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Chineida Wigfall v. Denholtz Associates

December 22, 2010

CHINEIDA WIGFALL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DENHOLTZ ASSOCIATES, INC.; DENHOLTZ MANAGEMENT CORP.; PARKSIDE PARTNERS, L.P.; MARK FLANNERY*FN1 ; JOSEPH MAYO; STEVEN CASSIDY; AND BRIAN MCMURRAY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-4381-09.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted December 1, 2010 - Decided Before Judges R. B. Coleman and J. N. Harris.

Plaintiff Chineida Wigfall appeals from the dismissal of her civil rights and tort action in favor of having the dispute resolved in an agreed-upon arbitral forum. We affirm.

I.

On May 18, 2009, Wigfall filed a six-count complaint against Denholtz Associates, Inc.; Denholtz Management Corporation (Denholtz); Parkside Partners, L.P.;*fn2 and four individual co-workers: Mark Flannery, Joseph Mayo, Steven Cassidy, and Brian McMurray. The complaint alleged sexual harassment and racial discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49; invasion of privacy; intentional infliction of emotional distress; premises liability; and civil conspiracy.

All defendants except Flannery and Mayo filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration on grounds that all of Wigfall's claims were subject to a valid and binding agreement to arbitrate contained in her application for employment with Denholtz.*fn3 On July 17, 2009, Judge Diane Pincus granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice and compelled arbitration. This appeal followed.

II.

We have gathered the following factual background from the pleadings and submissions of the parties in connection with the motion to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration. In August 2006, Denholtz received Wigfall's resume and completed three-page application for employment. The application contained an arbitration provision on page three, which stated in relevant part:

As a condition of my consideration for and/or employment with Denholtz Associates and/or its affiliates collectively, ("the Company"), I agree to arbitrate any and all disputes relating in any way to, or arising out of, my application for employment with the Company, my employment with the Company, or the termination of my employment with the Company. In agreeing to arbitrate any and all disputes relating to or arising out of my application to or employment with the Company, I recognize, understand and acknowledge that I am waiving my right to an administrative proceeding or jury trial with respect to any such claim.

Wigfall's signature, on the same line as the date of "8-7-06," appears less than one inch below the arbitration provision. On September 11, 2006, Wigfall was officially extended an offer of employment with Denholtz where she served as an administrative assistant in the IT and construction departments until November 30, 2008.

According to the complaint, Wigfall was subjected to various acts of sexual and racial discrimination originating from her supervisors Flannery, Cassidy, and Mayo. When Wigfall reported the putative improper behavior to McMurray, who was Denholtz's head of human resources, he purportedly told her "that it was her responsibility to deal with the problems herself."

In the spring of 2008, Wigfall observed a small black object affixed to the ceiling of the first-floor women's restroom but was unable to identify what it was, and did not report it to any of her superiors. Then, on or around May 8, 2008, a fellow employee noticed the object and discovered that it was a video camera concealed in an altered ceiling tile, and aimed at a private location of the restroom. The employee attempted to remove the camera but was unable to do so. After reporting the camera to supervisors, the camera was spirited away by the time the employee returned to the restroom. A police investigation ensued.

Following this incident, Wigfall asserts that she utilized a gasoline station restroom located across the street for fear that she would be secretly videotaped in her employer's building. Wigfall also contends that she sought treatment from a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with "major depression disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder." As a result of the conduct of defendants, Wigfall claims that she was unable to work, and took a ...


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