United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Sixel, LLC, brings this action against a number of former
employees, alleging that the employees misappropriated trade
secrets after termination of their employment in violation of
the Defend Trade Secrets Act ("DTSA") (18 U.S.C.
§ 1836). Plaintiff also brings a number of related
claims, including Breach of Confidentiality Agreement, Breach
of Covenant Not to Compete, Breach of the Duty of Good Faith
and Fair Dealing, Breach of the Duty of Loyalty, Breach of
Fiduciary Duty and Intentional Interference with Prospective
Economic Advantage. Defendants, John A. Penning III, Robert
J. Hayes, Michael Lum, Michael Mooney, Kristopher Nichter,
Melissa Galvan Peterson, Elizabeth Flores, and Lauren Mishler
("Petitioners"), have filed a Petition to Compel
Arbitration (doc. 28) pursuant to the terms of their Employee
Handbook and Employee Contract (the "Employment
Agreement") with plaintiff. For the reasons set forth
herein, the petition is granted.
is the successor to Sixel Consulting Group, Inc.
("SCG") which employed defendants. SCG, located in
Eugene, Oregon, was established by Mark Sixel in 2001, and
engaged in consulting, marketing, and air-service development
specializing in using proprietary technology to help
determine the most profitable airline routes for clients to
pursue and how to optimally allocate their resources.
condition of employment, petitioners were required signed the
Employment Agreement, which included various provisions such
as a covenant not to compete, as well as confidentiality and
non-solicitation provisions. The Employment Agreement also
included a provision whereby the parties agreed to settle
disputes through an arbitration process. Crucially, for the
present motion, Section 7 of the Employment Agreement for
each of the petitions contains a subsection dealing with
"Arbitration and Equitable Relief." Specifically,
Section 7-10(a) in each of the Employment Agreements
"Except as provided in Section 7-10(b) below,
[Petitioner] agrees that any dispute, claim or
controversy concerning [Petitioner's] employment or the
termination of [Petitioner 's] employment or any dispute,
claim or controversy arising out of, or relating to, any
interpretation, construction, performance or breach of this
Agreement, shall be settled by arbitration to be held in
Eugene, Oregon, in accordance with the rules then in effect
of the American Arbitration Association. The arbitrator
may grant injunctions or other relief in such dispute or
controversy. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final,
conclusive and binding on the parties to the arbitration.
Judgment may be entered on the arbitrator's decision in
any court having jurisdiction. The Company and [Petitioner]
shall each pay one-half of the costs and expenses of such
arbitration, and each party shall separately pay that
party's counsel fees and expenses."
2016, plaintiff claimed to experience financial difficulties,
which resulted in several employee layoffs and voluntary
resignations. Following this period, petitioners established
an aviation consulting business. Plaintiff now alleges that
defendants and others conspired in starting these companies
to improperly take several of plaintiffs clients and make use
of plaintiffs protected intellectual property. Plaintiff
pursued these allegations by filing a complaint in the
Circuit Court of the State of Oregon. Defendants then removed
the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1331, 1367, 1441, 1446, and Fed R. Civ. P. 81(c).
now seek to compel arbitration under the terms of the
Employment Agreement mentioned above.
the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), arbitration
agreements are "valid, irrevocable, and enforceable,
save upon such grounds as exist at law or equity for the
revocation of any contract." 9 U.S.C. § 2. Any
doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be
resolved in favor of arbitration. Moses H. Cone Memorial
Hosp. v. Mercury Const. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25 (1983).
An order to arbitrate should not be denied unless it may be
said with positive assurance that the
arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation
that covers the asserted dispute. United Steelworkers of
America v. Warrior & GulfNavigation Co., 363 U.S.
574, 582-583 (1960). When considering arbitrability, the
court determines (1) whether a valid agreement to arbitrate
exists, and if it does, (2) whether the agreement encompasses
the dispute at issue. Cox v. Ocean View Hotel Corp.,
533 F.3d 1114, 1119 (9th. Cir. 2008).
the FAA, the interpretation of an arbitration agreement is
generally a matter of state law. Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v.
Animal FeedsInt7 Corp., 559 U.S. 662, 681,
(2010). Oregon, like the federal courts,
recognizes a presumption in favor of arbitrability. See
Livingston v. Metro. Pediatrics, LLC, 234 Or.App. 137,
147 (2010), citing to United Steelworkers of America v.
Warrior & GulfNavigation Co., 363 U.S. at 582.
the parties agree that a valid arbitration agreement exists;
the specific language is contained in the Employment
Agreement. Because there is a valid agreement, the only
remaining question is whether the agreement encompasses the
disputes at issue-including whether the parties
agreed to arbitrate arbitrability. Petitioners argue that the
language contained in the Employment Contract is plain and,
thus, any claims arising out of their ...