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Glenwright v. Carbondale Nursing Home, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 23, 2017

LINDA GLENWRIGHT, Plaintiff
v.
CARBONDALE NURSING HOME, INC. d/b/a Carbondale Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center and GENESIS ELDERCARE NETWORK SERVICES, INC., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge

         Currently before the court is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, compel arbitration, (Doc. 11), filed by the defendants. The defendants' motion was filed in response to the plaintiff's (“Glenwright's”) amended complaint, (Doc. 16). Their motion seeks dismissal of Glenwright's claims or, in the alternative, enforcement of an arbitration agreement between Glenwright and defendant Carbondale Nursing Home, Inc. (“Carbondale”). Based on the foregoing, the defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Glenwright must arbitrate her claims against Carbondale. The claims against defendant Genesis Eldercare Network Services, Inc. (“Genesis”) may proceed and Genesis will be allowed to file a renewed motion at the close of discovery.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Glenwright was employed by Carbondale, a healthcare facility, for approximately six (6) years as a registered nurse and supervisor. Genesis is the managing entity of Carbondale. At some point before or during her employment, Glenwright signed an arbitration agreement with Carbondale. (Doc. 24-9). Glenwright does not dispute that she signed this agreement. (Doc. 24, ¶3; see also Doc. 24-9, at 3). The agreement provides as follows:

[A]ny . . . dispute arising out of the [employee's] employment or the termination of . . . employment (including, but not limited to claims of unlawful termination based on race, sex, age, national origin, disability, breach of contract or any other bias prohibited by law) [will be submitted] . . . exclusively to binding arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act.

(Doc. 24-9, at 1). The agreement also states that the employee's dispute must be initiated by the employee delivering a written request for arbitration within one year from the date of the alleged incident. (Id.). If the employee does not submit a timely request, the agreement states the employee's “right to raise any claims arising out of the [employee's] termination” will have been waived. (Id.). In addition, in two instances, the agreement provides that the employee will be responsible for his or her own legal costs and half the cost of arbitration. (Doc. 24-9, at 2-3).

         Glenwright's employment was terminated, effective May 20, 2014. Leading up to her termination, on December 10, 2012, Glenwright suffered an injury at work. She filed a workers' compensation claim for this injury in February of 2013 and was unable to work until August of 2013. Glenwright's work injury exacerbated her arthritis and degenerative knee condition. When she returned to work she required accommodations for these disabilities, including adjustments to her duties and work schedule. She was granted her requested accommodations from August of 2013 until her termination. After seeking accommodations, Glenwright alleged that she was assigned to “menial and physically challenging job duties that she had rarely been required to perform in the past.” (Doc. 16, at ¶20). She described this as “unwarranted discipline” designed to “force her out of the workplace.” (Id. ¶21).

         On May 14, 2014, Glenwright was informed that her workplace could no longer accommodate her injuries. She was notified that her employment would be terminated, effective May 20, 2014, if she did not apply for a leave of absence. Glenwright notified her workplace, verbally and in writing, that she would not request a leave of absence because she did not need one and requested the continuance of her existing accommodations. No further accommodations were provided.

         II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On October 9, 2014, Glenwright filed a charge with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”) asserting claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq. and she dual-filed claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Stat. §951 et seq. with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commissions (“PHRC”). (Doc. 24-8). These charges listed Carbondale as the respondent, but did not list Genesis explicitly. On May 18, 2016, Glenwright filed a complaint in this court. (Doc. 1). At that time, Glenwright was still in the process of exhausting her administrative remedies with respect to her ADA and PHRA claims; thus, her complaint did not contain those claims. Within her complaint, Glenwright notified the court that she intended to file an amended complaint once she completed the administrative process. (Doc. 1, at ¶2 n. 1). On August 11, 2016, Glenwright filed an unopposed motion to amend/correct her complaint. (Doc. 9). On August 12, 2016, the court granted the motion, (Doc. 10), and the amended complaint was docketed that same day.[1] (Doc. 16). Her amended complaint included claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §701 et seq. (Counts I-II), claims under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §2601 et seq. (Counts III-IV), a wrongful discharge claim under Pennsylvania law (Count V), claims under the ADA (Counts VI-VIII), and claims under the PHRA (Counts IX-XI).

         On August 16, 2016, the defendants filed the current motion with a supporting brief. (Doc. 11, Doc. 12). In addition, the defendants filed a statement of facts with the underlying arbitration agreement attached as an exhibit. (Doc. 13). The defendants' motion seeks dismissal based on the limitations period provided for in the arbitration agreement. In the alternative, the defendants request that this court compel arbitration. As another alternative argument, the defendants argue that this court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims against Genesis because Glenwright failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to Genesis. On September 27, 2016, after requesting and receiving two extensions of time, Glenwright filed her brief in opposition, contesting the validity of the agreement, among other arguments. (Doc. 23). She also filed a counter statement of facts with several exhibits attached. (Doc. 24). On October 17, 2016, after requesting and receiving an extension of time, the defendants filed a reply brief. (Doc. 27).

         On September 19, 2016, after the defendants' motion had been filed, the court held a telephone case management conference with the parties. (See Doc. 18). Immediately thereafter, the court issued a scheduling order setting various case management deadlines, including a February 13, 2017 deadline for fact discovery. (Doc. 20). No supplemental briefs or exhibits have been provided to the court during the course of this discovery. On February 8, 2017, the plaintiff filed an unopposed motion seeking to extend the original deadlines, which the court granted. (See Docs. 28-29). Thus, to date, the parties are still in the process of discovery.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Motion to Compel Arbitration

         In Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, L.L.C., 716 F.3d 764 (3d Cir. 2013), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals clarified the appropriate standard to be applied to a motion to compel arbitration that is filed prior to the benefit of discovery. The court held that where the affirmative defense of arbitrability is apparent on the face of the complaint or those documents relied upon in the complaint the standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) should be applied. Id. at 773-74. In those cases, the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §1 et seq., would favor speedy resolution of the motion without the delay of discovery. Id. at 773.

