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Hazen v. Citibank, N.A.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 13, 2018

ERIC A. HAZEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITIBANK, N.A., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill, Chief U.S. District Court Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it a Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Proceedings (Dkt. 4) filed by defendant Citibank, N.A. The Court finds these matters appropriate for decision without oral argument. For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted, and the Court will order arbitration for all parties.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Eric A. Hazen began working for Citibank, N.A. (“Citi”) in May 2006. Compl. ¶ 6. In his employment application dated February 15, 2006, Hazen acknowledged, “I am advised that the Company has a mandatory employment arbitration policy and employment is contingent upon execution of written employment documents including an agreement to submit employment related disputes to binding arbitration.” Squyres Decl. Ex. 1 at 3, Dkt. 4-2 (“Employment Application”). On March 20, Hazen signed a form called “Principles of New Employment, ” which included the statement “[y]ou agree to follow our dispute resolution/arbitration procedures for employment disputes.” Id. Ex. 2 (“Principles of Employment”). Several times during the following years, Hazen received an email directing him to a webpage that contained several statements and required him to click an “I Acknowledge” button in order to have the ability to download and print a copy of the latest Employee Handbook. Id. Ex. 3. These statements included the following:

Appended to the Handbook is an Employment Arbitration Policy as well as the “Principles of Employment” that require you to submit employment-related disputes to binding arbitration (see Appendix A and Appendix D). You understand that it is your obligation to read these documents carefully, and that no provision in this Handbook or elsewhere is intended to constitute a waiver, nor be construed to constitute a waiver, of Citi's right to compel arbitration of employment-related disputes. . . . WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE EMPLOYMENT ARBITRATION POLICY, YOU UNDERSTAND THAT NOTHING IN THIS HANDBOOK, NOR THE HANDBOOK ITSELF, IS CONSIDERED A CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT.

Id. In 2008, 2010, and 2013, Mr. Hazen clicked “I acknowledge.” Id.

         Both parties appear to agree that the 2013 Arbitration Policy is the policy that is currently in effect.[1] See Def.'s Reply at 1 n.1, Dkt. 6 (“To be clear, Citi's position is that the 2013 Arbitration Policy . . . is the operative policy and the one at issue in this Motion.”); Pl.'s Resp. at 6, Dkt. 5 (“Employees are not subject to the arbitration agreement they are hired under but the updated one each year that they make employees acknowledge to read and state this is the new HR and policy information”). Under “Scope of Policy, ” the Arbitration Policy provides:

This Policy applies to both you and to Citi, and makes arbitration the required and exclusive forum for the resolution of all employment-related disputes (other than disputes which by statute are not subject to arbitration) which are based on legally protected rights (i.e., statutory, regulatory, contractual, or common-law rights) and arise between you and Citi . . . These disputes include, without limitation . . . the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 . . . and any other federal, state, or local statute, regulation, or common-law doctrine regarding employment, employment discrimination, the terms and conditions of employment, termination of employment, compensation, breach of contract, defamation, or retaliation, whistle-blowing, or any claims arising under the Citigroup Separation Pay Plan.

Squyres Decl. Ex. 4 at 53, Dkt. 4-2 (“2013 Arbitration Policy”).

         The Arbitration Policy also specifies certain actions that employees may take in spite of the agreement to arbitrate disputes. Specifically, it states that “[n]othing in this Policy shall prevent you or Citi from seeking from any court of competent jurisdiction injunctive relief in aid of arbitration or to maintain the status quo prior to arbitration.” Id. at 54. Additionally, the Policy states:

The Policy doesn't exclude the jurisdiction of the [EEOC] and/or state and local human rights agencies to investigate alleged violations of the laws enforced by the EEOC and/or these agencies. You aren't waiving any right to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and/or state or local human rights agency. However, you shall not be entitled to seek or receive any monetary compensation as a result of any proceeding arising from the filing of a charge, and/or participating in an investigation resulting from the filing of a charge, with the EEOC and/or state or local human rights agency.

Id.

         Finally, the Policy describes certain conditions that apply in cases of arbitration. For example, Citi pays the filing, hearing, and arbitrator fees, as well as all other ordinary and reasonable expenses of the arbitration Id. at 57. Each sides otherwise pays its own legal fees and expenses. Id. Additionally, the arbitrator may award the employee the same relief as would be available in court, as well as attorneys' fees where expressly permitted by applicable law. Id. at 56.

         Hazen was discharged on May 14, 2013. Compl. ¶ 50. After being discharged, Hazen filed a complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission. Id. ¶ 51. On August 10, 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a determination finding that there was reasonable cause to believe that Citi refused to provide Mr. Hazen with reasonable accommodations and was discharged in retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodations. Id. ¶¶ 53-54. The EEOC mailed Hazen a Right to Sue letter on December 1, 2017. Id. ¶ 55.

         On February 28, 2018, Hazen filed a three-count complaint alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Idaho Human Rights Act (Dkt. 1). In his complaint, Hazen claims that on at least two occasions, Citi refused to make a reasonable accommodation for his disability, and eventually terminated him rather than consider the accommodation. Id. ¶ 1. On April 23, 2018, Citi filed the instant Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Proceedings (Dkt. 4). Briefing on the Motion was completed on June 1, 2018.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) controls the enforcement of arbitration clauses. Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. ...


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