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Grant v. Philadelphia Eagles LLC

June 24, 2009

BONNIE GRANT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Compelling Arbitration filed by Defendant, the Philadelphia Eagles LLC ("the Eagles"), against Plaintiff, Bonnie Grant ("Grant"). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Grant brought this action against the Eagles alleging claims arising from her former employment with the Eagles as its Director of Communications.*fn1 Grant claims that the Eagles discriminated against her on the basis of sex and disability,*fn2 and retaliated against her. She also asserts tort claims for unauthorized use of name or likeness and invasion of privacy by misappropriation of identity, and a claim for breach of contract.

Grant began working for the Eagles on October 3, 2005. Prior to this job, she held a prominent public relations position with the City of Philadelphia representing the City and the Mayor at public events, and also sat on the boards of several civic institutions. In August 2005, she was interviewed by Eric Newman, the Eagles' Director of Human Resources, and discussed the job, its requirements, the Eagles' business, salary proposal, and benefits. Grant states that at no time did Newman mention and/or discuss arbitration of disputes, or any other forms of dispute resolution. Grant later met with Eagles executives Mark Donovan, Joe Banner, and Jeffrey Lurie, and asserts that she discussed the position with all of them; however, none mentioned the issue of arbitration. (Grant Decl. ¶ 10.)

After some negotiation regarding salary, Grant was offered the position of Director of Communications with the Eagles, which she verbally accepted. On September 16, 2005, the Eagles sent Grant a letter setting forth the terms and conditions of her employment, including salary, benefits, and a severance agreement. Grant asserts that nothing in this letter addresses and/or mentions the issue of arbitration of any disputes, and that the contract of employment was complete after the Eagles memorialized the parties' agreement. Grant further states that on her first day of work, October 3, 2005, she was given several routine forms to complete including life insurance beneficiary information, a W- 4 tax form, and a document titled "Agreement" ("Agreement") which speaks about the issue of arbitration. (Grant Decl. ¶ 16.) Grant claims that, at no time, did the Eagles explain the Agreement or otherwise discuss the implications of its requirements that she surrender her legal rights, and, at no time, was she provided a copy of the National Football League's ("NFL") procedural guidelines concerning arbitration. (Id. ¶ 17-19.) The Agreement states as follows:

In consideration of my employment by The Philadelphia Eagles LLC, I hereby agree to comply at all times with and be legally bound by the Constitution and Bylaws of the National Football League ("NFL"), in their present form and as amended from time to time hereafter; and by the decisions of the NFL Commissioner, I agree that all matters in dispute between myself and The Philadelphia Eagles LLC, shall be referred to the Commissioner for binding arbitration, and his decision shall be accepted as final, conclusive and unappealable by me and The Philadelphia Eagles LLC.

I further agree to release and discharge the Commissioner, the NFL and any league in which The Philadelphia Eagles LLC may hereafter become a member, each of its subsidiaries, affiliates and member clubs, and each of their respective owners directors, stockholders, partners, officers, employees, agents and holders of an interest therein, and all of them, in their individual and representative capacities, from any and all claims, demands, suits, losses, damages, liabilities, actions and/or causes of action arising out of, relating to or in any way connected with any decision of the Commissioner (whether in connection with a dispute involving me and the Philadelphia Eagles or otherwise) that involves or in any way affects me, except to the extent of awards made to me by the Commissioner.

(Def.'s Mot. Dismiss, Ex. C.)

Grant argues that she is not bound by this Agreement since neither party intended it to be part of her employment contract as evidenced by the fact that the terms were never part of the discussion of her employment with the Eagles. Grant asserts that the Agreement was not presented to her as part of her job application, offer, or contract with the Eagles, and that even after she raised issues of discrimination while at work and after her employment was terminated, the Eagles did not suggest that she was required to arbitrate her claims. (Grant Decl. ¶ 22, 24.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Motions to compel arbitration are evaluated under the well-settled summary judgment standard set forth in Federal Rules Civil Procedure 56(c). Bullick v. Sterling Inc., No. 03-6395, 2004 WL 2381544, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 21, 2004); Choice v. Option One Mortgage Corp., No. 02-6626, 2003 WL 22097455, at *3 (E.D. Pa. May 13, 2003); Berkery v. Cross Country Bank, 256 F. Supp. 2d 359, 364 n.3 (E.D. Pa. 2003). Thus, "movants must prove through 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, . . . that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [they are] entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "The court must consider all of the non-moving party's evidence and construe all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

A. The Federal ...


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