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Mason v. Athletic & Therapeutic Institute of Naperville, LLC

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

October 19, 2017



          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Athletic & Therapeutic Institute of Naperville, LLC's (“ATI”) Motion to Dismiss or Compel Arbitration (“Motion to Dismiss”) Plaintiff Norette Mason's Complaint against it. [Filing No. 11.] For the following reasons, ATI's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.



         Ms. Mason initiated this action after ATI terminated her employment. [Filing No. 1.] Ms. Mason claims that she worked for ATI from March 22, 2010 through August 4, 2016 when ATI terminated her employment. [Filing No. 1 at 3.]

         Ms. Mason alleges that her termination violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (“ADEA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”), and the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (“FMLA”). [Filing No. 1 at 5-7.]

         On July 13, 2011, Ms. Mason and ATI signed an Arbitration Agreement, whereby ATI and Ms. Mason agreed that “any claim, dispute, and/or controversy that either [Ms. Mason] or ATI may have against the other shall be submitted to and determined exclusively by binding arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, in conformity with the procedures of the Illinois Revised Statues Chapter 710, ILCS §5 et seq.” [Filing No. 11-1 at 1.] The terms “claim, dispute[, ] and/or controversy” are defined in the Arbitration Agreement as “any claims of discrimination and harassment, whether they be based on the Illinois Human Rights Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, as well as all other state or federal laws or regulations.” [Filing No. 11-1 at 1.] The Arbitration Agreement applies to “any claim, dispute, or controversy … which would otherwise require or allow resort to any court … arising from, related to, or having any relationship or connection whatsoever with [Ms. Mason's] … termination of employment[.]” [Filing No. 11-1 at 1.]

         The Arbitration Agreement set forth a four-step process for “Pre-Arbitration Dispute Resolution.” [Filing No. 11-1 at 1-2.] At Step 1, Ms. Mason agreed to informally discuss the matter with her immediate supervisor. [Filing No. 11-1 at 1.] If that is unsuccessful, Ms. Mason must file a “written complaint with the Vice President, Human Resources within 28 days after the event or problem occurred.” [Filing No. 11-1 at 1-2 (emphasis original).] The vice president then has 14 days to initiate an investigation and 14 more days to provide a written decision to Ms. Mason. [Filing No. 11-1 at 2.] If Ms. Mason is unsatisfied with the vice president's decision, or the vice president fails to timely respond to Ms. Mason's complaint, she may “submit [her] complaint to be heard by an independent arbitrator.” [Filing No. 11-1 at 2.]

         The section titled “Instituting Arbitration” states that Ms. Mason must submit an arbitration request to the vice president “within 90 days after the date of the written decision in STEP 4, or within 90 days of the expiration of the deadline for such decision, except where federal and/or state law prescribe a longer period of time which to file a complaint.” [Filing No. 11-1 at 2 (emphasis original).]

         The Arbitration Agreement also provides that “[i]f the Arbitrator finds for [Ms. Mason], the Arbitrator, in his or her discretion, may award appropriate relief, including costs, in accordance with applicable law. The Arbitrator is authorized to award attorneys' fees in accordance with applicable law.” [Filing No. 11-1 at 3.]


         Standard of Review

         A motion seeking dismissal based on a forum selection clause, including those containing an arbitration clause, is properly raised under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3). Auto. Mech. Local 701 Welfare and Pension Funds v. Vanguard Car Rental USA, Inc., 502 F.3d 740, 746 (7th Cir. 2007). Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3) the Court assume the truth of the allegations as stated in a plaintiff's complaint unless said allegations are contradicted by the defendant's affidavits. Deb v. SIRVA, Inc., 832 F.3d 800. 809 (7th Cir. 2016). Moreover, “a court may look beyond the mere allegations of a complaint, and need not view the allegations of the complaint as the exclusive basis for its decision.” Id.

         “To determine whether a contract's arbitration clause applies to a given dispute, federal courts apply state-law principles of contract formation.” Rosenblum v. Ltd., 299 F.3d 657, 662, (7th Cir. 2002). “Once it is clear, however, that the parties have a contract that provides for arbitration of some issues between them, any doubt concerning the scope of the arbitration clause is resolved in favor of arbitration as a matter of federal law.” Gore v. Alltel Commc'ns, 666 F.3d 1027, 1033 (7th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). The court cannot deny a party's request to arbitrate an issue absent a positive finding that the arbitration ...

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