims
in this suit — wrongful discharge, defamation, DC HRA
discrimination, and FLSA violations — arise out of or relate to
Nur's employment with KFC and, therefore, fall within the scope of the
binding arbitration agreements. Other courts addressing whether such
causes of action may be arbitrated have also ruled in favor of
arbitration. See Pearce v. E.F. Hutton Group, Inc., 828 F.2d 826, 832-33
(D.C.Cir. 1987) (enforcing arbitration agreement over claims of
defamation); Benefits Communication Corp. v. Klieforth, 642 A.2d 1299,
1304 (D.C. 1994) (DCHRA); Kuehner v. Dickinson & Co., 84 F.3d 316,
319-20 (9th Cir. 1996) (FLSA); McGinnis v. E.F. Hutton and Co., Inc.,
812 F.2d 1011, 1015 (6th Cir. 1987) (wrongful discharge).
Still, Nur argues that the arbitration agreements here are invalid
because they are written in fine print and represent contracts of
adhesion. These arguments are also without merit. First, contrary to
Nur's suggestion, the arbitration agreement found in the KFC employment
application is actually written in bold text and appears slightly larger
than the text of the other sections. The second arbitration agreement is
written in a normal-sized font, not fine print. See Defs.' Mot. to
Dismiss at Ex. A, Ex. B. Second, as KFC rightly indicates, Nur presents
no arguments as to how these arbitration agreements are unconscionable
contracts of adhesion. The agreements do not favor one party over the
other, they are not unduly burdensome, and they provide that the
applicable rules of the American Arbitration Association and the Federal
Act apply to all proceedings. Other courts evaluating similar arbitration
agreements have also found them not to be contracts of adhesion. See Cole
v. Burns Intern. Sec. Services, 105 F.3d 1465, 1482-83 (D.C.Cir. 1997);
Benefits Communication Corp. v. Klieforth, 642 A.2d 1299, 1304 (D.C.
Finally, Nur contends that the arbitration agreements are invalid
because they do not indicate who shall pay the costs of arbitration. This
issue is moot given that KFC states in its most recent pleading that "it
will pay for the costs of arbitration." Defs.'s Reply to Pl.'s Opp'n to
Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 6.
For the foregoing reasons, the court concludes that the arbitration
agreements in this case are valid and that Nur must present his claims to
arbitration.*fn1 Consequently, KFC's motion to dismiss for lack of
jurisdiction is granted. An appropriate order accompanies this memorandum
ORDER AND JUDGMENT
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 58 and for the reasons stated by the court in
its memorandum docketed this same day, it is this 21st day of March,
ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the complaint in this case is DISMISSED.