         “[A] more deliberate pace is required” when either (1) the complaint and documents referenced therein do not establish with “requisite clarity” that the parties agreed to arbitrate or (2) “the opposing party has come forth with reliable evidence that is more than a ‘naked assertion . . . that it did not intend to be bound, ' even though on the face of the pleadings it appears that it did.” Id. at 774 (quoting Somerset Consulting, LLC v. United Capital Lenders, LLC, 832 F.Supp.2d 474, 479 (E.D. Pa. 2011) and Par-Knit Mills, Inc. v. Stockbridge Fabrics Co., Ltd, 636 F.2d 51, 55 (3d Cir. 1980)). In those instances the motion should be resolved according to the standard provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Id.

         When the issue of arbitrability is not apparent on the face of the complaint, normally, “the motion to compel arbitration must be denied pending further development of the factual record.” Id. “[A] restricted inquiry into the factual issues will be necessary to properly evaluate whether there was a meeting of the minds on the agreement to arbitrate, and the non-movant must be given the opportunity to conduct limited discovery.” Id. (internal citations and quotations omitted). After this, the appropriate standard to be applied is the standard provided by Rule 56.

         Here, the issue of arbitrability is not apparent on the face of Glenwright's amended complaint or any documents cited within or attached to the amended complaint. The defendants' arguments are entirely premised on the arbitration agreement attached to the motion to compel arbitration. Glenwright contests the validity of this agreement. Normally, a plaintiff would be “entitled to discovery on the question of arbitrability before [this] court entertains further briefing” on the issue. Guidotti, 716 F.3d at 776 (quoting Somerset, 832 F.Supp.2d at 482). However, at this stage of the litigation, the parties have already engaged in several months of discovery. Despite this, Glenwright has not submitted or attempted to submit any supplemental briefing or exhibits to further her arguments with respect to the issue of arbitrability. Denying the defendants' motion in its entirety at this time solely to provide additional time for discovery would be inefficient, especially where the allowance of discovery to engage in the arbitrability analysis is, typically, quite limited.

         Further, on February 8, 2017, Glenwright requested more time for discovery generally. (Doc. 28). The court granted her request. (Doc. 29). The court will not further extend the discovery deadline. Instead, the court will rule on the defendants' motion using the summary judgment standard set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 in light of the briefing, exhibits, and statements of facts submitted by all parties.

         B. Rule 56 Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56 allows a court to enter summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmovant, and is material if it will affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Ericksen, 903 F.Supp. 836, 838 (M.D. Pa. 1995). In support of their argument, the movant and nonmovant must point to “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” or show that the other party's evidence does “not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B).

         The movant can also meet the Rule 56 standard by showing that “on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party.” In re Bressman, 327 F.3d 229, 238 (3d Cir. 2003). The nonmoving party must then “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts.” Boyle v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). In assessing the parties' arguments, “the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Guidotti, 716 F.3d at 772 (quoting Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)).

         C. Administration Exhaustion-Rule 12(b)(1)

         In addition to seeking dismissal or arbitration based on the arbitration agreement, the defendants' motion challenges this court's subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The defendants allege that Glenwright failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to Genesis. “A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) challenges the jurisdiction of the court to address the merits of the plaintiff's complaint.” Vieth v. Pennsylvania, 188 F.Supp.2d 532, 537 (M.D. Pa. 2002). The failure to exhaust administrative remedies is a jurisdictional issue and the appropriate device to raise this issue is a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1). See Batchelor v. Rose Tree Media Sch. Dist., 759 F.3d 266, 271 (3d Cir. 2014). A Rule 12(b)(1) dismissal is not a judgment on the merits, but only a determination that the court lacks the authority to hear the case. Swope v. Central York Sch. Dist., 796 F.Supp.2d 592, 599 (M.D. Pa. 2011). Because the district court is a court of limited jurisdiction, the burden of establishing jurisdiction always rests upon the party asserting it. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life. Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).

         An attack on the court's jurisdiction may be either “facial” or “factual” and the “distinction determines how the pleading must be reviewed.” Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v. Aichele, 757 F.3d 347, 357 (3d Cir. 2014). A facial attack tests the sufficiency of the pleadings, while a factual attack challenges whether a plaintiff's claims fail to comport factually with jurisdictional prerequisites. Id. at 358; see also S.D. v. Haddon Heights Bd. of Educ., 833 F.3d 389, 394 n. 5 (3d Cir. 2016). If the defendant brings a factual attack, the district court may look outside the pleadings to ascertain facts needed to determine whether jurisdiction exists. Id.

         Reviewing a facial attack, a district court must accept the allegations stated in a plaintiff's complaint and review “only whether the allegations on the face of the complaint, taken as true, allege facts sufficient to invoke the jurisdiction of the district court.” Taliaferro v. Darby Twp. Zoning Bd., 458 F.3d 181, 188 (3d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Thus, a facial attack calls for a district court to apply the same standard of review it would use in considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), i.e., construing the alleged facts in favor of the nonmoving party. This is in marked contrast to the standard of review applicable to a factual attack, in which a court may weigh ...


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