United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Angelia H. Beckham, Plaintiff,
Copart of Connecticut, Inc., Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
this action, Plaintiff Angelia H. Beckham
(“Plaintiff”) seeks recovery from her former
employer, Defendant Copart of Connecticut, Inc.
(“Defendant”) for events surrounding and
including termination of her employment. Plaintiff asserts
four causes of action arising under the Americans with
Disabilities Act and under state law. ECF No. 1-1. Plaintiff
originally filed her Complaint in state court, Defendant
removed to this court, after which Plaintiff filed an Amended
Complaint. ECF Nos. 1, 1-1, 10.
matter is before the court on Defendant's motion to
compel arbitration and to stay the case, arguing Plaintiff
signed the acknowledgement page of her employee handbook,
which contained an arbitration agreement, multiple times
during the course of her employment. ECF No.
Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition to Defendant's
motion to compel arbitration, arguing the arbitration clause
was part of the employee handbook, and citing a Fourth
Circuit case declining to compel arbitration because the
employee handbook in that case noted it did not create a
binding contract. ECF No. 20; Lorenzo v. Prime
Commc'ns, L.P., 806 F.3d 777 (4th Cir. 2015).
Defendant filed a reply in support of its motion
distinguishing this case from Lorenzo. ECF No. 21.
reasons set forth below, the motion to compel arbitration and
to stay this action is granted. Defendant's motion to
dismiss (ECF No.9) is moot.
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule
73.02 (B)(2), D.S.C., this matter was referred to United
States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges for pre-trial
proceedings and a Report and Recommendation
(“Report”). On July 17, 2017, the Magistrate
Judge issued a Report recommending Defendant's motion to
compel arbitration and to stay be granted and Defendant's
motion to dismiss be rendered moot. ECF No. 22.
Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and
requirements for filing objections to the Report and the
serious consequences if they failed to do so. Plaintiff filed
objections on July 26, 2017. ECF No. 23. Defendant did not
file a response, and the time for doing so has passed. The
matter is now ripe for resolution.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976).
The court is charged with making a de novo determination of
any portion of the Report to which a specific objection is
made. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in
part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit
the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of a specific
objection, the court reviews only for clear error. See
Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416
F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (“in the absence of a
timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a
de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself
that there is no clear error on the face of the record in
order to accept the recommendation.'”) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note))
objects to the recommendation to grant the motion to compel
arbitration because she asserts the Magistrate Judge erred in
distinguishing Lorenzo and determining the
arbitration clause was otherwise enforceable. ECF No. 23 at
cites Lorenzo for the proposition that an
arbitration clause in an employee handbook is unenforceable
when the handbook's “acknowledgement form
explicitly stated the handbook does not create a
contract.” Id. at 5 (citing Lorenzo,
806 F.3d at 780). Further, Plaintiff argues the language of
the handbook in this case and in Lorenzo is
“nearly identical” and therefore the Report
should not be adopted and arbitration should not be
compelled. Id. at 7.
Magistrate Judge found Lorenzo did not apply because
that case involved the application of North Carolina contract
law, and included a second acknowledgement signed by the
plaintiff acknowledging “the terms of the employee
handbook, including its arbitration provision, were
guidelines only and did not create any binding
commitments.” ECF No. 22 at 6 (citing Lorenzo,
806 F.3d at 782). In this case, the Magistrate Judge
reasoned, no separate document with a similar acknowledgement
regarding the terms of the handbook has been provided.
conducting a de novo review of the record, motion and
responses, the Report, and Plaintiff's objections, the
court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Lorenzo
is distinguishable and Plaintiff's claims are subject to
arbitration. In Lorenzo, the Fourth Circuit agreed
with the District Judge the defendant failed to produce
evidence the plaintiff agreed to arbitrate any of her claims.
Lorenzo, 806 F.3d at 779. The plaintiff in
Lorenzo received an employee handbook that committed
“all employment issues” to internal dispute
resolution, then mediation, and finally arbitration, and
noted employees “waived all rights to bring a lawsuit
and to a jury trial regarding any dispute.”
Id. at 780. The plaintiff signed a form
acknowledging receipt of the handbook, which specifically
noted “no provision should be construed to create any
bindery [sic] promises or contractual obligations between the
Company and the employees (management or non-management). .
.I understand that the information contained in the Handbook
are guidelines only and are in no way to be interpreted as a
contract.” Id. When the defendant moved to
compel arbitration, the Fourth Circuit relied on this
provision in finding the plaintiff signed “an