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Palmer v. Menard, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

March 4, 2014

KENNETH K. PALMER, Plaintiff,
v.
MENARD, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES T. MOODY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kenneth Palmer brought this action against Defendant Menard, Inc., incorrectly named in the complaint as "Menards, " alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (DE # 1.) Defendant has now moved to dismiss plaintiff's suit under RULE 12(b)(3) and to compel arbitration, arguing that plaintiff's claims are subject to binding arbitration. (DE #11.) Plaintiff has filed a response to this motion (DE ## 18, 19) and defendant has filed a reply (DE # 20). For the following reasons, that motion is granted.

I. Factual Background[1]

Plaintiff worked at one of defendant's retail stores in Mishawaka, Indiana. (DE # 1.) During his employment, plaintiff suffered discrimination due to his race and color. Specifically, plaintiff was called names like "slave" and "boy." (Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiff reported these incidents to a supervisor, but no action was taken against the person who made the statements to plaintiff. ( Id. at 3.) Plaintiff was also accused of theft, and asked not to return to the store. ( Id. )

On January 27, 2012, plaintiff signed a document entitled "Employee/Employer Agreement."[2] ( See DE # 12-2 at 2.) That agreement, which contained provisions regarding issues other than arbitration, stated, in part:

In consideration of employment, continued employment, promotion or salary increase by Menard, Inc., or any division thereof, and in further consideration of the compensation paid or to be paid to me, I agree as follows:
...
I agree that all problems, claims and disputes experienced within my work area shall first be resolved as outlined in the Team Member Relations Section of the Grow With Menards Team Member Information Booklet which I have received. If I am unable to resolve the dispute by these means, I agree to submit to final and binding arbitration. Problems, claims or disputes subject to binding arbitration include, but are not limited to: statutory claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981-1988... Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964....
These claims shall be resolved by binding arbitration with the American Arbitration Association ("AAA") located at 225 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 252, Chicago, Illinois XXXXX-XXXX under its current version of the National Rules for the Resolution of Employment Disputes. Both Menard, Inc. and I understand that the AAA National Rules for the Resolution of Employment Disputes shall govern the fees in this matter, and that the costs of filing a demand for arbitration will not exceed the costs of filing a civil complaint in federal court. A copy of the National Rules for the Resolution of Employment Disputes and fee schedule of the American Arbitration Association may be obtained by contacting it at the address above.

( Id. )

Defendant argues that plaintiff is bound by this agreement and his lawsuit should therefore be dismissed. (DE ## 11, 12.)

II. Legal Standard

Defendant has moved to dismiss plaintiff's suit pursuant to FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(3) asserting that plaintiff's suit should be dismissed because this court is the improper venue for this suit. Because the arbitration agreement in this case calls for arbitration outside of the Northern District of Indiana, [3] RULE 12(b)(3) is the appropriate vehicle for seeking dismissal of plaintiff's suit. Faulkenberg v. CB Tax Franchise Systems, LP, 637 F.3d 801, 808 (7th Cir. 2011) ("[W]e have held that a Rule 12(b)(3) motion to dismiss for improper venue, rather than a motion to stay or to compel arbitration, is the proper procedure to use when the arbitration clause requires arbitration outside the confines ...


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