Locke Lord QuickStudy: District Court Compels Arbitration

Locke Lord LLP
December 27, 2016
In a recent decision, the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York clarified the standard it utilizes for motions seeking to compel arbitration, holding that a standard similar to that applicable to motions for summary judgment applies. McNeill v. Raymour & Flanigan Furniture, No. 6:15cv1473 (N.D N.Y. Dec. 5, 2016). 
In this employment discrimination case, a pro se litigant sued his employer in federal court alleging retaliation on the basis of his race pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.  The defendant employer moved to compel arbitration on the basis that the Plaintiff had agreed to arbitrate disputes related to legally protected rights by virtue of having signed an “Associate’s Agreement and Consent,” which acknowledged receipt of the defendant’s Employment Arbitration Program, and when he electronically acknowledged reading Defendant’s “Associate Handbook” as part of his computer-based job application.  Id. at *2-3.  In support of its motion, Defendant submitted two sworn affidavits together with copies of the pertinent documents.  Plaintiff denied having signed the Associate’s Agreement but submitted no sworn statement. 

The District Court observed that in the context of motions to compel arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, “the court applies a standard similar to that applicable for a motion for summary judgment.”  Id. at *4-5.  Under that standard, when there is an “issue of fact as to the making of the agreement for arbitration, then a trial is necessary.”  Id. at *5.  However, “if the party seeking arbitration has substantiated the entitlement by a showing of evidentiary facts, the party opposing may not rest on a denial but must submit evidentiary facts showing that there is a dispute of fact to be tried.”  Id. 

Given that the Plaintiff failed to submit an affidavit or declaration substantiating his assertion that he did not sign the Associate’s Agreement and Consent and failed to file a sur-reply responding to Defendant’s assertions concerning his agreements to arbitrate, the Court found that the Plaintiff failed to demonstrate a dispute of fact as to his agreement to arbitrate and granted the motion to compel arbitration.  

A copy of the opinion is available here.

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