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Stokes v. Modis

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 11, 2015

ULYSSES STOKES, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
MODIS, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

WILLIAM J. MARTINI, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ulysses Stokes, Jr. filed this case against Defendants Modis, Inc.[1] ("Modis") and Matthew Miller. He alleges that his employment was wrongfully terminated because of his race after a white woman falsely accused him of sexual harassment. This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.[2] There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons explained below, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Modis is an information technology staffing service that provides its clients with contract, contract-to-hire, and direct hire staffing services. Plaintiff is an African-American male. Modis hired Plaintiff, and Plaintiff began an assignment with Modis's customer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey ("BCBS"), on April 22, 2014. Prior to hiring Plaintiff, Modis entered into a Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Agreement (the "Arbitration Agreement") with him. See Decl. of John K. Bennett ("Bennett Decl.") Ex. A, ECF No. 9-2. The Arbitration Agreement provides:

[A]ny and all disputes, claims or controversies arising out of or relating to [the Arbitration Agreement], the employment relationship between the parties, or the termination of the employment relationship, shall be resolved by binding arbitration in accordance with the Employment Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association.

Id. ¶ 1. The Arbitration Agreement expressly covers "disputes regarding the employment relationship" and "termination, " as well as "claims arising under the... Civil Rights Act of 1964." Id. ¶ 2.

Plaintiff's assignment with BCBS was terminated on April 30, 2014. Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that, because of his race, he was falsely accused of sexual harassment by a white woman and that those false accusations resulted in his discharge. Id.; Bennett Decl. Ex. B.

Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in connection with his discharge. On August 12, 2014, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a "Notice of Right to Sue." Bennett Decl. Ex. C. Plaintiff then filed the instant Complaint against Defendants, alleging employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").

II. DISCUSSION

Defendants argue that this dispute is covered by the Arbitration Agreement and, thus, that the Court should dismiss the Complaint.[3] Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's argument. On May 8, 2015, the Court entered an order notifying the parties of its intention to convert Defendants' motion to compel arbitration into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(d) and 56.[4] The parties were given until May 29, 2015 to submit any additional materials pertinent to the motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff's responsive submissions contained nothing challenging the validity, enforceability, or scope of the Arbitration Agreement or indicating that further discovery regarding the Arbitration Agreement is necessary. Thus, and because affirmative defense of arbitrability of claims is not apparent on the face of the Complaint (or the documents relied upon in the Complaint), the Court will consider this motion to compel arbitration under a Rule 56 standard. See Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC, 716 F.3d 764, 775-76 (3d Cir. 2013).

The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq. (the "FAA"), governs this arbitrability dispute. Under the FAA, a court must conduct a two-part inquiry before compelling arbitration. Specifically a court should consider: (1) whether the parties have agreed to arbitrate their claims; and (2) whether the plaintiff's claims fall within the scope of the agreement to arbitrate. Gruntal & Co. v. Steinberg, 854 F.Supp. 324, 334 (D.N.J.) aff'd, 46 F.3d 1116 (3d Cir. 1994). Employment litigation, including Title VII claims, can be subject to compulsory arbitration. See Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 123 (2001).

i. The Parties Have Agreed to Arbitrate their Claims Under a Valid, Enforceable Agreement to Arbitrate.

The Court finds that the parties agreed to arbitrate. State law governs the inquiry as to whether the parties entered into a valid agreement to arbitrate. Gruntal, 854 F.Supp. at 334 (citing Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. v. C.A. Reaseguradora Nacional de Venezuela, 991 F.2d 42, 45-46 (2d Cir. 1993). The elements of an enforceable contract in New Jersey are mutual assent, consideration, legality of the object of the contract, capacity of the parties, and formulation of memorialization. Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 421 F.Supp.2d 831, 833 (D.N.J. 2006) aff'd, 482 F.3d 247 (3d Cir. 2007).

All of the required elements are satisfied in this case. First, the plain language of the Arbitration Agreement demonstrates ...


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