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Morris v. Temco Serv. Indus. - 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84885 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 12, 2010)

Rule:

Although courts uphold the "strong federal policy favoring arbitration as an alternative means of dispute resolution," arbitration of statutory claims is only permissible "so long as the prospective litigant effectively may vindicate his or her statutory cause of action in the arbitral forum."

Facts:

Plaintiff Karen Morris, an an African American was employed by defendant Temco as a cleaning person from 2002 until her termination in 2006. She brought an employment discrimination action against Temco claiming race and national origin discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e et seq., the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. Plaintiff employee alleged, among other things, that her supervisor routinely harassed and screamed at her and used racial slurs in English and in his native language of Albanian when speaking to her. Temco moved to compel arbitration and dismiss this action under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C.S. § 1 et seq.

Issue:

Should defendant employer Temco's motion to compel arbitration and dismiss plaintiff former employee's action for race and national origin discrimination and retaliation be granted?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that while the exhaustion requirements for federal litigation are established by law, the rules governing arbitration are determined entirely by an agreement between the parties. The employee's Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) did not require an EEOC filing or receipt of an EEOC right-to-sue letter as a precondition to arbitration, and Temco cannot impose one retroactively. Accordingly, because the employee's union prevented her from arbitrating her discrimination claims, the CBA's arbitration provision may not be enforced as to her. Accordingly, the Court denied Temco's motion to compel arbitration and dismiss the action.

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