United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion (ECF No.
18) to compel arbitration and to dismiss or, alternatively,
stay these proceedings pending arbitration. For the reasons
set forth below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion
and will stay this case pending arbitration.
an African American male, brought this lawsuit under Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e,
et seq., for alleged race discrimination suffered while he
was employed as a Receiving Supervisor at Defendant's
store, from August 2015 until his termination on November 5,
2015. Plaintiff timely filed his lawsuit on September 25,
2017, after receiving right-to-sue letters from the EEOC and
the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. Plaintiff initially
proceeded pro se, but the Court appointed counsel to
represent him on November 13, 2017.
February 12, 2018, Defendant filed this motion to compel
arbitration of Plaintiff's claims. Defendant argues that,
at the time Plaintiff filed his complaint, he was party to an
enforceable arbitration agreement requiring him to arbitrate
all covered employment-related disputes, including his Title
VII claim in this case.
to Defendant, in July 2014, its parent company began a
dispute resolution program for employees of all of its
affiliates and subsidiaries. The program was called
“STEPS, ” and involved three steps: Step 1,
discussing a concern with a supervisor or human resources
representative; Step 2, submitting a written request for
reconsideration to the STEPS program administrator; and Step
3, arbitration of legal claims. All store employees were
automatically enrolled in the STEPS Program, but employees
had the choice to opt out of Step 3,
arbitration. As part of its hiring and onboarding
process, Defendant required new hires to sign into its human
resources employee management system using a unique username
and password to receive, review, and complete new hire
documentation. This documentation included the STEPS Program
Materials, which in turn included the Burlington Stores,
Inc.'s Early Dispute Resolution Program Rules and
Procedures (the “Arbitration Agreement”).
Arbitration Agreement states that it applies to Burlington
Stores, Inc. and its affiliates, subsidiaries, and successors
(defined collectively as the “Company”), and
includes a one-and-a-half page introduction explaining the
three steps described above.
introduction describes the arbitration procedure in general,
In Step 3, you and the Company agree to arbitrate covered
legal claims instead of bringing them to a court or jury
trial. . . . You and the Company mutually agree to arbitrate
covered disputes if you accept or continue employment with
the company after the Effective Date (July 27, 2014).
However, you also will be given the option to exclude
yourself from arbitration by completing an Arbitration
Opt-Out Form. If you do not elect to be excluded from
arbitration within the timeframe set forth in the Arbitration
Opt-Out Form, you and the Company are covered by arbitration.
The choice is yours, and whether you choose to remain covered
by arbitration or to exclude yourself will have no impact on
your employment - positive or negative.
ECF No. 19-1 at 40. The Arbitration Agreement then includes
the following specific provisions regarding arbitration:
Step 3: Arbitration - Rules and Procedures*
3. Claims Covered. Step 3: Arbitration applies to
any dispute arising out of or related to your employment
with or termination from the Company . . ., regardless of
the date of accrual and survives after the employment
relationship ends. Except as these Rules and Procedures
otherwise provide, Step 3: Arbitration is intended to apply
to the resolution of disputes that would otherwise be
resolved in a court of law or before a forum other than
arbitration, and you and the Company agree that any legal
dispute or controversy covered by these Rules and
Procedures . . . shall be resolved by binding arbitration.
1* * *
b. Effective Date: The Effective Date of this
STEPS Program, including these Step 3 Arbitration Rules and
Procedures is July 27, 2014. Unless you timely submit an
Arbitration Opt-Out Form, any covered employment-related
claims as described above that are brought on or after the
Effective Date must be arbitrated pursuant to these Step 3
Arbitration Rules and Procedures. . . .
ECF No. 19-1 at 41-42. Title VII claims are explicitly listed
under “Examples of Covered Claims.” Id.
Arbitration Agreement further provides that the employee has
the right to be represented by counsel during arbitration
proceedings, but if the employee chooses not to retain an
attorney, Defendant will not be represented by an attorney
either. Id. at 44. Further, Defendant will pay all
costs and expenses related to the arbitration process,
including up to $1, 500 to assist an employee with
attorneys' fees and incidental costs associated with the
arbitration. Id. at 45.
Arbitration Agreement includes the following separate
paragraph regarding employee's right to opt out:
15. Your Right to Opt Out of Arbitration.
Arbitration is not a mandatory condition of your employment
at the Company, and therefore you may notify the Company that
you wish to opt out and not be subject to Step 3 Arbitration.
If you want to opt-out, you must notify the Company of your
intention to opt out by submitting a signed and dated
“Arbitration Opt-Out Form” (contained in the
packet in which you received these Rules and Procedures and
available on the Company's web portal under the Human
Resources tab) to the STEPS Office Program Administrator,
1830 Route 130 North, Burlington, New Jersey 08016. In order
to be effective, your Arbitration Opt-Out Form must be
postmarked within 30 days of your receipt of these Step 3:
Arbitration Rules and Procedures . . . . If you timely
opt-out as provided in this paragraph, you will not be
subject to any adverse employment action as a consequence of
that decision and may pursue available legal remedies without
regard to these Step 3 Arbitration Rules and Procedures.
Should you not opt-out of arbitration within 30 days of your