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Juhasz v. Menard, Inc.

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

May 23, 2018

MENARD, INC., Defendant.

          Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris


          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge

         On March 1, 2018, Defendant, Menard, Inc., removed this case from the Circuit Court of Saginaw County. ECF No. 1. The complaint alleges discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Michigan Elliot Larson Civil Rights Act, (“ELCRA”), M.C.L. 37.2202. ECF No. 1-2. On March 2, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration, seeking to enforce the terms of the employment agreement between Plaintiff and Menard. ECF No. 4. Plaintiff responded on March 22, 2018, opposing the motion. ECF No. 10.


         Pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), when an arbitration agreement governs a dispute that a Federal District Court would otherwise have jurisdiction to adjudicate, the party aggrieved by the alleged failure to arbitrate may petition that Federal District Court for an order compelling such arbitration to proceed. 9 U.S.C. § 4. The FAA requires a Federal Court to compel arbitration when a party to an arbitration agreement fails or refuses to comply with the provisions of an enforceable arbitration agreement. Id.

         In three cases now known as the “Steelworkers Trilogy, ” the Court established four fundamental principles regarding federal arbitration. E.g., AT&T Techs., Inc. v. Commc'ns Workers of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 648 (1986) (citing Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574 (1960); Steelworkers v. Am. Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564 (1960); and Steelworkers v. Enter. Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593 (1960)).

         First, “arbitration is a matter of contract and a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit.” AT&T, 475 U.S. at 648 (quoting Warrior & Gulf, 363 U.S. at 582). That is, “arbitrators derive their authority to resolve disputes only because the parties have agreed in advance to submit such grievances to arbitration.” AT&T, 475 U.S. at 648-49 (citing Gateway Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers of Am., 414 U.S. 368, 374 (1974)). Therefore, arbitration agreements are “valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333, 339 (2011) (citing 9 U.S.C. § 2).

         Second, “the question of arbitrability - whether a [contract] creates a duty for the parties to arbitrate the particular grievance - is undeniably an issue for judicial determination.” AT&T, 475 U.S. at 649. Thus, “whether or not the company was bound to arbitrate, as well as what issues it must arbitrate, is a matter to be determined by the Court on the basis of the contract entered into by the parties.” Id. (quoting John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Livingston, 376 U.S. 543, 547(1964)).

         Third, “in deciding whether the parties have agreed to submit a particular grievance to arbitration, a court is not to rule on the potential merits of the underlying claims.” AT&T, 475 U.S. at 649. Rather, the court must simply evaluate whether the particular grievance is arbitrable. Id. at 650.

         And fourth, under federal law “there is a presumption of arbitrability.” Id. Consequently, “an order to arbitrate the particular grievance should not be denied unless it may be said with positive assurance that the arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation that covers the asserted dispute. Doubts should be resolved in favor of coverage.” Id. (internal alteration omitted) (quoting Warrior & Gulf, 363 U.S. at 582-83).


         It is undisputed that the employment agreement, including the remedy provision, is valid and enforceable. The dispute concerns the scope of the remedy provision. Defendant essentially argues that the remedy provision speaks for itself, and the Court should compel arbitration.Defendant did not file a reply brief addressing Plaintiff's arguments. Plaintiff argues that the remedy provision is ambiguous and only applies to current employees, not employees who have been terminated. The provision at issue provides as follows:

Remedy. I agree that all problems, claims and disputes experienced related to my employment 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 for any reason, I agree to submit to final and binding arbitration. Arbitration shall be the sole and exclusive forum and remedy for all covered disputes of either Menard, Inc. or me. Unless Menard and I agree otherwise, any arbitration proceeding will take place in the county of my Menard's employment where the dispute arose. Problems, claims or disputes subject to binding arbitration include, but are not limited to: statutory claims under 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 1981-1988; Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; Older Workers' Benefit Protection Act ("OWPBA"); Fair Labor Standards Act; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991; Americans with Disabilities Act; Uniformed Services Employment ...

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