The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a former Tinder employee who asserted claims of sexual harassment by her superiors must arbitrate her claims pursuant to an enforceable arbitration agreement she signed during her employment.
The plaintiff filed suit against Tinder in California state court, alleging that she was wrongfully terminated as a result of reporting instances of sexual harassment by her superiors.
Tinder, through its successor Match Group LLC, timely removed the matter to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. The plaintiff moved to remand the case to California state court, claiming that both she and Tinder, a dissolved Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in California, were citizens of California, thus defeating diversity jurisdiction. Match Group moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration agreement the plaintiff signed during her employment.
The California district court denied the plaintiff’s motion to remand, finding that Tinder was not a “dissolved corporation” but rather it merged with Match Group, making Match Group the proper party to the suit, and whose Texas citizenship was to be considered for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. The district court also granted Match Group’s motion to compel arbitration based on the enforceable arbitration agreement.
The plaintiff appealed the district court’s decision, arguing that the district court failed to consider Tinder’s citizenship when it determined that diversity jurisdiction existed. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court was correct in considering only Match Group’s citizenship because, following the merger with Match Group, Tinder ceased to exist as a separate entity and continued solely as an unincorporated division of Match Group.
The plaintiff also challenged the district court’s ruling that her claims must be submitted to arbitration, arguing that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable, did not apply retroactively to encompass preexisting claims, and that California law bars retroactive application of the arbitration agreement.
Rejecting each of the plaintiff’s arguments, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the ruling that the arbitration agreement was enforceable. The court reasoned that the arbitration agreement only gave rise to a low degree of procedural unconscionability, not any substantive unconscionability that infected the arbitration agreement as a whole. The court also found that, although the plaintiff signed the arbitration agreement during her employment as a condition of her continued employment, the plaintiff’s preexisting claims fell within the scope of the broad language of the arbitration agreement that reflected an intent to cover claims that had accrued before the effective date of the arbitration agreement. The Ninth Circuit also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that California law bars retroactive application of the arbitration agreement where there was no suggestion that Match Group sought to modify the agreement unilaterally.
Sanfilippo v. Match Group LLC, No. 20-55819 (9th Cir. Sept. 28, 2021).