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Young v. AMISUB of South Carolina, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

November 1, 2018

Suzanne Young, Plaintiff,
v.
AMISUB of South Carolina, Inc. d/b/a Piedmont Medical Center, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         This matter is before the court for review of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”) filed on August 17, 2018. (ECF No. 12.) The Report addresses Defendant AMISUB of South Carolina, Inc. d/b/a Piedmont Medical Center's (“Defendant”) Motion to Compel Arbitration and to Dismiss or Stay All Claims (“Motion to Compel Arbitration”) (ECF No. 6) and recommends that the court grant Defendant's Motion to Compel Arbitration and retain jurisdiction over the parties for all matters relating to this action. (Id. at 10-11.) For the reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report, GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Compel Arbitration, and DISMISSES the action without prejudice.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Report sets forth the relevant facts and legal standards which this court incorporates without a full recitation. (Id. at 2-3.) As brief background, around April 2011, Plaintiff Suzanne Young (“Plaintiff”) was hired by Defendant as its Director of Imaging and Pain Services. (ECF No. 1-1 at 6; ECF No. 6 at 1; ECF No. 12 at 2.) Shortly after being hired, on April 12, 2011, Plaintiff signed a document titled “Acknowledgement, ” which includes provisions relating to arbitration (“Arbitration Agreement”). (ECF No. 6-1 at 1; ECF No. 14-1 at 18.) In pertinent part, the Arbitration Agreement states:

Except to the extent that any applicable collective bargaining agreement provided otherwise, I hereby voluntarily agree to use the Company's Fair Treatment Process and to submit to final and binding arbitration of any and all claims and disputes that are related in any way to my employment or the termination of my employment with Tenent. I understand that final and binding arbitration will be the sole and exclusive remedy of any such claim or dispute against Tenent or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies or entities, and each of its and/or their employees, officers, directors or agents, and that, by agreeing to the use of arbitration to resolve my dispute, both the Company and I agree to forego any right we each may have had to a jury trial on issues covered by the Fair Treatment Process. I also agree that such arbitration will be conducted before an experienced arbitrator chosen by me and the Company, and will be conducted under the Federal Arbitration Act and the procedural rules of the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”).
I further acknowledge that in exchange for my agreement to arbitrate, the Company also agrees to submit all claims and disputes it may have with me to final and binding arbitration, and that the Company further agrees that if I submit a request for binding arbitration, my maximum out-of-pocket expenses for the arbitrator and the administrative cost of the AAA will be an amount equal to one day's pay (if I am an exempt employee) or eight times my hourly rate of pay (if I am a non-exempt employee) or a mandated cap, if lower, and that the Company will pay all of the remaining fees and administrative costs of the arbitrator and the AAA. I further acknowledge that this mutual agreement to arbitrate may not be modified or rescinded except in writing by both me and the Company.

(ECF No. 6-1 at 1.) On or about June 18, 2017, Defendant terminated Plaintiff. (ECF No. 1-1 at 9.) On May 25, 2018, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant in the Court of Common Pleas for York County, South Carolina. (Id. at 5-13.) In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Id. at 9-11.)

         On June 12, 2018, Defendant removed this matter from state court to federal court. (ECF No. 1.) On June 14, 2018, Defendant filed its Motion to Compel Arbitration. (ECF No. 6.) On June 28, 2018, Plaintiff filed her Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion (“Memorandum”). (ECF No. 10.) On July 5, 2018, Defendant replied to Plaintiff's Memorandum. (ECF No. 11.)

         After reviewing the filings of the parties, the Magistrate Judge filed a Report on August 17, 2018. (ECF No. 12.) In the Report, the Magistrate Judge determined that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., applied to Plaintiff's claims against Defendant because “Defendant provided the signed Agreement containing the arbitration provision[, ]” “Defendant's economic activity has a nexus to interstate commerce[, ]” and “Plaintiff . . . failed to show [that] the arbitration provision is unconscionable.” (Id. at 6-10.) Additionally, the Magistrate Judge declined to find that Plaintiff waived her substantive rights under Title VII. (Id. at 10.) The Report ultimately recommends that the court grant Defendant's Motion to Compel Arbitration and dismiss the action. (Id. at 10-11.) The Report also advises the court to retain jurisdiction over the parties for all matters relating to this action. (Id. at 11.)

         The parties were apprised of the opportunity to file specific objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report by August 31, 2018. (Id. at 12.) On August 31, 2018, Plaintiff filed her Objection to the Report. (ECF No. 14.) In her Objection, Plaintiff argues that the Arbitration Agreement lacks consideration to form a valid contract, the Arbitration Agreement is unconscionable, and antidiscrimination statutes should not be subject to arbitration because “courts have the final responsibility for enforcing discrimination claims.” (Id. at 2-4.) Defendant replied to Plaintiff's Objection on September 11, 2018. (ECF No. 15.) Defendant maintains that there was sufficient consideration for the Arbitration Agreement, the Magistrate Judge properly held that Plaintiff has not shown that the Arbitration Agreement is unconscionable, and discrimination claims are routinely subject to arbitration. (Id. at 1-5.) Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's contentions, which makes the Report ripe for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Magistrate Judge's Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge only makes a recommendation to this court, and the recommendation has no presumptive weight. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Id. at 271. As such, the court is charged with making de novo determinations of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objections are made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). Furthermore, a failure to file specific written objections to the Report results in a party's waiver of the right to appeal from the judgment of the court based upon such recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Thus, the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In her Objection, Plaintiff presents three arguments to the Magistrate Judge's Report. (See ECF No. 14 at 1-5.) First, Plaintiff maintains that the Report is “silent about the sufficiency of consideration” in the Arbitration Agreement, and consideration must be examined because she denies that “a valid arbitration agreement . . . was ever formed[.]” (Id. at 1-2.) Second, Plaintiff continues to argue, under the totality of the circumstances, that the Arbitration Agreement is unconscionable because it “granted her no meaningful choice” and contained “non-negotiable terms.” (Id. at 3.) Lastly, Plaintiff forcefully submits that “Congress clearly intended to enable courts to have the final responsibility for enforcing discrimination claims, and thus, deferral to arbitration is inconsistent with the original intent of Congress.” (Id. at 4.) The court will consider each of Plaintiff's objections in turn.

         A. Consideration for the ...


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