Drury-Jenkins v. Regency Furniture of Brandywine, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Theodore D. Chuang on 6/29/2017. (kns, Deputy Clerk)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
MARISSA M. DRURY -JENKINS,
REGENCY FURNITURE OF
REGENCY MANAGEMENT SERVICES,
REGENCY FURNITURE, INC. and
ABDUL AYY AD,
Civil Action No. TDC-16-3066
Marissa M. Drury-Jenkins, a former employee of Regency Furniture of Brandywine, Inc.,
filed this action alleging that Defendants discriminated and retaliated against her in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C.
and 42 U.S.C.
to 2000e-1? (2012),
Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Compel Arbitration
or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment and Defendant Abdul Ayyad's Alternative Motion
to Dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.
From September 3, 2011 to September 3, 2012, Drury-Jenkins worked as a part-time
sales representative at Regency Furniture of Brandywine, Inc. ("Regency"), a business that sells
Her salary was largely based on commissions.
Regency Furniture, Inc. owns
and controls Regency, which, along with Regency Management Services, LLC (collectively, the
"Regency Defendants"), has identified itself as Drury-Jenkins's employer in connection with her
Abdul Ayyad ("Ayyad") is the president of both Regency and Regency
Furniture, Inc., as well as a majority shareholder of each of the Regency Defendants.
asserts that during the course of her employment, Assistant Manager
Darrell Edwards and Sales Manager Fe1a Fuller made sexually explicit remarks and offensive
comments to her relating to Asian individuals-and
Filipina women in particular--on
basis. Some of the offensive comments were made in front of customers.
Fuller also regularly
propositioned Drury-Jenkins to engage in sexual activity with him. Ayyad and Manager Ammad
Ayyad witnessed some of the comments and laughed in response.
Drury-Jenkins alleges that,
while she worked at Regency, she was the only Filipina employee and that women of other
ethnicities were not subject to similar harassment.
Drury-Jenkins not only told Edwards and
Fuller that the offensive comments and sexual advances were inappropriate, but also submitted to
Ayyad written protests through certified mail and other means.
On July 8, 2012, after an argument among several employees regarding the system for
assigning walk-in customers to salespeople, Edwards called Drury-Jenkins a "Filipino whore"
and verbally threatened her and her family. CompI. ~~ 87-88, ECF NO.1.
sought to visit the office of Director of Human Resources Sherrie Groce to report the threats,
Fuller warned her that "if you say anything to her, you wi11lose your job."
Id. ~ 91. Drury-
Jenkins then submitted a written memorandum to Groce to report the threats and harassment.
Drury-Jenkins received no response to her complaint. But when, on July 14,2012, Fuller falsely
told Human Resources that Drury-Jenkins was starting fights, she was suspended without pay for
Drury-Jenkins then wrote to Ayyad to request assurance of her safety and asked for a
meeting to discuss the harassment.
She received no response.
After a second letter to Ayyad
went unheeded, she wrote to Groce complaining that Human Resources was protecting Edwards
and Fuller and asking for two weeks of leave to address the depression she suffered as a result of
the workplace harassment.
On August 3,2012, Regency Vice President of Operations David Hu
questioned Drury-Jenkins about her allegations and then summarily dismissed them. Following
that meeting, Drury-Jenkins wrote to Groce stating that she did not feel comfortable discussing
the situation with Hu and that she continued to fear for her safety. She also wrote a letter to Hu
asserting that Regency was violating Title VII.
On September 3, 2012, after Edwards made
additional offensive comments, and both Edwards and Fuller threatened to kill her, DruryJenkins called 911. After the police left the store, Ammad Ayyad told Drury-Jenkins, "Get the
fuck out and don't come back to this property ever again; you embarrassed us by calling 9-1-1 !"
Id. ~ 132. He also told her that since she "hired a lawyer and called 911," she was no longer
welcome to work at Regency. Id.~ 133.
On or about November 3, 2012, Drury-Jenkins filed a discrimination charge with the
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging a hostile work
environment and discriminatory termination on the basis of race, sex, age, and national origin, as
well as retaliation.
She received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC on June 15,2016.
September 2, 2016, Drury-Jenkins
filed this Complaint alleging claims of a hostile work
environment based on race and sex, discriminatory suspension and termination based on race and
sex, and retaliation for engaging in protected activity, in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.c.
