United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville
CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, SENIOR JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on two motions of Defendant Aetna
Life Insurance Company (“Aetna”). First, Aetna
moves for partial dismissal, or in the alternative, to stay
proceedings and compel arbitration as to Plaintiff's
employment discrimination claim. DN 10. Second, Aetna moves
to dismiss Plaintiff's state-law claim for breach of
contract and to strike Plaintiff's demand for jury trial
pursuant to ERISA. DN 12. Plaintiff filed a single response
(DN 14) to the two motions, to which Aetna replied (DN 16).
This matter is ripe for review.
Lavonne White filed the instant action in state court
asserting two claims: (1) breach of contract related to the
denial of long-term disability benefits and (2) employment
discrimination under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. DN 1-2.
Aetna removed the action to this Court on the grounds that
Plaintiff's claims against Aetna invoke this Court's
federal question jurisdiction under the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C.
§ 1001 et seq. DN 1.
The Arbitration Agreement
was employed by Aetna as a fulltime supervisor in clinical
health services. DN 1-2, at ¶ 11. As a condition of her
employment, Plaintiff was required to agree to use
Aetna's Arbitration Program for employment related
disputes. Plaintiff's offer letter stated, in part, as
Arbitration Agreement: This offer and your
acceptance are contingent upon your agreement to use the
Company's mandatory/binding arbitration program rather
than the courts to resolve employment-related legal disputes.
In arbitration, an arbitrator instead of a judge or jury
resolves the dispute, and the decision of the arbitrator is
final and binding.
10-2, at 4. Enclosed with Plaintiff's offer letter was a
copy of the “Description of Aetna's Employment
Dispute Arbitration Program, ” setting forth the terms
of the arbitration program, and “Aetna's Employment
Dispute Arbitration Program - Q&As.” Id.
at 6-11. The terms of the Arbitration Program provide:
Except as otherwise specified, all employment-related legal
disputes between employees and the Company will be submitted
to and resolved by binding arbitration, and neither the
employee nor the company will file or participate as an
individual party or member of a class in a lawsuit in any
court against the other with respect to such matters.
Id. at 6. The terms provide that the Arbitration
Program “does not apply to workers' compensation
claims, unemployment compensation claims, and claims under
[ERISA].” Id. at 7.
her employment, Plaintiff participated in a Long-Term
Disability Benefits Plan administered by Aetna (the
“Plan”). Id. at ¶¶ 6, 9.
Plaintiff alleges that her job became increasingly stressful
as a result of harassment by her supervisor(s) that she
believes was based on racial discrimination. Id. at
¶ 13. Plaintiff began experiencing severe depression,
anxiety, headaches, difficulty concentrating and speaking,
memory problems, and weakness in her limbs. Id. at
¶ 14. Plaintiff was diagnosed with Functional Movement
Disorder and, later, breast cancer. Id. at
¶¶ 25, 29. Plaintiff was unable to work and
received short-term disability benefits which were terminated
on August 7, 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 33, 34.
Ultimately, Aetna denied Plaintiff Long-Term Disability
benefits “on the basis that she suffered from
pre-existing conditions.” Id. at ¶ 34.
Plaintiff appealed the denial, but the denial was affirmed on
the grounds that “she suffered from pre-existing
conditions and the Functional Neurologic Disorder, though not
pre-existing, was not disabling.”
moves to compel arbitration as to the employment
discrimination claim and dismiss Plaintiff's breach of
contract claim as preempted by ERISA. Aetna requests that
Plaintiff's employment discrimination claim be dismissed,
or alternatively, stayed. The Court addresses the arbitration