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Powers v. Charles River Laboratories, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 29, 2017

JULIE POWERS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES RIVER LABORATORIES, INC., SUSAN JACKSON, and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.

          Stephanie Davis Dawkins United States Magistrate Judge

         OPINION AND ORDER (1) OVERRULING DEFENDANTS' AND PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE DAVIS'S AUGUST 8, 2017 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF NOS. 35, 36), (2) ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF NO. 34). (3) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS OR COMPEL ARBITRATION (ECF NO. 6), (4) DISMISSING DEFENDANTS CHARLES RIVER LABORATORIES AND SUSAN JACKSON WITHOUT PREJUDICE, (5) GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT ONLY AS TO THE UNITED STATES (ECF NO. 24), (6) DENYING AS MOOT THE UNITED STATES' MOTION TO DISMISS COUNT V OF THE COMPLAINT (ECF NO. 10), AND (7) DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DEFER RULING ON MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND (ECF NO. 30)

          Paul D. Borman United States District Judge

         Plaintiff filed her pro se Complaint, alleging age discrimination and hostile work environment, in Wayne County Circuit Court on or about August 4, 2016, and the case was removed to this Court on October 14, 2016, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1).[1] (ECF No. 1, Notice of Removal.) Immediately after removal, on October 24, 2016, Defendants CRL and Jackson moved to dismiss the Complaint or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration. (ECF No. 6.) On January 3, 2017, this Court referred all pretrial proceedings in this pro se matter to Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis. (ECF No. 20.)

         On August 8, 2017, Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis issued a Report and Recommendation to (1) deny Defendants' Charles River Laboratories (“CRL”) and Susan Jackson's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims with prejudice based on a contractual limitations period but to grant these Defendants' motion to compel arbitration and dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them without prejudice (ECF No. 6), (2) grant Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her Complaint against the United States only (ECF No. 24) and deny the United States' motion to dismiss the claims against it in the original Complaint as moot (ECF No. 10), and (3) to deny as moot Defendants' motion to defer ruling on the motion for leave to amend pending the resolution of Defendants' motion to dismiss or to compel arbitration (ECF No. 30).

         Both Plaintiff and Defendants have filed Objections to the Report and Recommendation. (ECF Nos. 35, 36.) Defendants filed a Response to Plaintiff's Objections. (ECF No. 37.) For the reasons that follow, the Court OVERRULES both Objections and ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation in full.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Magistrate Judge thoroughly recited the facts pertinent to resolution of these motions in her Report and Recommendation, and the Court adopts that recitation here:

CRL is a premier global provider of products and related services designed to assist its clients to advance their drug discovery and development businesses. (Dkt. 6, Ex. B, Affidavit of Susan Jackson at ¶ 2). Plaintiff was an employee of CRL's Insourcing Solutions (IS) business unit. Id. at ¶ 4. The IS business unit provides scientific, veterinary and animal husbandry professionals to its customers to assist with or to fully operate the customers' animal research programs. Id. at ¶ 5. CRL's customers include leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, federal government agencies and academic institutions. Wayne State University (WSU) has contracted with the National Institute of Health (NIH) to provide staff to assist WSU's principal investigators, who are running individual scientific research studies at the University. Id. at ¶ 6. As a client of the NIH, CRL provided employees (including plaintiff) to the NIH at WSU. Id. Plaintiff began working for Pathology Associates International (PAI), a subsidiary of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) on September 24, 1997, as an Administrative Assistant. Id. at ¶ 7. CRL acquired PAI on January 8, 2001, thereby becoming PAI's successor. Id. Plaintiff acknowledges in her complaint that “CRL has been consistently conducting business in Wayne County since 1997” and that she “was an employee of Defendant, CRL, from September 24, 1997 through February 9, 2015.” (Dkt. 1, 3 ¶¶ 7, 14).

         On December 19, 2013, plaintiff began a medical leave for “mental health reasons.” (Dkt. 1, ¶ 50; Dkt. 6, Ex. B, at ¶ 10). In November of 2014, almost one year after beginning her medical leave, plaintiff says that she informed CRL of the alleged “work-related harassment.” (Dkt. 1, ¶¶ 56-57). Plaintiff specifies in her response to the motion to dismiss that she first notified Kim Ross in the human resources department at CRL of her stressful working conditions in September, 2014. (Dkt. 13-2, Pg ID 434-35). At no time after December 19, 2013 did plaintiff return to work or perform any work for CRL. (Dkt. 6, Ex. B, ¶ 10). Plaintiff's employment with CRL was terminated effective February 9, 2015. (Dkt. 6, Ex. B, at ¶ 11).

         On July 21, 2015, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination wherein she alleged that she believed her February 9, 2015 termination was “in retaliation for complaining of a protected activity in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.” (Dkt. 6, Ex. C). Over one year later, and approximately 18 months after her employment was terminated, plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit.

         On September 26, 1997, plaintiff executed a Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims “in order to gain the benefits of a timely, impartial and cost-effective dispute resolution procedure.” (Dkt. 6, Ex. C; Dkt. 6, Ex. B-2). The agreement provides in relevant part:

Science Applications International Corporation (“SAIC”) and the undersigned (“Employee”) have entered into this Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims (the “Agreement”) in order to establish and gain the benefits of a timely, impartial and cost-effective dispute resolution procedure. Any reference in the Agreement to SAIC will also be a reference to all subsidiaries and affiliated corporations, all benefit plans, the benefits plans' administrators, fiduciaries, affiliates, and the successors and assigns of any of them.
* * *
1. Claims Covered by the Agreement: SAIC
and Employee will settle by arbitration all statutory, contractual and/or common law claims or controversies (“claims”) that SAIC may have against Employee, or that Employee may have against SAIC or any of its officers, directors, employees or agents in their capacity as such or otherwise. Claims subject to arbitration include (i) claims for discrimination (including, but not limited to, age, disability, marital status, medical condition, national origin, race, retaliation, sex, sexual harassment or sexual orientation); (ii) claims for breach of any contract or covenant (express or implied) (iii) claims for violation of any federal, state or other governmental law, statute, regulation or ordinance; and (iv) tort claims (including, but not limited to, negligent or intentional injury, defamation and termination of employment in violation of public policy).
* * *
3. Required Notice of Claims and Statute of Limitations: Arbitration shall be initiated by serving or mailing a written notice to the other party within one year of the date the complaining party first has knowledge of the event first giving rise to the claim. If the claim is not properly submitted in this time frame, all rights and claims that the complaining party has or may have had against the other party shall be waived and void, even if there is a federal or ...

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