The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.
The plaintiff, Lynne Marotta, brought suit against her former employer, Toll Bros., Inc. ("Toll"),*fn1 alleging six counts of employment discrimination under federal and state statutes. The defendant moves to compel arbitration and dismiss the plaintiff's amended complaint or, alternatively, to dismiss the plaintiff's claim of marital status discrimination and stay the proceedings pending arbitration. Because the Court finds that the plaintiff signed a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement, the Court will compel arbitration and stay the proceedings pending final binding arbitration.
The plaintiff began her employment with Toll in October, 1987.*fn2 In 1996, she obtained a bachelor's degree in management with a minor in accounting, and in 2001, she was promoted from project administrator to project manager. Aff. of Lynne Marotta ("Marotta Aff.") ¶ 7; Compl. ¶¶ 18-19.
Sometime in November or December of 2001, Toll communicated to its employees that the employees would be asked to sign an arbitration agreement related to their employment with Toll. The Human Resources department ("HR") at Toll contacted the plaintiff in early February because it had not yet received the plaintiff's signed agreement. Decl. of Michele Wolfe, Vice President of Human Resources at Toll ("Wolfe Decl.") ¶ 4, Ex. D to Def.'s M.; Marotta Aff. ¶¶ 6, 13.
According to the plaintiff, Toll representatives, including HR staff, told the plaintiff that if she did not sign the agreement, she would lose her job. The defendant disputes that it told its employees that they would lose their jobs upon not signing the agreement. Toll points to a memorandum circulated to Division Vice Presidents, which noted that employees who do not wish to sign the arbitration agreement should state as such on the agreement itself and return it to HR. Toll also states that one employee under the same supervisor as the plaintiff refused to sign the agreement and remained employed at Toll until her resignation on May 14, 2004. Marotta Aff. ¶ 18; Memorandum Mar. 14, 2002, Ex. 1 to Wolfe Decl.; Wolfe Decl. 13.
The plaintiff submitted her signed arbitration agreement to HR on February 21, 2002, after making changes to its text. According to the plaintiff, HR told her that the agreement could not be altered in any way and that the plaintiff had to "take it or leave it." On March 19, 2002, the plaintiff signed a clean copy of the agreement and returned it to HR. Marotta Decl. ¶¶ 27, 29, 30; Arbitration Agreement ("Agreement"), Ex. A to Def.'s M.
The arbitration agreement notes that the plaintiff and Toll "intend to be legally bound" by the terms of the agreement. It states that "[a]ll disputes . . . arising out of or in connection with [the plaintiff's] employment or its termination, including but not limited to those concerning workplace discrimination, shall exclusively be submitted to and determined by final and binding arbitration." By entering into the agreement, the plaintiff is "waiving [her] right to have a court resolve any disputes or claims [she] may have regarding [her] employment, including any dispute or claims . . . arising from federal, state and local statutes prohibiting employment discrimination, including sexual harassment." Agreement ¶¶ 1, 2.
The agreement explains that a single arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association will decide the dispute in accordance with the association's rules. The arbitrator must write the decision "and set forth the findings and conclusions upon which the decision is based." His or her decision will be "final and binding . . . but may be set aside or modified by a reviewing court solely on the grounds that the Arbitrator made a material error of law, or in accordance with the Federal Arbitration Act." Id. ¶¶ 1-2; 6.
Toll "will bear the costs of the filing fee and the Arbitrator's fee." The arbitrator has discretion to "award all or some of the Employee's or Company's attorneys' fees and costs, in addition to any such awards required by law." Further, "If any provision of [the] Agreement is construed by a court of competent jurisdiction or Arbitrator to be invalid or unenforceable, the remainder of [the] Agreement shall not be affected and the remaining provisions will be given full force and effect without regard to the unenforceable provisions." Id. ¶¶ 7, 9.
By signing the agreement, the plaintiff acknowledged that she received three days of additional paid vacation, and that she read, understood, and agreed to all of the provisions of the agreement. Id. ¶ 8.
The plaintiff was fired from her job on Friday, June 6, 2008. Her husband, who also worked at Toll, was fired on Monday, June 9, 2008. Marotta Aff. ¶¶ 38, 39.
The plaintiff brought suit on May 21, 2009, and on July 8, 2009, the defendant moved to dismiss the complaint. The plaintiff amended her complaint on July 28, 2009, and the Court denied as moot and without prejudice the defendant's motion to dismiss. In her amended complaint, the plaintiff brought six claims of discrimination: failure to promote, retaliation, and discriminatory termination under Title VII; violations of the Equal Pay Act; and violations of New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination for marital status and gender discrimination.
On August 17, 2009, the defendant filed the instant motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss the amended complaint. The defendant argues that the Court should either compel arbitration and dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety with prejudice, or, alternatively, dismiss the plaintiff's claim of marital status discrimination and stay the proceedings pending final binding arbitration. It argues that the agreement is valid, the plaintiff's claims fall under the scope of the agreement, and there are no principles of contract law that would render the agreement unenforceable. The defendant also seeks costs and attorneys' ...