United States District Court, D. New Jersey
KEVIN MCNULTY, U.S.D.J.
plaintiff, Antonia Lerner, pro se, brought this action for
money damages against her former employer, Defendant
Citigroup Inc., for alleged racial, gender, and disability
discrimination arising out the termination of her employment.
Ms. Lerner asserted claims under Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"),
42U.S.C.§ 12101 et seq., and the New Jersey Law Against
Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. § 10:5-1 et
seq. After I granted Citigroup's motion to compel
arbitration (DE 9), an arbitrator heard Ms. Lerner's
claims and ruled in Citigroup's favor. The arbitrator
found that Ms. Lerner's termination was not based on any
discriminatory motive with respect to her, but rather was
part of a bona fide global workforce relocation strategy, and
therefore lawful. (DE 28-3 at 28).
Lerner has now filed a motion (DE 23) to vacate the
arbitration award. For the reasons stated herein, I will deny
Ms. Lerner's motion to vacate.
Summary of Facts and Allegations
Lerner was employed by defendant Citigroup-a global financial
services firm-as an Apps Support Senior Analyst within
Citigroup's Treasury and Trade Solutions Production
Support Group in Jersey City, New Jersey. She was terminated
from her position on March 26, 2015. According to Citigroup,
this was part of a larger program by which many positions
were relocated to India, where labor costs were cheaper.
According to Ms. Lerner, her termination was discriminatory.
April 22, 2015, after her termination, Ms. Lerner filed a
complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(''EEOC''), complaining of gender and
Complaint and motion to compel arbitration
March 21, 2016, Ms. Lerner filed a complaint with this Court,
alleging a failure to accommodate her disability, termination
due to her disability and gender, and retaliatory discharge
after she filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. (DE
1). Thereafter, Citigroup filed a motion to compel
arbitration based on an arbitration clause in Ms.
Lerner's employment contract. (DE 8). I granted that
motion via a memorandum opinion and order dated August 1,
2016. In that opinion, I found that a valid arbitration
agreement existed between Ms. Lerner and Citigroup which
covered the scope of Ms. Lerner's claims. (DE 9).
Proceedings in arbitration
Lerner then filed a demand for arbitration with the American
Arbitration Association ("AAA"). (DE 28-2 at
24-36). On January 11, 2017, Arbitrator Jack P. Levin was
chosen from the arbitrator lists submitted by the parties and
appointed as the arbitrator. (DE 28-3 at 13-14). At this
time, the parties had the opportunity to object to the
appointment of Arbitrator Levin, but there is no indication
in the record that either party objected then.
(Id.). Ms. Lerner appeared pro se during
the arbitration. (Award ¶ 2).
March 18, 2017, Arbitrator Levin entered a scheduling order
to govern discovery, and on August 28, 2017, he entered a
revised scheduling order. (DE 28-3 at 16-20). At the end of
discovery, Citigroup made a written request for leave to file
a motion for summary judgment, which the arbitrator
permitted. (DE 28-3 at 22-26; Award ¶ 14). At Ms.
Lerner's request, the parties and Arbitrator Levin held a
conference call on December 29, 2017 during which the
Arbitrator explained the nature of a summary judgment motion
and advised Ms. Lerner that it was her burden to establish
her claims with facts and applicable law. (Award ¶ 44,
March 9, 2018, Citigroup filed a motion for summary judgment,
arguing that (1) Ms. Lerner's failure-to-accommodate
claim could not be proven, because Ms. Lerner conceded in her
deposition that Citigroup granted her requests for an
accommodation; (2) Ms. Lerner's
discriminatory-termination claim could not be proven, because
other non-disabled, male employees were also terminated in
connection with Citigroup's cost-saving strategy to shift
certain jobs to lower-cost locations; and (3) Ms.
Lerner's retaliation claim could not be proven because
the person who made the decision to terminate Ms. Lerner was
not aware of Ms. Lerner's complaint with the EEOC at the
time. (Def. Mot. at 13-14). Citigroup based its arguments
primarily on sworn certifications of Citigroup personnel and
information learned from Ms, Lerner's deposition.
[Id.). Ms. Lerner submitted her own certification in
opposition to Citigroup's motion for summary judgment and
was permitted to introduce evidence into the record. (Def.
Mot. at 18).
July 9, 2018, Arbitrator Levin granted Citigroup's motion
for summary judgment on all claims and dismissed Ms.
Lerner's claims in their entirely. His ...