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Davis v. BSH Home Appliances Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

July 11, 2017

CARL E. DAVIS, Plaintiff,


          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on defendant BSH Home Appliances Corporation's motion to confirm arbitration award. (DE 50). Also before the court is plaintiff's motion for hearing. (DE 49). In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, the court denies plaintiff's motion and grants defendant's motion. The arbitration award is confirmed.


         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initiated this action on June 15, 2015, against defendants BSH Home Appliances Corporation (“BSH”), Blue Arbor, Inc. (“Blue Arbor”), and TESI Screening, Inc. (“TESI”). Plaintiff alleges one count of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII claim”).

         In lieu of answer, on July 16, 2015, defendant BSH filed a first motion to compel arbitration, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 3 and 4. (DE 14). The court denied defendant BSH's motion by orders dated January 14 and February 10, 2016.[1] (DE 19, 30). Upon review of the evidence, the court found that defendant BSH failed to establish that plaintiff agreed to submit the disputed issues to arbitration.

         Following the court's denial of its first motion, defendant BSH filed an amended motion to compel arbitration and stay trial on February 24, 2016.[2] (DE 31). On May 18, 2016, the court granted BSH's amended motion and directed plaintiff to submit the underlying employment dispute, as well as any argument regarding the validity and scope of the disputed dispute resolution policy to arbitration.[3] At that time, the court stayed the case, pending resolution of the arbitration.[4]

         Pursuant to the court's directive, defendant BSH and plaintiff participated in arbitration. On October 31, 2016, defendant BSH submitted a motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims to arbitrator Carl Horn, III. Plaintiff responded in opposition on December 3, 2016. On December 9, 2016, the arbitrator issued a final order dismissing the arbitration with prejudice. (DE 49-1 at 18-20). In reaching his conclusion, the arbitrator found that defendant BSH “clearly and credibly established [that plaintiff's] employment was conditioned upon his agreement to be subject to a Dispute Resolution Policy (“DRP”) which required that most disputes between the employee and his employer be resolved first by submitting to mediation and, if not resolved in the mediation, by binding arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association.” (Id. at 18). The arbitrator found that the “DRP clearly and unequivocally provides that arbitration must be initiated ‘within one year of the time the claim accrued or, in the case of a claimed statutory violation, the time limits imposed by the applicable statute of limitations, whichever is longer. . . . ‘[F]ailure to initiate arbitration within this timeline will forever bar any claim involving that dispute.'” (Id. at 19). Based on this language, the arbitrator concluded that plaintiff's claim presented in arbitration was untimely.

         On December 27, 2016, plaintiff filed the instant motion for hearing. Plaintiff contends that arbitration was improper and seeks hearing to present evidence that defendant BSH falsified certain paperwork it relied on to establish plaintiff agreed to arbitrate employment related claims. Defendant BSH filed opposition to plaintiff's motion on January 4, 2017.

         On December 28, 2016, BSH filed the instant motion to confirm the arbitration award. (DE 50). Defendant BSH contends that the court should confirm the arbitrator's award, as pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 9, where no basis to vacate, modify, or correct the award exists. Plaintiff has not responded directly to defendant BSH's motion, however his motion for hearing and related filings set forth several reasons why the court should not dismiss the case.


         Facts pertinent to the instant motions are summarized as follows. Defendant BSH employed plaintiff from August 11, 2003, until June 15, 2008. Sometime in 2000, defendant BSH promulgated a “dispute resolution policy, ” (the “2000 DRP”), which establishes a multi-step procedure for resolving employee grievances arising out of or relating to the employee's employment. (See Ex. D, DE 32 at 16-19). At the time it was promulgated, defendant BSH provided all then-current employees with a copy of the 2000 DRP. As a condition of continued employment, defendant BSH required each employee to agree with the terms of the policy. Defendant BSH also provided a copy of the 2000 DRP to all newly-hired employees. Defendant BSH required all newly-hired employees to sign a form acknowledging receipt of the policy and indicating their assent to the terms contained therein. Defendant BSH provided plaintiff a copy of the policy on August 11, 2003.

         As relevant here, the 2000 DRP contains an arbitration provision, which incorporates by reference rules of the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), and requires any arbitration to occur before the AAA. In June of 2005, defendant created and circulated an employee handbook. The employee handbook incorporates several previously free-standing company policies, including a revised version of the 2000 DRP. (See Ex. B, DE 32 at 11-14). Like the 2000 DRP, the revised DRP requires aggrieved employees to submit employment disputes to arbitration before the AAA. The revised DRP also incorporates by reference AAA rules. Following implementation of the employee handbook, defendant BSH circulated copies of the handbook and all related documents to its then-current employees, who were required to sign an acknowledgment thereof as a condition of continued employment. Plaintiff signed the acknowledgment form on June 23, 2005. (See Ex. B, DE 32 at 7).

         On July 28, 2005, defendant BSH terminated plaintiff for reasons, it alleges, related to a rules infraction. Following plaintiff's 2005 termination, plaintiff filed a claim of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), wherein he alleged that his termination was racially motivated. Plaintiff ultimately settled his discriminatory termination claim, and defendant re-hired plaintiff with seniority retroactive to August 11, 2003, plaintiff's original hire date. Thereafter, plaintiff continued to work for defendant BSH until he voluntarily left in June 2008. In July 2013, plaintiff reapplied to work at defendant BSH. At that time, defendant BSH informed plaintiff that he had to apply for the position through defendant TESI, Inc., a temporary staffing agency now known as defendant Blue ...

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