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Jazmin C. Flores-Galan v. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

November 23, 2011


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. L-3138-10.

Per curiam.


Argued November 1, 2011

Before Judges Reisner and Hayden.

Plaintiff Jazmin C. Flores-Galan appeals from an October 29, 2010 order dismissing her Law Division complaint and compelling her to submit her employment-related claims to binding arbitration. We affirm.


By way of background, on April 9, 2010, plaintiff filed a complaint against her employer Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu), its corporate successor J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., N.A., and three individual bank supervisors. According to the complaint, the supervisors knew that plaintiff, who worked in the Fairlawn branch of WaMu, was pregnant and having complications of pregnancy. Plaintiff, who was unaware of her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA or Act), 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 2601 to -16, initially resigned from her position. Shortly after sending in her resignation letter, she learned that she could apply for leave under FMLA. However, she was first told that she could not rescind her resignation and then was allowed to take short-term disability leave, and some FMLA leave, but defendants granted her less FMLA leave than she was entitled to under the Act. Defendants refused to let her return to work after her FMLA and short-term-disability leaves expired on April 28, 2008.

According to her complaint, plaintiff applied for an available position at a different WaMu bank branch, in Elmwood Park, in "early May, 2008 but she was not hired." Defendants refused to re-hire plaintiff for the Elmwood Park position because she had asserted her rights under FMLA or because they knew that she was pregnant and suffered from a related disabling condition. Plaintiff claimed that the refusal to re-hire her also violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49.

On September 29, 2010, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint in favor of binding arbitration. In support of the motion, defendants submitted a copy of an arbitration agreement, which plaintiff signed when she was hired in December 2006. By its terms, the agreement was governed by "the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq.," and waived plaintiff's right to a jury trial for all claims, based on statute or public policy, relating to her employment or the termination of her employment:

I, Jazmin C. Flores-Galan, in consideration of my employment with Washington Mutual, Inc. or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries ("Washington Mutual") agree with Washington Mutual as follows:

2. Washington Mutual and I understand that by entering into this Agreement, each of us is waiving any right we may have to file a lawsuit or other civil action or proceeding relating to my employment with Washington Mutual, and waiving any right we may have to resolve employment disputes through trial by jury.

3. This Agreement is intended to cover all civil claims that involve or relate in any way to my employment (or termination of employment) with Washington Mutual, including, but not limited to, claims of employment discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status (including, but not limited to, claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, and any other local, state or federal law concerning employment or employment discrimination), claims for breach of contract or covenant, tort claims, claims based on violation of public policy or statute, and claims against individuals or entities employed by, acting on behalf of, or affiliated with Washington Mutual. The only exceptions to this are

Claims for benefits under a plan that is governed by ERISA, Claims for unemployment and workers compensation benefits, Claims for injunctive relief to enforce rights to trade secrets, or agreements not to compete or solicit customers or employees.

17. Because of the interstate nature of Washington Mutual's business, this Agreement is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act,

9 U.S.C. ยง 1 et seq ("FAA"). The provisions of the FAA (and to the extent not preempted by the FAA, the provisions of the law of the state of my principal place of employment with Washington Mutual that generally apply to commercial arbitration agreements, such as provisions granting stays of court actions pending arbitration) are incorporated ...

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