The Arbitration Agreement
have attached to their Motion a copy of an Employment
Arbitration Agreement (the "Agreement"),
at Will and
which was signed by Drury-Jenkins in September
2011 and the authenticity of which she does not dispute. The Agreement provides that:
Except for exclusively monetary claims of less than $5,000. any dispute or
controversy (including the question of whether the dispute or controversy is
subject to arbitration) which would other require or allow resort to any court or
other governmental dispute resolution forum between the Employee and the
Company (or its owners, employees, agents, directors, and officers, and parties
affiliated with its employee benefit and health plans) arising from, related to, or
having any relationship or connection whatsoever with employment by, or other
association with the Company, whether based on tort, contract, statutory or
common law, equity or otherwise, specifically including but not limited to any
and all matter arising un the Constitution of the United States or of any state, the
Employment Retirement Income Security Act, Title VVI of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 1871, and 1991, the Rehabilitation Act, the
Equal Pay Act, the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act, the
Immigration Reform Control Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the
Older Worker's Benefits Protection Act, similar state and local statutes,
regulations, and ordinances, as well as any other deferral. State, or local injury,
civil rights, or employment related laws, regulations, rules, or theories (except for
worker's compensation claims which shall not be subject to these procedures)
shall be submitted to, and determined by, binding arbitration under the
Federal Arbitration Act.
J.R. 000005 (grammatical and typographical errors in original) (bolded emphasis added), ECF
No. 15. The Agreement also includes the following language which appears to relate to an
appeal of the arbitrator's decision ("the Appeal Provision"):
As reasonably to required to allow full use and benefit of proceedings pursuant
hereto, the arbitrator may extend exceeding $50,000 shall subject to reversal,
modification, or reduction, following review of the record and arguments of the
parties by a second arbitrator whose decision is challenged and who shall, as far
as practicable, proceed according to the law and procedures applicable to the
appellate review by the highest court of the state in which the employer does
business of a civil judgment following court trial.
Id (grammatical errors in original).
In their Motion, Defendants first seek an order compelling arbitration of Drury-Jenkins's
claims under the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.c.
action on the grounds that Drury-Jenkins's
1-16 (2012), and dismissing this
claims are covered by a valid arbitration agreement
that requires the arbitrator both to decide whether the dispute is subject to arbitration and to
resolve the merits of the discrimination and retaliation claims.
In the alternative, if the Court
declines to compel arbitration, Defendant Ayyad argues that the claims against him should be
dismissed for failure to state a claim because he lacked personal involvement in the alleged
discrimination and the claims are time-barred.
Judges in this District have recognized that "motions to compel arbitration exist in the
netherworld between a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment."
Conifer Value Based Care, LLC, 982 F. Supp. 2d 582, 589 (D. Md. 2013) (quoting Shaffer v.
ACS Gov't Servs., Inc., 321 F. Supp. 2d 682, 683 (D. Md. 2004)); PC Const. Co. v. City of
Salisbury, 871 F. Supp. 2d 475,477 (D. Md. 2012). Treating a motion to compel arbitration as a
motion for summary judgment is proper where "the formation or validity of the arbitration
agreement is in dispute," Caire, 982 F. Supp. 2d at 589, or where documents outside the
pleadings must be considered "to effectively assess the merits of [the] motion," Shaffer v. ACS
Gov't Servs., Inc., 321 F. Supp. 2d 682, 683-84 (D. Md. 2004); accord PC Const. Co., 871 F.
Supp. 2d at 477 ("Whether the motion [to compel arbitration] should be treated as a motion to
dismiss or a motion for summary judgment turns on whether the court must consider documents
outside the pleadings.").
See also Galloway v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc., 819 F.3d 79, 85
& n.3 (4th Cir. 2016) (stating that under the FAA, a party seeking a jury trial "must show
genuine issues of material fact regarding the existence of an agreement to arbitrate," a standard
that is "akin to the burden on summary judgment"
Barbecue Rests., 807 F.3d 553, 564 (4th Cir. 2015))).
standard because Defendants'
(quoting Chorley Enters. v. Dickey's
Here, the Court applies the summary
argument that the Court should compel arbitration
requires an assessment of the Agreement, which is outside the pleadings.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the Court grants summary judgment if the
moving party demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In assessing the Motion, the Court views the facts in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, with all justifiable inferences drawn in its favor. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The Court may rely only on facts supported in
the record, not simply assertions in the pleadings.
346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003).
Bouchat v. Bait. Ravens Football Club, Inc.,
The nonmoving party has the burden to show a genuine
dispute on a material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
A dispute of material fact is only "genuine" if
sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for
that party. Id. at 248-49.
The Agreement generally provides that any "dispute or controversy" between Drury-
Jenkins and "the Company" or "its owners, employees, agents, directors, and officers" must be
submitted to binding arbitration.
This language would appear to encompass the
claims against the Regency Defendants and Ayyad.
