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Farris v. Western and Southern Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 28, 2014

MARK FARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE WESTERN AND SOUTHERN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND ENFORCE ARBITRATION

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss complaint and enforce arbitration agreement (dkt. no. 14). The motion is fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the motion to dismiss for the reasons set forth below. The Court declines, however, to award Defendant its attorneys' fees, expenses, and costs.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Mark Farris began working for Defendant, The Western & Southern Life Insurance Company, in March 2011.[1] At that time, he signed a form entitled "Applicant Notice Dispute Resolution Program, " ("Applicant DRP Notice") which stated as follows:

By my submission of this application to you for employment, I understand that any legal dispute related to this application for employment or any legal dispute during any subsequent employment with the Company will be conducted under its Dispute Resolution Program.
... I understand that the last and final step under the Dispute Resolution Program is a requirement of mandatory and binding arbitration, which will be conducted under the American Arbitration's "Employment Arbitration Rules and Mediation Procedures."
The types of claims covered under the program are all legal claims, including:... tort claims... [and] claims for... discrimination (including, but not limited to, claims based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age, medical condition or disability whether under federal, state or local law)...

Dkt. No. 15-1.

Farris also signed a document entitled "Sales Representative's Agreement, " which described the terms and conditions of his employment. By signing the Sales Representative's Agreement, Farris agreed:

Not to commence any action or suit relating to [his] employment by Western & Southern, but instead, [to] follow the Dispute Resolution Program (DRP') of the Company as set forth in the form(s), which [he] signed, and the DRP Booklet, described therein, as [his] exclusive remedy for any claims [he has] that are covered by the DRP.

Dkt. No. 15-2 at 2. Section III of the Sale's Representative's Agreement further provided that he agreed "[n]ot to commence any arbitration or action under the DRP or otherwise relating to [his] employment with Western & Southern more than six months after the date of termination of such employment, and to waive any statute of limitation to the contrary." Id.

Farris also signed a form entitled "Agreement and Receipt for Dispute Resolution Program" ("DRP Agreement"). That form stated: "The Company and I agree that all legal claims or disputes covered by this Agreement must be submitted to binding arbitration and that this binding arbitration will be the sole and exclusive final remedy for resolving any such claim or dispute that I or the Company may have." Dkt. No. 15-3 at 1. The DRP Agreement and the DRP Booklet, explicitly made part of the DRP Agreement, also mirrored the language contained in the Applicant DRP Notice regarding the types of claims covered by the arbitration agreement. The DRP Booklet further explained the processes for resolving workplace issues and claims, and warned employees (in bold font) that the "DRP will prevent [them] from filing a lawsuit in court for individual relief for a legal claim subject to arbitration." Dkt. No. 15-4 at 7.

The DRP Booklet also advised employees that an arbitrator may award to the prevailing party any relief that might be sought in a court of law. It warned, however, that "[i]f either party pursues a legal claim covered by the DRP in court, the responding party shall be entitled to a stay or dismissal of such action... and the recovery of all costs and attorneys' fees and expenses related to such action." Id. at 6.

On July 6, 2012, Western & Southern terminated Farris' employment. Farris filed suit against Western & Southern on March 17, 2014, alleging employment discrimination under Title VII, intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"), and a claim for "false light/using misrepresentations and illegal ...


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