United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
JEFFREY A. SMILEY, Plaintiff,
FORCEPOINT FEDERAL, LLC, Defendant.
A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on the defendant's motion
to compel arbitration. The plaintiff, Jeffrey Smiley, alleges
that the defendant, Forcepoint Federal, LLC
("Forcepoint"), discriminated against him in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
("ADEA"). Relying on an arbitration clause in
Smiley's employment contract, Forcepoint has filed a
motion to compel arbitration.
Court will grant Forcepoint's motion. Smiley must pursue
his claims in arbitration because (1) the Federal Arbitration
Act ("FAA") encompasses the arbitration provision
in the employment contract, and (2) Forcepoint has not
engaged in undue delay or burdened Smiley such that it has
defaulted on its right to compel arbitration.
a fifty-year-old white man, worked for Forcepoint as a
salesman. In this case, he says that Forcepoint engaged in a
pattern of disparate treatment in favor of younger, female
client executives. In support of that theory, Smiley claims
that Forcepoint redirected established client accounts from
older, male client executives to their younger, female
colleagues and failed to discipline younger, female employees
for poor performance. Because of this practice, Forcepoint
eventually fired Smiley for failing to generate revenue.
seven months after Smiley filed his complaint, Forcepoint
filed this motion to compel arbitration on July 30, 2018.
(Dk. No. 16.) Before Forcepoint filed this motion, Forcepoint
had filed a motion for extension of time to file an answer,
an answer, a proposed discovery plan, a motion for extension
of time to respond to a discovery motion, a response in
opposition to a motion to compel discovery, and a motion for
entry of an agreed protective order. Forcepoint filed no
dispositive motions before moving to compel arbitration.
argues that the arbitration clause in Smiley's employment
agreement prevents him from asserting his claims in this
Court. The arbitration provision of the Agreement provides,
In the event of any controversy or dispute between you and
the Company or between you and any affiliate or an agent of
Company ... as to all or any part of this Agreement, any
other agreement, or any dispute or controversy whatsoever
pertaining to or arising out of the relationship between you
and the Company or the dissolution or termination of same
(collectively, "Arbitrable Disputes") shall,
subject to Section 11.1 herein, be resolved exclusively by
binding arbitration solely between yourself and the Company
conducted in Virginia, which shall be conducted in accordance
with the procedures set forth in the Dispute Resolution
Addendum appended hereto as Schedule 2 (the
"Addendum"), all of which are incorporated into
this Agreement. All Arbitrable Disputes under this Agreement
must be brought in your individual capacity, and not as a
plaintiff or class member in any purposed class or
(Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Compel Arbitration, Ex. A, ¶
responds that the arbitration agreement is "ambiguous,
non-mutual and unconscionable," and asks the Court to
delay ruling on this motion until the parties conduct
discovery regarding the employment agreement. (Pl.'s
Resp. Opp. to Mot. Compel Arbitration 1.) Citing
Forcepoint's failure to include the arbitration clause as
an affirmative defense in its answer, Smiley has also filed a
motion for attorney's fees.
reflects "a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration
agreements." Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v.
Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24 (1983);
see 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16. This policy stems
from Congress's position that "arbitration
constitutes a more efficient dispute resolution process than
litigation." Adkins v. Labor Ready, Inc., 303
F.3d 496, 500 (4th Cir. 2002) (citing Hightower v. GMRI,
Inc., 272 F.3d 239, 241 (4th Cir.2001)). Accordingly,
"due regard must be given to the federal policy favoring
arbitration, and ambiguities as to the scope of the
arbitration clause itself resolved in favor of
arbitration." Volt Info. Scis., Inc. v. Bd. of Trs.
of Leland Stanford Jr. Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 475-76
the FAA's purpose to "reverse the longstanding
judicial hostility to arbitration agreements ... and to place
arbitration agreements upon the same footing as other
contracts," the Supreme Court has enforced arbitration
agreements when a plaintiff asserts federal statutory claims.
Green Tree Fin. Corp.-Ala. v. Randolph, 531 U.S. 79,
89 (2000) (citing Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane
Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 24 (1991)). The Fourth Circuit has
held that "the provisions of the FAA ... apply to
employment agreements to arbitrate discrimination claims
brought pursuant to federal statutes, including Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act." Murray v. United Food &
Commercial Workers Int'l Union, 289 F.3d 297, 302
(4th Cir. 2002) (citing Circuit City Stores, Inc. v.
Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 109 (2001); Hooters of Am.,
Inc. v. Phillips, 173 F.3d 933, 937 (4th Cir. 1999)).