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Thebeau v. CitiMortgage, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 27, 2016

MARLA E. THEBEAU, Plaintiff,
v.
CITIMORTGAGE, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This removed matter is before the Court on defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend her complaint, and “Response and Objection to Defendant(s) Motion for Change of Venue, ” which the Court construes as a motion to remand. The parties oppose each other’s motions and they are fully briefed. For the following reasons, the Court will grant plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend her complaint, declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff’s remaining state law claims, and will remand this matter to state court. Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration will remain pending for resolution by the state court following remand.

         Facts and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff’s petition alleges that her employment with defendant CitiMortgage, Inc. (“Citi”) was terminated on February 28, 2013. Plaintiff filed this action in the Circuit Court of St. Charles County, Missouri, asserting that her termination violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), and the Missouri Equal Pay Act. Plaintiff also alleges harassment and retaliation. Named as defendants are Citi and individuals Melodie Collin Leclare, Julia Maria Wood and Nate L. Blackstun (collectively referred to as “defendants”).

         Defendants removed the case to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff’s state law claims. On February 3, 2016, shortly after removal, defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration, which seeks to enforce Citi’s Employment Arbitration policy, a copy of which is attached to the motion to compel arbitration. Under the express terms of the Employment Arbitration Policy, plaintiff and Citi mutually agreed to give up their right of access to the court system by submitting all future employment-related claims to binding arbitration. The Employment Arbitration Policy states that it applies to both plaintiff and Citi, making arbitration the required and exclusive forum for resolving employment-related disputes regardless of which party asserts a claim against the other. (See Ex. A to Mem. Supp. Mot. to Compel.)

         In December 2007 and August 2009, plaintiff signed Citi’s 2006 and 2009 Employee Handbook Receipt Forms, respectively, where she acknowledged she understood that Citi’s Employment Arbitration Policy requires her to submit employment-related disputes to binding arbitration. (See Exs. B and C to Mem. Supp. Mot. to Compel.) Plaintiff also acknowledged receiving Citi’s 2011 and 2013 U.S. Employee Handbooks on December 17, 2010 and December 17, 2012, respectively, again acknowledging that she understood she and Citi were required to submit employment-related disputes to binding arbitration in accordance with the Employment Arbitration Policy and Principles of Employment. (See Ex. D to Mem. Supp. Mot. to Compel.)

         Plaintiff filed her opposition to the motion to compel arbitration on February 17, 2016, and on the same day filed a motion for leave to amend her complaint and a motion to remand the case to state court. Plaintiff’s proposed amended complaint states that it is brought pursuant to the MHRA, “Missouri Labor Laws § 290.010, et seq., and Missouri Public Policy, to correct various willful employment practices, policies, procedures and wrongful discharge implemented by the Defendants (collectively in part or in whole) that had violated the Plaintiff’s rights protected by both State and Federal Statutes.” Amended Complaint ¶ 3. In addition, footnote 1 of the Amended Complaint confusingly states, “By removing this action, Plaintiff does not waive her right from protection she may have under Federal Statutes (in part or in whole).”

         Defendants oppose the motion for leave to amend, asserting there is no absolute right to amend pleadings under Rule 15 and arguing that leave to amend should be denied because plaintiff’s proposed amendment is “nothing more than an impermissible attempt to forum shop.” Defs.’ Mem. Opp. at 3. Defendants state that plaintiff “seeks to voluntarily dismiss the federal claims she initially asserted in this action - while at the same time reserving her rights under federal statutes - for the impermissible purpose of seeking a presumably more favorable state court forum.” Id. at 1. Defendants state they would be unduly prejudiced if the motions for leave to amend and to remand were granted, as they have expended considerable effort and expense to remove the action to federal court and have their motion to compel arbitration decided in this forum, and would be required to start the process over in state court.

         Plaintiff’s Reply appears to assert that she included the multiple federal claims in her original petition merely because the statutes were listed on the right to sue letters she received. Plaintiff states she was in the process of trying to amend her petition in state court to “conform to Missouri State Statutes” and would have advised defendants of this or requested their agreement to such amendment, but defendants removed the case to federal court without a hearing.[1] Id. at 3. Plaintiff denies acting in bad faith or forum shopping, and states with respect to her reservation of rights under federal statutes:

that Plaintiff ONLY stated in a fraction [sic] in the event the state court should contend that the Plaintiff needs to move the case back to Federal after discovery and interrogatories so that Plaintiff does not lose time due to statute of limitation and/or tolling. Defendant(s) would then claim Plaintiff refused to state that claim. Plaintiffs amended Complaint does not state any Federal Claims or imply any claims in her amended complaint.

         Pl.’s Reply at 5. This explanation is less than clear, but the Court does take from it plaintiff’s clear representation that the amended complaint does not assert and is not intended to assert any federal claims. In considering the motion for leave to amend, the Court specifically relies on plaintiff’s representation that her amended complaint does not and is not intended to assert any federal claims.[2] As such, the Court construes the proposed amended complaint’s two brief references to unspecified federal statutes as mere surplusage.

         Discussion

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that plaintiff’s Reply incorrectly states that the Court granted her leave to amend her complaint on February 23, 2016. See Pl.’s Reply at 4, 6, 8. The Order of February 23, 2016 (Doc. 13) did not grant plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend her complaint. The Order granted defendants’ motion for an extension of time to respond to plaintiff’s motions, including the motion for leave to amend her complaint. On the Court’s own motion, the Order also granted plaintiff leave of Court to file her Response and Objection to Defendants’ Motion to Compel Arbitration out of time. Doc. 13 at 2.

         A. Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to ...


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