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Crawley v. Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 25, 2017



          KATHERINE POLK FAILLA, District Judge.

         Plaintiff Roseann Crawley's dispute with Defendant Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc. continues. In Crawley v. Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc., No. 15 Civ. 2228 (KPF), 2016 WL 6993777 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 29, 2016) ("Crawley''), this Court granted in part Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's gender-discrimination Complaint. The Court concluded that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim for relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2OOOe to 2000e-17 ("Title VII"), or the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 to 301 (the "NYSHRL"). However, the Court allowed Plaintiff's claim under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) (the "EPA"), to go forward.

         Defendant now moves, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 to 16 (the "FAA"), to compel arbitration of Plaintiff's EPA claim and to stay this case pending the outcome of that arbitration. Plaintiff opposes the motion, preferring that the instant case go forward. While cognizant of Plaintiff's concerns, the Court finds that Plaintiff's EPA claim falls squarely within the parties' binding arbitration agreement, and thus grants Defendant's motion.


         A. Factual Background

         Crawley I sets forth the history of the parties' dispute. In short, Crawley did not receive a pay raise in 2010, but a male co-worker did. Crawley I, 2016 WL 6993777, at *2. In 2013, Plaintiff demanded that Defendant submit to arbitration. Id. at *3. And in 2014, following an evidentiary hearing, an arbitrator concluded that Plaintiff was ineligible for a pay raise in 2010 because of workplace disciplinary issues. Id. Believing that Defendant had denied her that raise because of her gender, Plaintiff sued Defendant in this Court in 2015, seeking relief under Title VII, the NYSHRL, and the EPA. Id. After Crawley I, only Plaintiff's EPA claim remains. Id. at *9.

         This Opinion has a different focus. When Plaintiff arbitrated her pay-raise dispute with Defendant in 2013 and 2014, she did so pursuant to Defendant's internal alternative-dispute-resolution program: the Solutions InSTORE Early Dispute Resolution Program ("Solutions InSTORE"). Whether Plaintiff must revisit Solutions InSTORE to arbitrate her EPA claim turns principally on two issues. The first is the scope of the arbitration provision contained in Solutions InSTORE's governing document, the Solutions InSTORE Plan Document (the "Plan Document"). The second is whether Plaintiff agreed to be bound by that arbitration provision when Defendant hired her. The Court addresses each issue in turn.

         1. The Scope of the Solutions InSTORE Plan Document's Arbitration Provision

         Solutions InSTORE is "a comprehensive early dispute resolution program" designed to "resolve employment-related disputes as early and fairly as possible." (Melody Decl. ¶ 4). Defendant began developing Solutions InSTORE in 2003, and the program became effective on January 1, 2004 - over nine months before Defendant hired Plaintiff on September 9, 2004. (Id. at ¶¶ 4, 6, 14). Solutions InSTORE's terms are set forth in the Plan Document; Defendant revised the Plan Document in 2007 and 2014, but this Opinion focuses on the original 2004 version (i.e., the version in effect when Defendant hired Plaintiff). (Id. at ¶ 6).

         Solutions InSTORE has four dispute-resolutions steps. At Step 1 ("Open Door"), Defendant's employees are encouraged to bring workplace disputes to "their immediate supervisors." (Plan Document 3). An employee dissatisfied "with the result of Step 1 can proceed to Step 2 ("Review by the Office of Senior Human Resources Management"), pursuant to which a Human Resources executive will render a written decision on the employee's grievance. (Id.). And if an employee is not satisfied with a Step 2 written decision, and if the employee's claim "involv[es] legally protected rights, " that employee may move to reconsider the decision under Step 3 ("Request for Reconsideration"). (Id. at 4).

         Step 4 of Solutions InSTORE "is binding arbitration before a neutral arbitrator and administered by the American Arbitration Association ('AAA')." (Melody Decl. ¶ 8; Plan Document 5). As set forth in the Plan Document, the breadth of claims subject to arbitration under Step 4 is vast:

Except as otherwise limited, all employment-related legal disputes, controversies or claims arising out of, or relating to, employment or cessation of employment shall be settled exclusively by final and binding arbitration [.]
* * *
All unasserted employment-related claims as of January 1, 2004 arising under federal, state or local statutory or common law shall be subject to arbitration. Merely by way of example, these claims include, but are not limited to, claims arising under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, including the amendments of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), [and] the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)[.]

(Plan Document 5-6; see also Id. at 7 (reiterating that "[a]ny unasserted employment-related dispute as described in [the Plan Document], raised on or after [January 1, 2004, ] must be arbitrated ...

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