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Abel v. All Green Building Services of New York LLC

United States District Court, S.D. New York

November 14, 2017

JULIO ABEL, Plaintiff,
v.
ALL GREEN BUILDING SERVICES OF NEW YORK LLC, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          J. PAUL OETKEN, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff Julio Abel, proceeding pro se, claims that Defendant All Green Building Services of New York, LLC, discriminated against him on the basis of his religion. All Green moves to dismiss, arguing that Abel's collective bargaining agreement requires him to arbitrate this dispute. Alternatively, All Green seeks to stay the case pending arbitration proceedings. For the reasons that follow, the motion to compel arbitration is granted, the motion to dismiss is denied, and the case is stayed.

         I. Background

         All Green is a building maintenance provider. Abel worked for All Green as a cleaner. Abel's employment was terminated in 2016. Abel alleges that All Green discriminated against him on the basis of his religion, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New York City law.[1]

         During his employment, Abel was a member of Local 32BJ Service Employees International Union. (Dkt. No. 17 at 2.) That union and the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. (“RAB”), a multi-employer bargaining group of which All Green was a member, were parties to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). (Id. at 3-4.)

         The CBA provides, in relevant part, that:

There shall be no discrimination against any present or future employee by reason of race, creed, color, age, disability, national origin, sex, union membership, or any characteristic protected by law, including, but not limited to, claims made pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act . . . the New York City Human Rights Code . . . or any other similar laws, rules or regulations. All such claims shall be subject to the grievance and arbitration procedure (Articles V and VI) as the sole and exclusive remedy for violations. Arbitrators shall apply appropriate law in rendering decisions based upon claims of discrimination.

Id. at 4.

         All Green argues that this provision requires Abel to arbitrate his claims rather than sue in federal court. All Green therefore seeks dismissal of this case, or, alternatively, that the case be stayed so that the parties can arbitrate. In a letter to the Court, Abel asserts that he already tried to go through the union's grievance procedures, including settlement discussions, but that he did not find the union to be responsive to his needs. (Dkt. No. 18.)

         II. Legal Standard

         When deciding a motion to compel arbitration, a reviewing court's evaluation is limited to: “i) whether a valid agreement or obligation to arbitrate exists, and ii) whether one party to the agreement has failed, neglected or refused to arbitrate.LAIF X SPRL v. Axtel, S.A. de C.V., 390 F.3d 194, 198 (2d Cir. 2004). Where these requirements are met, the court must “[direct] the parties to proceed to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the agreement.” 9 U.S.C. § 4.

         Courts must also afford pro se plaintiffs “special solicitude” before granting motions to dismiss. Ruotolo v. I.R.S., 28 F.3d 6, 8 (2d Cir. 1994). “‘A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, ' and a ‘pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         III. Discussion

         In deciding this case, the Court is guided by two binding precedents: the United States Supreme Court's opinion in 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, 556 U.S. 247 (2009), and the Second Circuit's ...


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