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Lesneski v. Ross Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

July 7, 2017

AMY LESNESKI, an Individual, Plaintiff,
v.
ROSS STORES, INC., a Delaware Corporation, and MARK STEGALL, an Individual jointly and severally, directly and vicariously, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Graham C. Mullen United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative, to Stay This Action and Compel Arbitration. (Doc. No. 9). Plaintiffs have filed a response memorandum and defendants have filed a reply memorandum. This matter is now ripe for disposition.

         I.BACKGROUND

         Ross is an off-price retailer of brand-name and designer apparel, accessories, footwear and home goods. Ross hired Plaintiff as a Supervisor at its Rock Hill Distribution Center Operations, 2nd Shift on October 6, 2014. On December 18, 2014, Plaintiff signed a Dispute Resolution Agreement (“DRA”) with Ross. The DRA includes the following language:

This Agreement sets forth the procedures that you and Ross Stores, Inc. (“Ross”) mutually agree must be used to resolve any and all “Covered Disputes” arising out of or related to your employment with Ross or its termination. Covered Disputes will be resolved by final and binding arbitration and not by a court or jury.
For the purposes of this Agreement Covered Disputes include any and all disputes both between you and Ross and between you and any other Ross Associate, agent or employee of Ross, arising out of or related to your employment with or separation of employment from Ross regardless of who initiates the claim. Covered Disputes include, but are not limited to, disputes related to the use of trade secrets, unfair competition, compensation, termination, retaliation, whistleblower claims, workers' compensation retaliation claims, harassment, discrimination and claims based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the American with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Family Medical Leave Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, Fair Labor Standards Act and all similar state statutes and all related common law claims.

         Doc. No. 10 at 2-3. On or about June 25, 2015, Plaintiff resigned from her employment with Ross. Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina on November 1, 2016. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she was harassed on the basis of her gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and she raises violations of the common law.

         Upon receiving notice of the filing of this lawsuit, Defense counsel advised Plaintiff's counsel that Plaintiff had entered into the DRA with Ross and provided Plaintiff's counsel with a copy of the same. In this motion, Defendants ask this Court to dismiss or stay this case and Plaintiff be compelled to pursue her claims in accordance with the DRA and FAA.

         II.DISCUSSION

         The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) provides:

a written provision in . . . a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or transaction, or the refusal to perform the whole or any part thereof, or an agreement in writing to submit to arbitration an existing controversy arising out of such contract, transaction or refusal, shall be valid, irrevocable and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist in law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.

9 U.S.C. § 2 (2012)

         As an initial matter, the Court notes “North Carolina has a strong public policy favoring arbitration.” Raper v. Oliver House, LLC, 637 S.E.2d 551, 554 ( N.C. Ct. App. 2006) (quoting Red Springs Presbyterian Church v. Terminix Co., 458 S.E.2d 270, 273 ( N.C. Ct. App. 1995; Tillman v. Commercial Credit Loans, Inc., 655 S.E.2d 362, 369 ( N.C. 2008)). And this preference has been widely recognized in the employment context for both state and federal law claims. See Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 121-23 (2001) (“We have been clear in rejecting the supposition that the advantages of the arbitration process somehow disappear when transferred to the employment context”); Thomas v. The Right Choice MWM, Inc., 2014 WL 1632946 (W.D. N.C. Apr. 23, 2014) (compelling arbitration of Title VII, ADA and ADEA claims); Mahmoud v. Carmax Auto Superstores, Inc., 2011 WL 32518 (W.D. N.C. Jan. 5, 2011) (Title VII and wrongful termination in violation of North Carolina public policy claims subject to compulsory arbitration).

         To compel arbitration, the court must conclude that: (1) a dispute exists between the parties; (2) there is a valid, written agreement to arbitrate that encompasses the dispute; (3) the transaction relates to interstate commerce; and (4) Plaintiff's refusal to arbitrate. See American Gen. Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Wood, 429 F.3d 83, 87 (4th Cir. 2005). The first and fourth elements are clearly met as there is certainly a dispute between ...


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