United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
F. MCDONALD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the court on the defendant's motion to
dismiss or stay proceedings and compel arbitration (doc. 14).
Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code,
Section 636(b)(1)(A), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g)
(D.S.C.), all pretrial matters in employment discrimination
cases are referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for
amended complaint, the plaintiff, who is a black female,
alleges causes of action against her former employer for race
discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (doc. 6, amend.
comp. ¶¶ 32-48). The defendant filed a motion to
dismiss or stay proceedings and compel arbitration on
November 22, 2017 (doc. 14). The plaintiff filed a response
in opposition to the defendant's motion on January 2,
2018 (doc. 26), and the defendant filed a reply on January 9,
2018 (doc. 29).
plaintiff worked for the defendant at its LongHorn Steakhouse
restaurant in Anderson, South Carolina from approximately
April 30, 2012, to February 20, 2016 (doc. 6, amend. comp.
¶¶ 3, 29; doc. 14-2, Ingalsbe decl. ¶
GMRI, Inc. (“GMRI”), a subsidiary of Darden
Restaurants, owns and operates LongHorn Steakhouse
restaurants throughout the United States. GMRI maintains a
national Dispute Resolution Process (“DRP”) that
has been in place since at least 2005 (with various updates)
that applies to all employees. The DRP is a term and
condition of employment for all employees across the country
(doc. 14-2, Ingalsbe decl. ¶ 5).
about April 12, 2012, the plaintiff completed and submitted
her GMRI employment application (doc. 14-2, Inglasbe decl.
¶ 6 & ex. A). The employment application includes a
section entitled “Special Employment Notices”
that includes the following statement, which the plaintiff
I understand that the Darden Companies, including . . .
LongHorn Steakhouse, . . . have in place a Dispute Resolution
Process (DRP), and I further acknowledge and agree that if I
am offered and accept employment, any dispute between me and
any of the Darden Companies relating in my employment and/or
my separation from employment, shall be submitted within one
(1) year of the day which I learned of the event and shall be
resolved pursuant to the terms and conditions of the DRP.
(Id. ¶ 6 & ex. A at 3).
time of the plaintiff's hire on or about April 30, 2012,
the January 2005 (Reformatted April 2011) DRP book was in
effect (doc. 14-2, Inglasbe decl. ¶ 7 & ex. B). It
provided, in relevant part, that employment-related disputes
are subject to mutually-binding arbitration:
The first three steps of DRP-the Open Door, Peer Review and
Mediation-apply to all employment-related disputes or claims
brought by the Employee against the Company or the Company
against the Employee other than those limited
“Exceptions” listed below. Some examples of
disputes which are covered by the first three steps of DRP
include, but are not limited to: disputes about compensation
earned, termination, discrimination and harassment.
Only disputes which state a legal claim may be submitted to
Arbitration, which is the fourth and final step of DRP. The
arbitrator has the authority to dismiss disputes that do not
state a legal claim. Examples of legal claims may include but
are not limited to: claims that arise under the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, Americans With Disabilities Act, Fair Labor
Standards Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Family
Medical Leave Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act,
unfair competition, violation of trade secrets, any common
law right or duty, or any federal, state or local ordinance
The DRP is the sole means for resolving covered
employment-related disputes, instead of court actions.
Disputes eligible for DRP must be resolved only through DRP,
with the final step being binding arbitration heard by an
arbitrator. This means DRP-eligible disputes will NOT BE
RESOLVED BY A JUDGE OR JURY. Neither the Company nor the
Employee may bring DRP-eligible disputes to court. The
Company and the Employee waive all rights to bring a civil
court action for these disputes.
(Id. ¶ 7 & ex. B at 2) (emphasis in
defendant's managers present and distribute the DRP book
to each new employee during their new hire orientation and
obtain the employee's signature to the DRP book
acknowledgement form, which, when signed, confirms receipt,
review, and understanding of the DRP book and confirms
agreement to submit covered matters to the DRP (doc. 14-2,
Inglasbe decl. ¶ 7 & ex. B at 11). The defendant
cannot locate the plaintiff's signed DRP acknowledgement
form from her new hire orientation, which is missing along
with other parts of her personnel file (id. ¶
8). Ms. Ingalsbe states in her affidavit that the DRP is a
term and condition of employment for all employees across the
country, and if a newly ...