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Christopher Brown v. Services For the Underserved

July 31, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge:



On January 18, 2012, Christopher Brown, proceeding pro se, filed an in forma pauperis ("IFP") action against Services for the Underserved ("SUS"), alleging gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. By Order dated February 2, 2012, I sua sponte dismissed the complaint without prejudice for failure to state a plausible claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), and granted 30 days' leave to replead. On March 2, 2012, Brown filed an amended complaint, and I granted IFP status. SUS now moves to compel arbitration or, in the alternative, to dismiss the amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, I deny the motion to compel arbitration and grant the motion to dismiss.


According to the amended complaint, Brown began his employment with SUS in January of 2009. Am. Compl. at 4. Brown served as a case manager in a SUS residential program for clients with mental health needs. Id. at 4, 6. Brown was a model employee and, for the first several months after he was hired, received high performance reviews. Id. at 4, 8-12.However, during a staff meeting in October of 2009, he questioned his supervisor, Residential Director Jeanette Donaldson, about imposing a curfew for the residents. Id. at 6.After that incident, Brown became the subject of a series of increasingly severe disciplinary actions, including write-ups and, ultimately, termination. Id. at 6-7, 13-15.

The discipline to which Brown was subject was unjustified, and female employees who performed in ways similar to Brown were not disciplined. Id. at 6-7.For example, shortly after the staff-meeting dispute, Donaldson issued Brown a write-up for improper client documentation. 6-7, 13. However, Donaldson did not discipline female employees who also failed to maintain proper client documentation. 6-7.Brown was ultimately terminated on May 24 or 28, 2010, for psychologically abusing a resident.Id. at 7, 20-21. He contends that SUS discharged him because of his gender and retaliated against him in violation of Title VII.


A. The Motion to Compel Arbitration

SUS moves to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that Brown agreed to arbitrate his discrimination claims. I construe SUS's motion as a motion to compel arbitration.

During his employment with SUS, Brown was a member of the United Service Workers Union (the "Union"), which signed a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with SUS. Under the CBA, the Union agreed to arbitrate discrimination claims that arose in the workplace. Specifically, Article 19A of the CBA states:


1. There shall be no discrimination against any present or future employee by reason of race, creed, color, age, disability, national origin, sex, union membership, retaliation, whistleblowing, or any characteristic protected by law, including, but not limited to claims made pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, the New York City Human Rights Code, New York Labor Law § 740 or 741, or any other similar laws, rules or regulations. All such claims shall be subject to the grievance and arbitration procedure set out in Article 8 of this Agreement as the sole and exclusive remedy for violations. Arbitrators shall apply appropriate law in rendering decisions based upon claims covered by this section.

Munsky Aff. Ex. D, at 14, ECF No. 21. Article 8 of the CBA, in turn, outlines the three-step grievance procedure for disputes that arise between SUS and members of the Union. Id. at 8. At each of the three steps, a representative of the Union meets with a supervisor or manager at SUS to try to resolve the matter informally. If the dispute is not resolved through this process, "the Union may, within ten (10) days, proceed to binding arbitration." Id.

SUS contends that Brown's discrimination claims are subject to mandatory arbitration in light of the express language in the CBA. Under the Federal Arbitration Act, private agreements to arbitrate are "valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract." 9 U.S.C. ยง 2. Accordingly, when a contract "clearly and unmistakably" requires the parties to arbitrate a ...

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