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Darrington v. Milton Hershey School

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2019

BRADLEY G. DARRINGTON and VAL DARRINGTON, Plaintiffs,
v.
MILTON HERSHEY SCHOOL, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         Bradley and Val Darrington sued the Milton Hershey School for religious discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The School moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement between the School and Plaintiffs' union. The Court ordered limited discovery on the arbitrability of Plaintiffs' claims. See (ECF No. 20). After completing limited discovery, the School renewed its Motion, which the Court denies for the reasons that follow.

         I[1]

         Milton Hershey School hired Plaintiffs as full-time houseparents in May of 2013. (Compl. ¶ 22); see also (Pls.' Resps. Def.'s Req. Admis. ¶ 1, ECF No. 21-3 at 42, 52). While employed by the School, Plaintiffs were members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Local Union 464 (“the Union”). (Pls.' Resps. Def.'s Req. Admis. ¶ 6, ECF No. 21-3 at 43, 53). The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Union and the School states that “[t]he School recognizes the Union as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for all fulltime houseparents . . . employed by the School . . . regarding wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.” (Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) § 2.1, ECF No. 21-3 at 9).

         The CBA contains a non-discrimination provision:

Non-discrimination.
The Union and the School will not discriminate against employees or applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, age (40 and above), sex, national origin, disability status, and membership or non-membership in the Union. The School reserves the right to expand, contract, amend or otherwise modify its policies on non-discrimination to meet its legal obligations. The School will notify the Union of any changes in policy related to discrimination before announcing them to the workforce.

(CBA § 10.1.) The CBA also contains a four-step grievance procedure culminating in mandatory arbitration:

Grievance and Arbitration Procedure.
A. Definition.
“Grievance” is defined as any dispute arising out of the terms and conditions of this Agreement, including, but not limited to, the discipline or discharge of any non-probationary member of the bargaining unit. The School and the Union also agree that a grievance hereunder includes any dispute alleging discrimination against any employee(s) in the bargaining unit based upon membership in any protected categories under federal or state law and/or as set forth in Section 10.1 of this Agreement. Nothing herein prevents an allegedly aggrieved employee(s) from filing a charge or complaint of discrimination involving the same dispute or controversy as the grievance with any state or federal administrative agency and the grievance may, at the parties' option, be held in abeyance while the administrative agency processes the charge or complaint. The parties further agree, however, that the Union, on behalf of itself and the allegedly aggrieved employee(s), waives, releases and discharges any right to institute or maintain any private lawsuit alleging employment discrimination in any state or federal court regarding the matters encompassed within this grievance procedure. . . . All grievances must be handled as provided in this Article, which sets forth the exclusive procedure for resolution of disputes arising out of the terms and conditions of this Agreement or the discipline or discharge of any non-probationary member of the bargaining unit.

(Id. at § 9.1 (emphasis added).)

         II

         There is generally a presumption of arbitrability under collective bargaining agreements because arbitrators are in a better position than courts to interpret the terms of a CBA. See Wright v. Universal Mar. Serv. Corp., 525 U.S. 70, 78 (1998) (citing AT & T Techs., Inc. v. Commc'ns Workers, 475 U.S. 643, 650 (1986) and Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Nav. Co., 363 U.S. 574, 581-82 (1960)). Where, however, a dispute “ultimately concerns not the application or interpretation of [a] CBA, but the meaning of a federal statute, ” it is not subject to the presumption of arbitration. Id. at 78-79 (finding petitioner's statutory employment discrimination claim not subject to the presumption of ...


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