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Wilson v. CPB Foods, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

December 11, 2018

GREG WILSON, Plaintiff,
CPB FOODS, LLC, Defendant.



         When Plaintiff Greg Wilson (“Wilson”) began working as a general manager at a restaurant owned by Defendant CPB Foods, LLC (“CPB”), he was provided with numerous policies to review that comprised the CPB Foods Handbook (the “Handbook”). One of these policies was an agreement to arbitrate (“Arbitration Agreement”) any claims or disputes against CPB that arose from his employment. Despite acknowledging receipt of this Arbitration Agreement, however, Wilson filed suit in federal court alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (“ADA”) 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. Wilson does not dispute that he was provided a copy of this Arbitration Agreement, nor does he dispute that he signed a receipt acknowledging that he had been provided a copy of this agreement and that he had read and understood its terms. He argues, however, that this agreement should not be enforced against him since this lawsuit falls outside of the scope of the Arbitration Agreement at issue, or, in the alternative, because CPB has waived its reliance on this agreement. Because the Court finds that this action fits squarely within the scope of the Arbitration Agreement, and that CPB has not waived its right to enforcement, the Court will grant CPB's Motion to Stay Litigation and Compel Arbitration (“Motion to Compel”). [R. 13]

         I. Background

         CPB owns two Golden Corral restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky. [R. 1, at ¶ 4, R. 6, at ¶ 5]. Plaintiff Greg Wilson was a general manager of one of these stores. [R. 1, at ¶ 5] When he was hired in April 2015, CPB provided Wilson with a copy of the Arbitration Agreement, which provides, in relevant part, that if Wilson is

unable to resolve any such complaints or disputes to [his] satisfaction internally, the resolution of all disputes that arise between [Wilson] and CPB Foods will be through formal, mandatory arbitration before a neutral arbitrator.
Because of, among other things, the delay and expense which result from the use of the court systems, any legal or equitable claims or disputes arising out of or in connection with your employment, the terms and conditions of your employment, or termination of employment with CPB Foods will be resolved by binding arbitration instead of a court of law or equity. This applies to all disputes involving legally protected rights (e.g., local, state and federal statutory, contractual or common law rights) regardless of when the statute was enacted or the common law doctrine was recognized (e.g., either before or after this arbitration agreement and policy became effective). This agreement does not limit your ability to pursue any external administrative remedy (such as with the EEOC).
This policy substitutes one legitimate dispute resolution form (arbitration) for another (litigation), thereby waiving any right of either party to have a dispute resolved in court. This substitution involves no surrender, by either party, of any substantive statutory or common law benefits, protection or defense for individual claims. You do, however, waive the right to commence or be a party to any representative, collective or class action.

[R. 13-7, Ex. 6 (emphasis in original)] Wilson electronically signed the Handbook Acknowledgement Form[1], indicating he had read, understood, and agreed to follow all policies that were provided to him when he was hired, including the Arbitration Agreement. [R. 13-5, Ex. 5]

         While he was a manager, Wilson suffered from a series of Transient Ischemic Attacks (“TIAs”) that Wilson alleges were brought on as a result of a severe anxiety disorder. [R. 1, at ¶¶ 5-9] Wilson claims that CPB regarded him as having a disability in violation of the ADA as a result of this anxiety disorder. In his Complaint, Wilson alleges that his demotion and termination were a result of this severe anxiety disorder, and therefore qualify as adverse employment actions under the ADA. Id. at ¶¶ 14-26.

         The parties attempted to resolve this matter prior to Wilson filing suit but were unsuccessful. See [R. 14, at p. 2] Wilson filed a charge with the EEOC on April 28, 2017. Id. On July 20, 2017, the EEOC requested that the parties engage in mediation. Wilson alleges that CPB failed to respond to this request. Id. On December 27, 2017, the EEOC issued Wilson a Notice of Right to Sue (“Right to Sue Letter”), and Wilson filed suit in this Court on January 8, 2018, alleging discriminatory demotion and discharge in violation of the ADA. [R. 1]

         In its Answer to Wilson's Complaint, CPB asserted various affirmative defenses. [R. 6] It also preserved other affirmative defenses contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and reserved the right to add additional affirmative defenses. Id. at ¶¶ 39, 40. The parties conducted the required Rule 26 Conference pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(f) and submitted a report from this planning meeting. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26; [R. 9]. Thereafter, Wilson submitted his initial disclosures, and the Court issued a Scheduling Order. [R. 11] The parties engaged in a period of discovery, and Wilson's deposition was scheduled. CPB cancelled this deposition shortly before it was scheduled to take place, however, citing the parties' Arbitration Agreement (which CPB turned over in the course of discovery). Wilson argues that this was the first time CPB ever produced the Arbitration Agreement, and the first time that Wilson was able to see a copy. [R. 14, at p. 4] CPB provided no justification for why it failed to raise this Arbitration Agreement at the onset of litigation. Instead, CPB filed this Motion to Stay Litigation and Compel Arbitration. [R. 13]

         II. Analysis

         A. Arbitration Standard

         In this Circuit, “[i]n order to show that the validity of the agreement is ‘in issue,' the party opposing arbitration must show a genuine issue of material fact as to the validity of the agreement to arbitrate, ” a showing that mirrors the summary judgment standard. Great Earth Cos. v. Simons,288 F.3d 878, 889 (6th Cir. 2002). Therefore, district courts in Kentucky evaluate a motion to compel arbitration as one for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Freeman v. Easy Mobile Labs, Inc., No. 1:16-CV-00018-GNS, 2016 WL 4479545, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 24, 2016) (citing Arnold v. Rent-a-Center, Inc., No. 11-18-JBC, 2011 WL 1810145, at *2 (E.D. Ky. May 12, 2011) (“This court will treat the motion to compel arbitration as one for summary judgment…”); Weddle Enters., Inc. v. Treviicos-Soletanche, J.V., No. 1:14CV-00061-JHM, 2014 WL 5242904, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Oct. 15, 2014) (“A motion to dismiss based on the existence of a valid arbitration agreement is not evaluated under the usual Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard. Instead, courts apply the standard applicable to motions for summary judgment.”) (internal citation omitted) ...

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