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Ouadani v. TF Final Mile LLC

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

November 21, 2017

DJAMEL OUADANI, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, Appellee,
TF FINAL MILE LLC, f/k/a Dynamex Operations East, LLC, Defendant, Appellant.


          Diane M. Saunders, with whom Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. was on brief, for appellant.

          Stephen Churchill, with whom Hillary Schwab, Brant Casavant, and Fair Work, P.C. were on brief, for appellee.

          Before Lynch and Selya, Circuit Judges, and Levy, District Judge. [*]

          LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

         Djamel Ouadani worked as a delivery driver from March to August 2016, delivering products for Dynamex Operations East, LLC ("Dynamex"), now known as TF Final Mile LLC. As a condition of his employment, Ouadani was required to associate with a vendor affiliated with Dynamex, named Selwyn and Birtha Shipping LLC ("SBS"). Ouadani received his compensation from SBS, which had a written contract with Dynamex. Ouadani did not have a written contract either with Dynamex or with SBS.

         In August 2016, Ouadani complained to Dynamex that he lacked the independence of a contractor, and that he should be paid as an employee if Dynamex continued to exert the same degree of control over his work. He was terminated shortly after he complained.

         After his termination, Ouadani brought various wage-and-hour claims against Dynamex in federal district court, styling his action as a putative class action on his behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated. Dynamex responded by filing a motion to compel arbitration, pointing to an agreement between Dynamex and SBS that contained a mandatory arbitration clause.

         The district court denied Dynamex's motion, reasoning that Ouadani had never signed the agreement containing the arbitration clause and had no idea that the agreement even existed. Ouadani v. Dynamex Operations E., LLC, No. 16-12036, 2017 WL 1948522, at *3-5 (D. Mass. May 10, 2017). On appeal, Dynamex argues that Ouadani should nonetheless be compelled to arbitrate under federal common law principles of contract and agency. Because these arguments are without merit, we affirm.

         I. Background

         A. Facts[1]

         In early 2016, Ouadani applied to Dynamex for a job as a delivery driver, transporting products ordered through Google Express. After contacting Dynamex, Ouadani was invited to a meeting at the Dynamex offices in Wilmington, Massachusetts. At the meeting, Dynamex employees interviewed Ouadani and asked him to complete a number of forms, including one indicating his available days and hours. Dynamex also gave Ouadani a Dynamex shirt, albeit one that he had to pay for; took his photograph for a Dynamex identification badge; told him that he needed to pass a drug test; and provided him with information about the services the company provided for Google Express. Dynamex told Ouadani that he would be paid eighteen dollars per hour, or seventy-two dollars for a four-hour shift.

         During the meeting at the Dynamex offices in Wilmington, Dynamex also gave Ouadani the names and telephone numbers of three Dynamex-affiliated vendors and told Ouadani that he would have to "associate" with one of them. For aught that appears, the term "associate" was never defined. Ouadani decided to associate with SBS. SBS was owned and managed by another Dynamex delivery driver, Edward Alwis, whom Ouadani had never met. Neither SBS nor Dynamex classified Ouadani as an employee.

         Unbeknownst to Ouadani, Dynamex and SBS had entered into an "Independent Contractor Agreement for Transportation Services" (the "Agreement") in January 2016, pursuant to which SBS agreed to perform delivery services "brokered or subcontracted by Dynamex" (the "Contracted Services"). SBS was permitted to hire employees or subcontractors to perform some or all of the Contracted Services. The Agreement included the following arbitration provision:

In the event of a dispute between the parties, the parties agree to resolve the dispute as described in this Section (hereafter "the Arbitration Provision"). This Arbitration Provision is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq., and applies to any dispute brought by either [SBS] or Dynamex arising out of or related to this Agreement, [SBS's] relationship with Dynamex (including termination of the relationship), or the service arrangement contemplated by this Agreement, including cargo claims and payment disputes, but excluding all claims that may be adjudicated in small claims court. The provisions of this Arbitration Provision shall remain in force after the parties' contractual relationship ends. BY AGREEING TO ARBITRATE ...

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