Defendants argue that based on the
Agreement, all claims in this case must be heard by an arbitrator, not this Court.
compel arbitration generally require courts to engage in a "two-step inquiry":
determine who decides whether a particular dispute is arbitrable:
the arbitrator or the court.
Second, if we conclude that the court is the proper forum in which to adjudicate arbitrability, we
then decide whether the dispute is, in fact, arbitrable."
Peabody Holding Co., LLC v. United
Mine Workers of America, Int'l Union, 665 F.3d 96, 101 (4th Cir. 2012). In this case, the Court
need not go past the first step.
Generally, "any doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in
favor of arbitration."
Moses H Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1,24-25
(1983). This federal presumption in favor of arbitration, however, does not "apply to the issue of
which claims are arbitrable."
Carson v. Giant Good, Inc., 175 F.3d 325,329
(4th Cir. 1999).
"Courts should not assume that the parties agreed to arbitrate arbitrability unless there is 'clear
and unmistakable' evidence that they did so." First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S.
938, 944 (1995) (internal brackets omitted) (quoting AT&T Techns., Inc. v. Commc 'ns Workers
of America, 475 U.S. 643, 649 (1986».
"clearly and unmistakably"
Accordingly, the Court must decide whether the
provides that the "arbitrator
shall determine what
disputes the parties agreed to arbitrate." Carson, 175 F.3d at 329.
Here, Defendants do not rely on a "broad arbitration clause that generally commit[s] all
interpretive disputes 'relating to' or 'arising out of the agreement" to an arbitrator. Carson, 175
F.3d at 330 (stating that expansive general arbitration clauses "do not satisfy the clear and
Rather, the Agreement contains specific language addressing arbitrability,
sometimes referred to as a "delegation provision."
West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561
U.S. 63, 68-69 (2010). The Agreement states that "[e]xcept for exclusively monetary claims of
less than $5,000[,] any dispute or controversy (including the question of whether the dispute or
controversy is subject to arbitration) ...
shall be submitted to, and determined by, binding
arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act." J.R. 000005 (emphasis added). The "clear and
specific" plain language of the delegation provision explicitly grants the arbitrator jurisdiction
over questions of arbitrabi1ity.
Carson, 175 F.3d at 330; see Allen v. Regions Bank, 389 F.
App'x 441, 446 (5th Cir. 2010) (stating that a provision providing that "Any dispute regarding
whether a particular controversy is subject to arbitration ... shall be decided by the arbitrator(s)"
was sufficiently clear to "demand arbitration of arbitrabi1ity"); Rum v. DARCARS of New
Carrollton, Inc., No. DKC 12-0366, 2012 WL 2847628, at *6 (D. Md. July 10, 2012) (holding
that based on language
stating that an arbitration
applied to "any dispute or
the question of whether the dispute or controversy
arbitration)," the parties had agreed to have an arbitrator determine arbitrabi1ity).
The Court is not persuaded by Drury-Jenkins's
arguments to the contrary. First, Drury-
Jenkins contends that the delegation provision is not "clear and unmistakable"
stating that "the question of whether the dispute or controversy
is subject to
arbitration," refers not to the question of arbitrabi1ity, but to the issue whether the dispute is "of
the type" that is "potentially amenable" to arbitration.
Pl.'s Opp'n 4-5, ECF No. 13. Drury-
Jenkins's cramped reading of "subject to arbitration," however, is refuted by the common usage
of that term to refer to the question of arbitrabi1ity. E.g., Crawford v. Prof'l Drugs, Inc. v. CVS
Caremark Corp., 748 F.3d 249, 262 (5th Cir. 2014) (using "whether a claim is subject to
arbitration" interchangeably with the term "arbitrabi1ity"); China Minmetals Materials Import &
Export Co. v. Chi Mei Corp., 334 F.3d 274, 280 (3d Cir. 2003) (describing arbitrabi1ity as "the
question whether a certain dispute is subject to arbitration
under the terms of a given
agreement"); S. Cal. Dist. Council of Laborers v. Berry Constr., 984 F.2d 340, 344 (9th Cir.
1993) (referring to "whether a dispute is subject to arbitration" to describe "arbitrability");
Willcock v. My Goodness Games, Inc., No. PWG-16-4020, 2017 WL 2537010, at *1 (D. Md.
June 12, 2017) (using "whether the disputes between the two Parties are subject to arbitration"
with the phrase "arbitrability of the claims").
The Court likewise finds no
distinction between the terms.
