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Rightnour v. Tiffany and Co.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 6, 2017

KRISTIN RIGHTNOUR, Plaintiff,
v.
TIFFANY AND COMPANY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge

         The plaintiff, Kristin Rightnour, sued Tiffany and Company (“Tiffany”) for religious discrimination and retaliation under federal and local law. Tiffany petitions for an order to stay this action and compel the plaintiff to arbitrate the dispute pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 3, 4. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).

         I.

         A.

         The following facts are taken from the parties' submissions.

         Rightnour began working for Tiffany as the Director of Marketing in October 2013. Compl. ¶ 12. In April 2014 Rightnour, a practicing Catholic, had a conversation with two other employees, one of whom is Jewish. Id. ¶ 14. Allegedly at the Jewish colleague's request, Rightnour “explained the crucifixion story.” Id. ¶ 15. At the end of 2014, a human resources manager from Tiffany allegedly informed Rightnour that Tiffany had received a complaint from one of Rightnour's coworkers that Rightnour had stated that “the Jewish people killed Jesus.” Id. ¶ 17. Rightnour denied making the statement but also explained that she is a devout Catholic and that the views she expressed to her colleagues are standard Catholic beliefs. Id. ¶ 18. Tiffany issued the plaintiff a formal warning and informed her that it would withhold her entire 2014 bonus. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Tiffany also made the plaintiff ineligible for a merit increase or transfer for a period of one year. Id. ¶ 20.

         In response, in December 2014, through counsel, the plaintiff complained to Tiffany's legal department that she had been subject to unlawful religious discrimination. Id. ¶ 21; Coleman Decl. in Opp. to Mot. Exs. A, B. She alleges that months later, in March 2015, Tiffany retaliated against her by issuing a negative performance review to her. Compl. ¶ 22. The following month, on April 22, 2015, Rightnour filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging religious discrimination and retaliation in violation of federal, state, and local antidiscrimination laws. Id. ¶ 24; Coleman Decl. Ex. C.[1] The plaintiff alleges that two days later, Tiffany informed her that it would not be promoting her to the newly-established position of Group Director of Brand Management, and instead promoted an individual that Rightnour claims was significantly less qualified than she. Compl. ¶ 25.

         B.

         In late February 2015, Tiffany sent Rightnour and other Tiffany employees a form email with the subject line “You have been enrolled in the Dispute Resolution Agreement course.” Rodriguez Decl. in Supp. of Mot. Ex. 2. That email reads:

Hi Kristin Rightnour
Tiffany and Company is providing employees with dispute resolution agreements, which offer the resolution of employment-related disputes through arbitration. You will be provided with a Dispute Resolution Agreement in the attached learning module.
Please click on the link below to review the Dispute Resolution Agreement and acknowledge the receipt of the Agreement at your earliest convenience.
[hyperlink titled “Dispute Resolution Agreement”]
If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact your local Human Resources Generalist.

Rodriguez Decl. Ex. 2 (first emphasis added, second emphasis in original). Rightnour alleges that she “did not review, nor did any person at Tiffany ever personally ask [her] to review” the Dispute Resolution Agreement at that time. Rightnour Decl. ¶ 2. Tiffany sent emails to Rightnour throughout March and April which were identical to the one sent in February, and then on April 13 sent the following personalized email:

On February 27, 2015, you received an e-mail notifying you of Tiffany and Company's Dispute Resolution Agreement and inviting you to participate in a related learning module. As explained in the learning module, you are subject to the terms of the Dispute Resolution Agreement.
For your convenience, we have attached a link to the [hyperlink to Dispute Resolution Agreement]. The learning module will reside in Self Service.
If you have any questions, please contact your Human Resources Generalist. Do not ...

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