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Molina v. Coca-Cola Enterprises

June 8, 2009

ALEJANDRO MOLINA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COCA-COLA ENTERPRISES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Alejandro Molina ("Molina" and/or "plaintiff") brings this action against defendant Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. ("CCE" and/or "defendant") alleging the following: employment discrimination and retaliation on the basis of national origin in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. §1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., as amended ("Title VII"), and the New York State Human Rights Law, §290 et seq. ("HRL"). Plaintiff seeks general and compensatory damages, punitive or exemplary damages as well as attorney's fees and costs.

Defendant has moved to compel arbitration of this action and/or stay or dismiss this proceeding pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. (2000) and Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on the grounds that plaintiff entered into a binding arbitration agreement with CCE when he was initially employed and when CCE implemented the "Solutions" Program, which requires plaintiff to litigate the instant dispute with CCE and/or its employees in that forum. Plaintiff does note dispute that the arbitration agreement is governed by the FAA. However, plaintiff contends that the agreement is unenforceable because it is unconscionable. Plaintiff claims he has an inability to understand and speak English and as such he did not understand the terms of the arbitration agreement.

For the reasons that follow, the motion to compel arbitration and to stay this action pending the arbitration is granted. The motion to dismiss is denied without prejudice.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual History

The following facts are taken from the Complaint ("Compl."), the Affidavit of Melanie Lewis ("Lewis Aff.") filed in support of the instant motion, the Declaration of Attorney Christina A. Agola ("Agola Decl.") filed in opposition, and the exhibits attached thereto.*fn1 The facts drawn from plaintiff's complaint are not findings of fact by the Court, but rather assumed to be true for the purpose of deciding this motion and construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the non-moving party.

A. Plaintiff's Employment at CCE

CCE*fn2 employed plaintiff from July 6, 2004 until his termination on or about February 6, 2008. See Compl., ¶8. In connection with his application for employment with CCE, plaintiff executed a written arbitration agreement on June 10, 2004 indicating that he agreed to arbitrate any and all employment related disputes with CCE. See Lewis Aff., ¶10. The arbitration agreement provides in pertinent part:

If there should be any disagreement arising out of this application for employment, it is important for both of us to be able to address that disagreement expeditiously and fairly. Therefore, this arbitration agreement requires you and us, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies ("CCE"), to arbitrate any legal claim related to your application for employment, the hiring decision, or your subsequent employment with CCE....

CCE and I agree that any claims that arise between us will be resolved in accordance with this arbitration agreement unless CCE, upon notice, adopts a different alternative dispute resolution program (such as "Solutions:, which applies only to Employees, as defined therein) in which case that program (including its rules), to the extent of its terms, shall supersede and replace this arbitration agreement, and I agree to be bound by said program.

See Lewis Aff., ¶10, Ex. A.

Plaintiff is an Hispanic male who worked at CCE's Rochester, New York facility initially as a Truck Loader and subsequently as a Machine/Forklift operator. See Complt., ¶8. According to the Complaint, plaintiff has been subject to disparate and discriminatory treatment by CCE from the beginning of his employment. See id., ¶9. Plaintiff claims that his work schedule did not require him to work every Friday. However, plaintiff asserts that he was compelled to work on Fridays under the threat of discipline while non-Hispanics were not so similarly treated. See id., ¶10.*fn3 In ...


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