Second, Drury-Jenkins faults the delegation provision's
failure to employ the specific
language suggested by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Carson, in
which the court stated: "Those who wish to let an arbitrator decide which issues are arbitrable
need only state that 'all disputes concerning the arbitrability of particular disputes under this
contract are hereby committed to arbitration,' or words to that clear effect." Carson, 175 F.3d at
330-31. Parties, however, are not limited to using certain words or phrases to express their intent
to arbitrate arbitrability.
To the contrary, the specific language of the delegation provision has
been found by another judge in this District to evince a "clear and unmistakable"
delegate the arbitrability determination to an arbitrator. Rum, 2012 WL 2847628 at *6.
argues that the intervening language and typographical
between "subject to arbitration"
and "shall be submitted to, and determined
arbitration" render the delegation provision less than "clear and unmistakable."
text, however, provides examples of the types of disputes subject to arbitration and does not
detract from the parties' specific intent to arbitrate arbitrability. Drury-Jenkins does not credibly
explain how it could be read to do so.
Finally, Drury-Jenkins claims that the inclusion of the Agreement's
which is difficult to construe and contains numerous grammatical errors, renders the Agreement
as a whole unenforceable because it presumes that the decision of the arbitrator would not be
final. However, whether the Appeal Provision renders the Agreement unenforceable is itself a
"question of arbitrability," a term which includes "certain gateway matters, such as whether
parties have a valid arbitration agreement at all." Oxford Health Plans, LLC v. Sutter, 133 S. Ct.
2064, 2068-69 n.2 (2013).
As discussed above, the delegation provision constitutes a valid
agreement to arbitrate questions of arbitrability, and Drury-Jenkins'
argument relating to the
Appeal Provision does nothing to invalidate it. Courts generally construe a delegation provision
to be a separate agreement that must be enforced unless a party specifically challenges its
West, 561 U.S. at 70 ("An agreement to arbitrate a gateway issue is
simply an additional, antecedent agreement the party seeking arbitration asks the federal court to
enforce .... "); Meena Enters., Inc. v. Mail Boxes Etc., No. DKC 12-1360,2012 WL 4863695, at
*6 & n.7 (D. Md. Oct. 11,2012) (analyzing a delegation provision separately from the remainder
of the arbitration clause); In re Toyota Motor Corp., 838 F. Supp. 2d 967,982 (C.D. Cal. 2012).
"[A] party's challenge to another provision of the contract, or to the contract as a whole, does not
prevent a court from enforcing a specific agreement to arbitrate." Rent-A-Center West, 561 U.S.
at 70. Thus, where there is a delegation provision, "the Court must examine only whether there
is a valid delegation provision and, if there is, the Court must enforce the delegation provision by
compelling arbitration and reserving for the arbitrator issues that implicate the agreement to
arbitrate as a whole." In re Toyota Motor Corp., 838 F. Supp. 2d at 982.
The challenge to the Appeal Provision or the Agreement as a whole, as a "question of
arbitrability," must therefore be decided by an arbitrator pursuant to the delegation provision's
requirement that "the question of whether the dispute or controversy is subject to arbitration ...
shall be submitted to, and determined by, binding arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act."
Accordingly, the Motion to Compel Arbitration will be granted, and the Court does
not address either the parties' arguments on the enforceability of the Appeal Provision and the
Agreement or Ayyad's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Having found that the Agreement requires an arbitrator to determine the gateway issue of
arbitrability, the Court must decide whether to dismiss the action. The Fourth Circuit has held
that "dismissal is a proper remedy when all of the issues presented in a lawsuit are arbitrable." .
Choice Hotels Int'!, Inc. v. BSR Tropicana Resort, Inc., 252 F.3d 707, 709-10 (4th Cir. 2001).
At the same time, the FAA "requires a district court, upon motion by any party, to stay judicial
proceedings involving issues covered by written arbitration agreements."
S 3 (providing
Id. at 709; see 9
that a court, when an issue is "referable to arbitration" under an arbitration
agreement, "shall on application of one of the parties stay the trial of the action until such
arbitration has been had in accordance with the terms of the agreement").
Because at the present
time the issue of arbitrability has not been resolved, and will instead be decided by the arbitrator,
may file, within seven days of the date of the Order accompanying
Memorandum Opinion, a motion to stay the judicial proceedings pending the outcome of the
arbitration proceeding. If no such motion is filed, the Complaint shall be dismissed.
For the foregoing
Motion to Compel Arbitration
for Summary Judgment and Defendant Abdul Ayyad's
or, in the
Alternative Motion to
Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Motion is granted to the extent
that the Court will compel the parties to proceed to arbitration for resolution of the arbitrability
claims. The Motion is denied to the extent that Defendants seek immediate
dismissal of the action. A separate Order shall issue.
Date: June 29, 2017
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