Access to Justice

Carmona v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC

In Carmona v. Domino’s Pizza, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is considering whether delivery drivers are engaged in interstate commerce and therefore exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act.

Case Summary

Three delivery drivers—Edmond Carmona, Abraham Mendoza, and Roger Nogueira—filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to hold Domino’s Pizza responsible for violating California labor laws. The pizza company responded with a motion to dismiss the suit and compel arbitration, invoking an arbitration agreement that it had required the drivers to sign as part of their employment paperwork. Domino’s invoked the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which generally requires courts to enforce agreements to arbitrate disputes. The FAA, however, exempts workers who are “engaged in . . . interstate commerce” from arbitration. Nevertheless, Domino’s argued that because the drivers only carry goods from California warehouses to California franchisees, they are not “directly involved” in “transporting good across state or international lines” and are therefore not exempt from the FAA. The United States District Court for the Central District of California denied the company’s motion, ruling that because the pizza ingredients that the drivers transport come from out of state, the drivers are engaged in interstate commerce.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision. Domino’s asked the Supreme Court to review the decision, and the Court remanded the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court for further consideration in light of its decision in Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon.

On January 30, 2023, CAC filed an amicus curiae brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of the delivery drivers. Our brief makes two main points.

First, the brief explains that when the FAA was passed in 1925, “interstate commerce” referred to the continuous movement of goods from one state to their intended destinations in another. At that time, a worker was engaged in interstate commerce if he or she was closely involved in any step of this transportation, including an intrastate step of the journey. For example, in Philadelphia Railway Co. v. Hancock, a railroad worker was killed while operating a train carrying coal between two points in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court held that the worker was “engaged in interstate commerce” when he died, reasoning that “the coal was in the course of transportation to another State” and the worker was “directly involved” in one “step” of that journey.

Second, the brief further explains that the Domino’s drivers are engaged in interstate commerce. The drivers participate in the transportation of pizza ingredients on an interstate journey that begins with out-of-state suppliers and ends when the ingredients reach their “real and ultimate destinations”—the Domino’s franchisees. Although the drivers are only responsible for one leg of this journey, they are plainly engaged in interstate commerce, as that term was understood when the FAA was enacted in 1925. Because of this, the drivers should be allowed to bring their case in court.

On July 21, 2023, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision, affirming the district court’s denial of Domino’s motion to compel arbitration. The court held that the drivers were exempt from the FAA because they were a class of workers engaged in interstate commerce. Echoing our brief, the court rejected Domino’s argument that the goods the drivers deliver are not in interstate commerce because Domino’s franchisees do not order the goods until after they arrive at the warehouse in California. As the court explained, “the Supreme Court has long rejected the notion that the timing of an order is itself dispositive of whether goods remain in the stream of commerce.” As a result of this decision, the delivery drivers’ suit can move forward.

Case Timeline

  • January 30, 2023

    CAC files amicus curiae brief in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

    CAC Amicus Brief Carmona
  • June 20, 2023

    Ninth Circuit hears oral arguments

  • July 21, 2023

    Ninth Circuit issues decision

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