First Circuit Upholds Individual Arbitration for GrubHub Drivers

On Friday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order and nonprecedential opinion in Levine v. Grubhub Holdings Inc., et al affirming the District Court of Massachusetts’ decision to compel arbitration. 

The plaintiff, Stephen Levine, filed a class action complaint against Grub Hub Holdings Inc. and Grubhub Inc. (Grubhub) on behalf of himself and all other independent contractors in Massachusetts who worked for Grubhub. In the complaint, Levine argues that Grubhub misclassified its drivers as independent contractors in violation of Massachusetts’ Wage Act and Minimum Wage Laws. 

Grubhub responded by filing a motion to compel arbitration and stay the proceeding, arguing that the plaintiff agreed to individual arbitration for any and all disputes between himself and Grubhub. Conversely, the plaintiff argued that the plaintiff drivers were exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) as transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce. 

On January 12, 2022, the District Court of Massachusetts ruled in favor of Grubhub, granting its motion to compel arbitration and dismissing the case. The plaintiff timely appealed the district court’s decision to the First Circuit. 

The First Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision in an nonprecedential opinion that was less than two pages. In the opinion the court stated that it had addressed the same issue on similar facts in the published case Immediato v. Postmates, Inc. after the current appeal was argued. 

In the opinion the court stated that Immediato held that a comparable class of workers could not escape the FAA by attempting to invoke the transportation worker exemption. Further, Immediato held that the workers arbitration agreements were encompassed under a separate section of the FAA. 

The First Circuit held that the reasoning in Immediato was fully applicable to the case at hand and accordingly affirmed the district court’s decision. 

The plaintiff is represented by Lichten & Liss-Riordan, while Grubhub is represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.