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United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
October 22, 2021, Argued; May 5, 2022, Decided
DENNIS JACOBS, Circuit Judge:
Plaintiffs deliver baked goods by truck to stores and restaurants in designated territories within Connecticut. They bring this action in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Dooley, J.) on behalf of a putative class against Flowers Foods, Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, which manufacture the baked goods that the plaintiffs deliver. Plaintiffs allege unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Connecticut wage laws. The district court granted the defendants' motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case.
The decisive question on appeal is whether the plaintiffs are "transportation workers" within the meaning of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"). ] That matters because the FAA, which confers on the federal courts an [*3] expansive obligation to enforce arbitration agreements, has an exclusion for contracts with "seamen, railroad employees, [and] any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce." 9 U.S.C. § 1. That exclusion is construed to cover "transportation workers." Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 119, 121 S. Ct. 1302, 149 L. Ed. 2d 234 (2001).
Of the issues subsumed in that question, some are settled. For example, an independent contractor can be a transportation worker, a point germane to this case in which the drivers own their routes and may sell them to others. New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, 139 S. Ct. 532, 543-44, 202 L. Ed. 2d 536 (2019).
The district court ruled that the plaintiffs are not "transportation workers" and "grant[ed] the Defendants' motion to dismiss in favor of arbitration." Special App'x 15. The court undertook a thorough review of the circumstances that might bear on the question, such as the extent of similarity between the plaintiffs' work and the work of those in the maritime and railroad industries. That analysis is consonant with the prescription in Lenz v. Yellow Transportation, Inc., 431 F.3d 348 (8th Cir. 2005), which approached the question by considering eight non-exclusive factors. We affirm without rejecting or adopting the district court's analysis, which may very well be a way to decide closer cases. We hold that the plaintiffs are not "transportation workers," even though [*4] they drive trucks, because they are in the bakery industry, not a transportation industry.
In arriving at that holding, we first consider an alternative ground for affirmance that might obviate the federal statutory question by allowing the arbitration to proceed under Connecticut arbitration law, which has no exclusion for transportation workers; but vexed questions beset a ruling that affirms on that alternative basis. We therefore must come to grips with whether the plaintiffs are "transportation workers." We agree with the district court that they are not. We affirm the district court's order compelling arbitration and dismissing the case.
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2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 12156 *; 33 F.4th 650
NEAL BISSONNETTE, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, AND TYLER WOJNAROWSKI, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. LEPAGE BAKERIES PARK ST., LLC, C.K. SALES CO., LLC, AND FLOWERS FOODS, INC., Defendants-Appellees.
Prior History: [*1] ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT.
Plaintiffs, who deliver baked goods in designated territories in Connecticut, brought this action in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Dooley, J.) on behalf of a putative class against the manufacturer of the baked goods that plaintiffs deliver. The plaintiffs allege unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment.
The district court compelled arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement that is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") and Connecticut law. Plaintiffs claim that they are not subject to the FAA because Section 1 of the FAA excludes contracts with "seamen, railroad employees, [and] any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce." 9 U.S.C. § 1. The exclusion is construed to cover "transportation workers." The district court held that the plaintiffs did not qualify as transportation workers, ordered arbitration, and dismissed the case. For the reasons below, we affirm.
Bissonette v. Lepage Bakeries Park St., LLC, 460 F. Supp. 3d 191, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84989 (D. Conn., May 14, 2020)
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