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"Local delivery drivers" are not exempt
from the Federal Arbitration Act

Lopez v. Cintas Corp (5th Cir 08/30/2022)
Sent to Custom Alerts™ subscribers on 08/31/2022

Douglas Lopez was a local delivery driver for Cintas Corporation. That means he picked up items from a Houston warehouse (items shipped from out of state) and delivered them to local customers.

When Lopez sued claiming a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the employer moved to compel arbitration because Lopez's employment contract included an arbitration agreement.

Lopez argued he was exempt from arbitration because he belongs to a "class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" under 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act.

The 5th Circuit held in favor of the employer, so Lopez's claim will go to arbitration.

The 5th Circuit followed the two-step analytical path set out in Southwest Airlines v. Saxon, 142 S. Ct. 1783 (2022). In that case the US Supreme Court held that an airline ramp supervisor belongs to a "class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" to which 1's exemption applies.

First, the Supreme court defined the relevant "class of workers," and held that Saxon is a member of a "class of workers" based on what she frequently does at Southwest – that is, physically loading and unloading cargo on and off airplanes – and not on what Southwest does generally.

     Second, the Court held that the class of airplane cargo loaders is "engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" because those workers are directly involved in transporting goods across state or international borders.

Applying Southwest Airlines v. Saxon to local delivery drivers:

First, the court defined the relevant "class of workers" that Lopez belongs to. Lopez belongs to a "class of workers" – "local delivery drivers" – that picks up items from a local warehouse and delivers those items to local customers, with an emphasis on sales and customer service.

Second, the court determined whether that class of workers is "engaged in foreign or interstate commerce." The court pointed out that these drivers "take items from a local warehouse to local customers; these drivers enter the scene after the goods have already been delivered across state lines." "Once the goods arrived at the Houston warehouse and were unloaded, anyone interacting with those goods was no longer engaged in interstate commerce."

Thus, Lopez is not in a class of workers engaged in interstate commerce, and is not exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act's requirement that his agreement to arbitrate must be enforced.

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