United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
Plaintiff, Ashley Smith, sued her former employer, JRK
Residential Group, Inc. (“JRK”), for wrongful
termination. Smith alleges violations of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the
Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, C.G.S.
§§ 46a-60(a)(1) and 46a-60(a)(4)
(“CFEPA”). Specifically, Smith alleges that she
was discriminated against because of her sex and Christian
lifestyle and that she was wrongfully terminated. JRK moves
to stay litigation and compel arbitration of the claims,
based on a Mediation and Arbitration Agreement signed by
Smith and JRK.
following reasons, JRK's motion to compel arbitration and
stay this action is hereby GRANTED.
following recitation of the facts is taken from Smith's
complaint, along with the exhibits attached to the
parties' briefs JRK is an affiliated entity of JRK
Property Holdings, Inc. (ECF No. 14-2 at ¶ 3, 5). On
November 23, 2015, JRK hired Smith as the leasing agent for
Century Hills Apartments-a 544-unit multi-family property in
Rocky Hill, Connecticut. (ECF No. 14-1 at 2; ECF No. 1-1 at
¶¶ 2-6). Three weeks later, JRK terminated
Smith's employment. (ECF No. 1-1 at ¶ 41). The
parties part ways on the reason for Smith's termination.
Smith claims that JRK terminated her based on her sex and
religious beliefs in violation of Title VII and CFEPA.
(Id. at ¶ 16, 50-51, 59, 60). JRK claims Smith
was terminated due to unsatisfactory performance. (ECF No.
14-1 at 2).
her hiring, Smith signed JRK Property Holdings, Inc.'s
Mediation and Arbitration Agreement
(“Agreement”). (ECF No. 14-2, Ex. A at 7
(“The Agreement”)). The Agreement provided in
relevant part that the parties “agreed to use mediation
and binding arbitration as the exclusive forums for resolving
the disputes and claims covered by this Agreement.”
Id. The Agreement covered “[a]ny claim that
could be asserted in court . . . for which the employee has
an alleged cause of action, including without limitation the
following claims: . . . (b) tort, (c) discrimination
including, but not limited to, discrimination based on sex .
. . [and] religion . . ., (d) wrongful discharge, . . .
and/or (g) violation of any federal, state or other
governmental law, statute, regulation or ordinance, and
whether based on statute or common law.” Id.
at 8. The Agreement also covered “[c]laims made against
JRK [Property Holdings Inc.]” or “any of its
subsidiary or affiliated entities . . . .” Id.
Smith's termination, she filed this action against JRK in
Connecticut Superior Court, alleging two counts of wrongful
termination arising out of alleged violations of Title VII
and CFEPA. (See ECF No. 1-1). JRK subsequently removed the
case to this Court, (see ECF No. 1), and filed this motion to
compel. (ECF No. 14).
Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) provides that
“a written provision . . . in a contract evidencing a
transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a
controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or
transaction . . . shall be valid, irrevocable, and
enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in
equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C.
§ 2. The Supreme Court has held that the FAA
“establishes a national policy favoring arbitration
when the parties contract for that mode of dispute
resolution.” Preston v. Ferrer, 552 U.S. 346,
349 (2008); see also Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane
Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 25 (1991) (holding that the FAA
“manifest[s] a liberal federal policy favoring
arbitration agreements.” (internal quotation marks
omitted)). Under Section 4 of the FAA, a court must compel
arbitration if it finds that there has been a
“‘failure, neglect, or refusal' of any party
to honor the agreement to arbitrate.” Phillips v.
Cigna Invs., 27 F.Supp.2d 345, 349 (D. Conn. 1998)
(quoting 9 U.S.C. §4). Further, the Second Circuit has
echoed the Supreme Court's recognition of the FAA's
policy favoring the strict enforcement of arbitration
agreements, instructing that “any analysis of a
party's challenge to the enforcement of an arbitration
agreement must begin by recognizing the FAA's strong
policy in favor of rigorously enforcing arbitration
agreements.” Doctors Assocs. v. Hamilton, 150
F.3d 157, 162 (2d Cir. 1998).
determine whether parties are compelled to arbitrate, courts
consider four factors: “(1) whether the parties agreed
to arbitrate; (2) the scope o[f] the arbitration agreement;
(3) whether, if federal statutory claims are asserted,
Congress intended those claims to be nonarbitrable; and (4)
whether, if some but not all of the claims in the case are
arbitrable, the case should be stayed pending
arbitration.” McCallister v. Conn. Renaissance
Inc., 496 Fed. App'x 104, 106 (2d Cir. 2012).
Finally, the party seeking to compel arbitration bears the
“burden of demonstrating by a preponderance of the
evidence the existence of an agreement to arbitrate.”
Helenese v. Oracle Corp., No. 3:09-cv-351 (CFD),
2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15071, at *8 (D. Conn. Feb 19, 2010).
Smith Must Arbitrate Her Claims Against JRK
governs the Agreement because the Agreement involves a
written provision regarding a transaction involving commerce.
See 9 U.S.C. § 2. The employment transaction in this
Agreement involves commerce because JRK owns and operates
residential facilities in ten states, occasionally assigns
employees to work in multiple states, and purchases supplies
for its business from a variety of states. (ECF No. 14-1 at