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Csukardi v. Platinum Corral, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division

February 16, 2017

Whitney Csukardi, Plaintiff,
Platinum Corral, LLC, Defendant.



         This is an Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., discrimination case relating to Plaintiff's employment as a server at Defendant's restaurant. The only issue at stake in this motion to dismiss is whether the arbitration agreement (the “Agreement”) between the parties is valid and enforceable. The Agreement is before the Court as an attachment to the motion to dismiss, and the Court may consider the outside document because the dispute relates to jurisdiction.

         Plaintiff argues that the signed Agreement is unenforceable and thus that she is not required to arbitrate this dispute. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that: (1) the Agreement was not voluntary, (2) the Agreement is missing material terms, and (3) the Agreement lacks consideration. None of these arguments are persuasive. Thus, the Court will hold that the Agreement is valid and the dispute is subject to arbitration, depriving this Court of jurisdiction under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq. (the “FAA”). The Court will dismiss the case and order the Plaintiff to submit her dispute to arbitration.

         I. Facts as Alleged

         Plaintiff is an employee of Golden Corral, working in the restaurant as a server. (Dkt. 1 at ¶6).[1] Plaintiff has worked as a server in the restaurant since April 24, 2013. (Id. at ¶9). She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (“MS”), which is a disability. (Id. at ¶10). Defendant knew of Plaintiff's disability, including the fact that she was hospitalized due to a flare up in December 2011. (Id. at ¶¶14, 15). Plaintiff's doctors recommended she take a week or two off to recover following the hospitalization. (Id. at ¶16). Following her hospitalization, Plaintiff's shifts were reduced to only one day per week. (Id. at ¶ 17).

         In July 2012 Plaintiff provided her managers at Golden Corral, including General Manager Mike Sisk, with a note from her neurologist stating that she was unable to work night shifts due to her disability. (Id. at ¶18). Despite her neurologist's note, Sisk primarily gave Plaintiff night shifts and an additional server was hired to cover day shifts. (Id. at ¶23) Since July 2012, Plaintiff has submitted multiple requests for the accommodation of only working day shifts, but still has not been granted them (Id. at ¶¶24, 25). Plaintiff believed the reduction in hours was in retaliation for her request to work day shifts, and filed an EEOC charge to that extent on March 13, 2013. (Id. at ¶30).

         Plaintiff began to work at a law firm part-time as a source of additional income in January 2015, while continuing to work at Golden Corral on the weekends. (Id. at ¶31). However, she quit that job the next month and returned to working only at Golden Corral because she was told she would receive more hours there. (Id. at ¶¶32, 33). Those additional hours never materialized, so Plaintiff began accepting shifts from other servers. (Id. at ¶35). However, Sisk refused to allow her to work others' shifts, even though other servers were commonly permitted to do so. (Id. at ¶36). In additional to the limitation on the number of days and shifts she could work, Sisk also began to release Plaintiff from work shortly after her shift began. (Id. at ¶37). Plaintiff continues to work only weekend shifts even though she has told management she is available to work any day during the week. (Id. at ¶38).

         On February 13, 2013, Sisk issued a write-up to Plaintiff after a customer allegedly complained about her service, even though that customer had left her a large tip. (Id. at ¶40). Sisk issued another write-up four days later for another alleged customer complaint. (Id. at ¶41). After the second write-up, Sisk suspended Plaintiff from work for one day as a disciplinary action. (Id. at ¶43). When Plaintiff asked for a copy of the write-ups, Sisk insinuated that she was asking for them so that she could take them to the lawyer for whom she had worked.[2] (Id. at ¶44). When she actually received them, she noticed that several portions had been scratched out. (Id. at ¶45).

         Plaintiff is asserting two causes of action stemming from the alleged misconduct. First, she asserts a claim for ADA discrimination arising from Defendant's refusal to provide her with the reasonable accommodation of working day shifts. Second, she puts forth an ADA retaliation claim that her hours were reduced and a one-day suspension given as a result of her seeking a reasonable accommodation for her disability. Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), arguing that this controversy is governed by a binding arbitration agreement that denies this Court jurisdiction.

         II. Standard of Review

         The parties disagree as to whether Defendant's motion is properly adjudicated at the motion to dismiss stage rather than at summary judgment. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's motion cannot be heard as a motion to dismiss because Defendant's argument relies on documents outside of the pleadings, namely the Agreement attached to the motion to dismiss. (See dkt. 10 at 1).

         Plaintiff's argument is incorrect. The applicability of an arbitration agreement is a question of jurisdiction. See Huntington Alloys, Inc. v. United Steelworkers of Am., 623 F.2d 335, 338 (4th Cir. 1980); 9 U.S.C. § 4 (“A party aggrieved by the alleged failure . . . to arbitrate under a written agreement for arbitration may petition any United States district court which, save for the agreement, would have had jurisdiction under title 28 . . . .” (emphasis added)). Materials outside of the pleadings may be considered on motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. See Blitz v. Napolitano, 700 F.3d 733, 736 n.3 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Velasco v. Gov't of Indonesia, 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004)). Other courts have adopted similar reasoning in the context of arbitration disputes. See, e.g. Lomax v. Weinstock, Friedman & Friedman, P.A., No. CIV. CCB-13-1442, 2014 WL 176779, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 15, 2014), aff'd sub nom. Lomax v. Weinstock, Friedman & Friedman, P.A., 583 F. App'x 100 (4th Cir. 2014); Joyner v. GE Healthcare, No. 4:08-2563-TLW-TER, 2009 WL 3063040, at *2 (D.S.C. Sept. 18, 2009).

         Attacks on subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) are categorized as either “facial” or “factual.” A facial challenge is one which argues that “the complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based.” Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). A factual challenge is one in which it is “contended that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint were not true.” Id. Here, the challenge is factual because it requires evaluation of a document extrinsic to the complaint itself. See U.S. ex rel. TBI Investments, Inc. v. BrooAlexa, LLC, 119 F.Supp.3d 512, 523-24 (S.D. W.Va. 2015). For factual attacks, courts apply the summary judgment standard in evaluating the motion and “the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts beyond the pleadings to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999); Piney Run Preservation Ass'n v. Cnty. Comm'rs of Carroll Cnty., Md., 523 F.3d 453, 459 (4th Cir. 2008). “The moving party should prevail only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” Richmond, 945 F.2d at 769.

         III. ...

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