Court Confirms Arbitration Decision Concluding That Discrimination Claims Were Time-Barred

Carlton Fields

Carlton Fields

A federal district court recently confirmed an arbitration decision concluding that a disgruntled former employee’s discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII were time-barred because the former employee did not initiate arbitration in a timely fashion.

Clare Anagonye, a financial adviser, filed a charge with the EEOC claiming she was constructively discharged and discriminated and retaliated against on the basis of her race, color, and gender in violation of Title VII. The EEOC dismissed the charge on January 19, 2018, and advised Anagonye of the 90-day limitation period for filing a civil action at that time.

Anagonye filed a civil action within the 90-day time period, but her employment contract with her former employer contained an arbitration clause. The district court concluded that the clause was valid and enforceable and stayed Anagonye’s action pending arbitration. Anagonye subsequently filed a demand for arbitration on or about August 27, 2019.

Anagonye’s former employer argued that the arbitration clause in the employment contract required Anagonye to initiate arbitration, not a lawsuit, within 90 days of the EEOC’s dismissal.

An arbitrator panel of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) agreed and concluded that Anagonye’s demand for arbitration was time-barred and that it therefore lacked jurisdiction over her claim. Anagonye’s former employer moved to confirm the award and Anagonye, proceeding pro se, moved to vacate it.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan confirmed the award. A magistrate judge concluded that Anagonye had “failed to establish any of the statutory grounds for setting aside the arbitration decision.” The judge noted that it had already rejected Anagonye’s primary claim that court, not arbitration, was the appropriate venue for her claims when it ordered a stay pending arbitration and that Anagonye had waived any challenge to that decision by failing to object to it. The judge also rejected Anagonye’s “conclusory statements and speculation” regarding alleged “corruption” by the AAA panel, noting that the record established that Anagonye had the opportunity to select arbiters despite her allegations to the contrary. Finally, the judge held that he was precluded from adjudicating the panel’s decision that Anagonye’s claim was time-barred because “the FAA does not provide for judicial review of an arbitrator’s legal conclusions.”

The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation.

Anagonye v. Mass Mutual Insurance Co., No. 2:18-cv-11170 (E.D. Mich. May 21, 2021).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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