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Skiba v. Sasser

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

September 11, 2017

JUDITH SKIBA PLAINTIFF
v.
ROBERT SASSER, ET AL. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION [15] TO DISMISS AND/OR TO COMPEL ARBITRATION

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT is Defendants Robert Sasser, CEO, Dollar Tree Company Parent Company; Gary Philbin, President of Family Dollar Company, Subsidiary Company of Dollar Tree Company; Aaron Hendricks, District Manager of Family Dollar Company, Subsidiary of Dollar Tree Company; and Joe Young, Manager of Family Dollar Company, Subsidiary of Dollar Tree Company's Motion [15] to Dismiss and/or to Compel Arbitration filed March 28, 2017. In response, Plaintiff Judith Skiba filed an Answer [18] on April 17, 2017, which was amended by Motion [20] on April 26, 2017. The time for Defendants to file a reply has passed. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Defendants' Motion should be granted, the parties should be ordered to submit this matter to arbitration, and this case should be dismissed without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of pro se Plaintiff Judith Skiba's (“Plaintiff”) employment at the Family Dollar Store in Moss Point, Mississippi. Compl. [1] at 3. On February 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). See EEOC documents [18-7] at 2. Plaintiff claimed that she had been discriminated against based upon her “race (White).” Id. Plaintiff alleged that she was hired in 2014, but beginning on January 25, 2015, was continuously subjected to racial slurs and vulgar language by a “Black coworker” which created a hostile work environment. Id. When she complained to her Manager and to the corporate offices, Plaintiff charged that her work hours were decreased while “Blacks were getting favoritism by getting more hours.” Id. Plaintiff contends that she was the only remaining “White employee” at the store when she was constructively discharged by being forced to resign due to the deplorable work conditions. Id. On October 7, 2016, the EEOC issued its Dismissal and Notice of Rights informing Plaintiff that it was not able to conclude that Plaintiff had been discriminated against under Title VII, but that if she desired to file suit she must do so within 90 days. Id. at 1.

         On December 23, 2016, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed her Complaint [1] advancing claims under Title VII and for violations of Mississippi Code § 25-9-103(c) and § 97-3-107 against Defendants Robert Sasser, CEO, Dollar Tree Company Parent Company; Gary Philbin, President of Family Dollar Company, Subsidiary Company of Dollar Tree Company; Aaron Hendricks, District Manager of Family Dollar Company, Subsidiary of Dollar Tree Company; and Joe Young, Manager of Family Dollar Company, Subsidiary of Dollar Tree Company (“Defendants”).[1]Compl. [1] at 1-7. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, jointly and severally, in the amount of $20, 000.00 from each Defendant, as well as punitive damages, jointly and severally, of $20, 000.00 from each Defendant.[2] Id. at 6.

         On March 28, 2017, Defendants filed their Motion [15] to Dismiss and/or to Compel Arbitration. Defendants contend that they are “officers or employees of Family Dollar, Inc. or Dollar Tree Company, the parent company of Family Dollar, ” and as individuals they are not liable for any alleged violation of Title VII. Defendants further argue that neither of the Mississippi statutes cited by Plaintiff are applicable to employment disputes between private sector employers and employees. According to Defendants, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted and should be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Mem. in Supp. [16] at 1 - 8. Defendants argue in the alternative that Plaintiff signed a valid arbitration agreement and thus seek to enforce the arbitration provision. Mot. [15] at 1-2; Mem. in Supp. [16] at 3-8.

         Attached to the Motion is the Family Dollar, Inc., Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims (the “Agreement”) [15-1] which provides that the “Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. § 1 et. seq.) shall govern this Agreement, which evidences a transaction involving interstate commerce, and the Company and I agree that the Company is engaged in interstate commerce.” Agreement, Ex. “A” [15-1] at 1. The Agreement further provides that “[t]he Company and I mutually consent and agree to the resolution by arbitration of all claims or controversies, past present or future (“Disputes”) including without limitation, claims arising out of or related to my application for assignment/employment, assignment/employment, and/or the termination of my assignment/employment” including:

(i) discrimination based upon race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, disability, leave status, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran or military reserve status, privacy or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law, (ii) retaliation, including, but not limited to, whistleblower status or retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim, (iii) torts, including, but not limited to, defamation, invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress, or workplace injury not otherwise covered by applicable workers' compensation laws, (iv) all employment related laws, including, but not limited to, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Civil Rights Acts and Amendments of 1866, 1871, and 1991, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and any amendments to these laws, and any such related or similar state or local laws, (v) any federal, state or local law or common law doctrine for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, wrongful discharge or conversion, (vi) claims for interference with rights under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”), or other claims concerning administration of ERISA plans not excluded below, and (vii) claims under federal or state law regarding wages (including without limitation claims for pay, minimum wage and overtime), wage penalties, meal and rest breaks, classification, reimbursement of expenses, compensation, stock or incentive bonus plans, or intellectual property rights and associated laws.

         Agreement, Ex. “A” [15-1] at 1. The Agreement also provides that all disputes covered by the Agreement “shall be decided by an arbitrator through arbitration and not by way of court or jury trial” and defines covered disputes (“Disputes”) to include

[w]ithout limitation, claims arising out of or related to my application for assignment/employment, assignment/employment, and/or the termination of my assignment/employment that the Company my have against me or that I may have against any of the following: (1) the Company, (2) its officers, directors, employees, or agents in their capacity as such or otherwise, (3) the Company's parent, subsidiary, and affiliated entities, (4) the benefits plans or the plans' sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, affiliates, and agents, and/or (5) all successors and assigns of any of them.
Further, covered Disputes include any claim or controversy regarding the agreement or any portion of the agreement or its interpretation, enforceability, applicability, unconscionability, arbitrability or formation, or whether the Agreement or any portion of the Agreement is void or voidable, with the exception noted in section 7 (sic), below, the “Class Action Waiver.”

Id. at 1-2 (emphasis added).

         In response to Defendants' Motion, Plaintiff filed an Answer [14] and Amended Answer [20] stating that although she is not opposed to arbitration, based upon Defendants' refusal to respond to her prior attempts to resolve this dispute, should this case be “turned over for Arbitration, and no response is made than (sic) Plaintiff can continue with her ...


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