Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Morton v. Darden Restaurants Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

March 2, 2018

Albany Devionna Morton, Plaintiff,
v.
Darden Restaurants, Inc., Defendant.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          KEVIN F. MCDONALD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This 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 consideration.

         In her 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).

         FACTS PRESENTED

         The 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. ¶ 4).[1] 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).

         On or 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 accepted:

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).

         At the 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 or statute.
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 original).

         The 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. ΒΆ 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.