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CHOPRA v. DISPLAY PRODUCERS

October 14, 1997

MADHU CHOPRA, Plaintiff, against DISPLAY PRODUCERS, INC. and WIMS FYILSIAME, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHIN

 CHIN, D.J.

 This motion for summary judgment raises the issue of whether an employee who is covered by a collective bargaining agreement with an arbitration provision is required to arbitrate her sexual harassment and discrimination claims prior to filing suit under Title VII. Because I find that such an employee need not first submit her claims to arbitration, defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Madhu Chopra worked as an assembly line worker for defendant Display Producers, Inc. ("Display Producers") from sometime in 1982 to August 2, 1996. (Compl. PP 9, 11-17). Since at least 1985, Local 2682, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America AFL-CIO (the "Union"), has represented Display Producers' employees. Display Producers and the Union are parties to a series of collective bargaining agreements. During early 1994 Display Producers entered into a successor collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA"), which provides that it would be in full force and effect from May 1, 1994 through April 30, 1997. (Conneely Aff. P 3, Ex. A § 30(e)).

 The 1994 CBA contains both antidiscrimination and arbitration clauses. In relevant part, § 9 of the CBA contains the following antidiscrimination provision:

 
There shall be no discrimination in hiring, rates of pay, classification, promotion or other working conditions because of race, color or sex except as may be required by law.

 (Id. at § 9). Section 13(a) contains the CBA's arbitration provision:

 (Id. at § 13(a)).

 During the entire period of Chopra's employment with Display Producers, she worked under the supervision of Wims Fyilsiame. (Compl. P 9). In 1992, Fyilsiame received a promotion to floor supervisor. Chopra alleges that once Fyilsiame was so promoted, he began sexually harassing her. (Compl. PP 10-13). Chopra claims that after she refused to submit to Fyilsiame's sexual advances, he became abusive and made her working conditions intolerable. Chopra alleges that she terminated her employment with defendants on August 2, 1996, as a result of these conditions. (Compl. PP 11-17).

 Chopra filed a charge of discrimination against defendants with the New York District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on or about August 6, 1996. On or about September 30, 1996, Chopra received a right to sue letter from the EEOC. (Compl. PP 6-7). Then, on or about November 7, 1996, Chopra filed this suit against Display Producers and Fyilsiame, claiming that defendants' conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Defendants now move for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), on the grounds that the arbitration clause in the CBA requires Chopra to arbitrate her sexual harassment and discrimination claims before filing suit in federal court.

 DISCUSSION

 Defendants advance two arguments in favor of summary judgment: (1) that Chopra's claims are covered by the arbitration clause in the CBA, and therefore must be sent to arbitration; and (2) that Chopra's claims are preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. ...


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