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PRINCE v. COCA-COLA BOTTLING CO. OF NEW YORK

March 3, 1999

STEPHANIE PRINCE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE COCA-COLA BOTTLING COMPANY OF NEW YORK, INC., MICHAEL DRAKE AND LEONARD ERLANGER, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William C. Conner, Senior District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

In this employment discrimination action, plaintiff Stephanie Prince ("Prince") asserts claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N YExec.Law § 296 against defendants Coca-Cola Bottling Company of New York, Inc., Michael Drake ("Drake") and Leonard Erlanger ("Erlanger"). Defendants move, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for an order dismissing the complaint on the ground that the claims are the subject of a valid arbitration agreement; or alternatively, for an order pursuant to Section 3 of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. staying the proceedings pending plaintiff's exhaustion of the grievance and arbitration procedures under the applicable collective bargaining agreement. For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

At all relevant times, plaintiff was an employee of defendant Coca-Cola Bottling Company of New York, Inc. ("CNY"). (Compl. ¶ 3). Since June of 1994, plaintiff has also been a member of the Local 812 of the Soft Drink and Brewery Workers Union (the "Union"). (Prince Aff. ¶ 5). CNY and the Union entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement dated December 9, 1996 (the "CBA") with an effective term of June 1, 1996 through May 31, 2006. (Prince Aff. ¶ 5 and Young Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. B). Although Prince did not take part in the negotiation of the CBA, the CBA governs her employment with CNY because she is a member of the Union. (Prince Aff. ¶ 5 and Young Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. B).

Article 41 of the CBA contains an "Equal Opportunity" clause which states:

  In respect to employment, compensation, job
  assignments, layoffs, promotions and all other
  conditions of employment, neither the Company, nor the
  Union, will discriminate against any employee or
  applicant for employment, because of race, creed,
  color, age, sex, national origin, handicap or veteran
  status as defined under New York Laws and Federal
  Laws, orders and regulations pertaining to equal
  employment opportunity.

(Young Aff.Ex. B, Art. 41). A grievance procedure is subsequently outlined by the CBA as follows:

  When differences arise between the Company, the Union
  or any employee of the Company as to any matter
  relating to wages, hours, or working conditions or
  employment, or any matter whatsoever including, the
  meaning, interpretation, application or violation of
  this Agreement, such differences shall be settled in
  the following manner.
    Step 1. [sets forth a procedure for the submission
  of grievances to the relevant supervisor, first orally
  then in writing signed by the Shop Steward.]
  Step 2. If no settlement is reached in Step 1, the
  Union or the Company may, within thirty (30) days
  after the conclusion of Step 1, request in writing
  that

  the grievance be submitted to an impartial arbitrator
  in accordance with Article 19.

(Id. at Art. 44). The rules pertaining to arbitration of "all complaints, disputes, controversies or grievances between the Company and its employees" are set forth in Article 19. (Id. at Art. 19).

Prince alleges that, on a continuing basis and for months prior to December 1, 1997, she was subjected by her supervisors, Drake and Erlanger, to both a hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace. (Compl. ¶ 7). Prince claims that she reported the incidents to the Union which in turn notified the Human Resources Department of CNY, but that no remedial action was taken and she was subjected to retaliatory behavior by the defendants. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-9). On or about December 1, 1997, Prince filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"). The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue on December 22, 1997. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 10). Prince alleges that defendants retaliated against plaintiff for filing the EEOC charge by, inter alia, ordering her to leave the workplace and "stay home." (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12).

Plaintiff commenced the instant action on December 28, 1997 claiming that defendants' conduct violated Title VII, NYSHRL and the New York common law of torts. Defendants now move for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, on the ground that the CBA requires plaintiff to arbitrate her employment discrimination claims prior to filing suit in federal court; or in the alternative, for a stay of the proceedings pursuant to ...


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