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Andre v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 6, 2018

DEBRA ANDRE, Plaintiff,
v.
DOLLAR TREE STORES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          CHRISTOPHER J. BURKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Presently pending in this employment discrimination matter is Defendant Dollar Tree Stores, Inc.'s ("DTS" or "Defendant") Motion to Compel Arbitration, (D.I. 4) (the "Motion to Compel"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the Motion to Compel without prejudice and ORDERS the parties to proceed through limited discovery consistent with this opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         1. The Parties

         Plaintiff Debra Andre[1] is a resident of Dover, Delaware. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 1) Defendant Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. is a Virginia corporation that operates thousands of retail stores across the nation, in which various retail products are sold. (Id. at ¶ 2; D.I. 6 at ¶ 3)

         Plaintiff was most recently employed by Defendant as Assistant Manager at Defendant's retail store #1563, which is located in Dover. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 11; D.I. 5 at 1) Plaintiff was employed by Defendant from on or about September 2011 until on or about June 30, 2016, at which point she was terminated. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 12; D.I. 5 at 1-2)

         2.The Events Leading to Plaintiffs Termination

         In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that in March 2016, a new Store Manager, Chris Stewart, was assigned to oversee the DTS store where Plaintiff served as Assistant Manager. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 14) Approximately two months after Mr. Stewart began working at Plaintiffs assigned store, Plaintiff received complaints from female and male employees at the store about Mr. Stewart; the employees asserted that Mr. Stewart made sexual remarks about them or about other workers. (Id. at ¶ 15) Plaintiff then notified (via e-mail) District Manager Marcella Leathern about the complaints, but Plaintiff did not receive a response. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17)

         Approximately a week and a half after Plaintiff sent the e-mail to Ms. Leathern, at a time when Plaintiff was bent over stocking shelves with another co-worker, Mr. Stewart is alleged to have grabbed Plaintiffs waist from behind and pulled Plaintiff into his groin while making sexual remarks. (Id. at ¶ 18) Plaintiff again e-mailed Ms. Leathern complaining about Mr. Stewart's conduct, but once again, Plaintiff did not receive a response from Ms. Leathern. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-20)

         Approximately two days later, Plaintiff was in a store office when Mr. Stewart reached towards Plaintiff and grabbed her buttocks, at which point Plaintiff forcibly pushed Mr. Stewart away. (Id. at ¶ 21) Plaintiff once more e-mailed Ms. Leathern complaining about Mr. Stewart's conduct but did not receive a response. (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23) Plaintiff then reported this incident to "numerous Human Resource personnel." (Id. at ¶ 24)

         Approximately one week later, Plaintiff was called into work on her day off to meet with Ms. Leathern regarding Mr. Stewart's conduct. (Id. at ¶ 26) Ms. Leathern explained to Plaintiff that if Plaintiff had provided inaccurate facts to Defendant about Mr. Stewart's conduct, then Plaintiffs employment would be terminated. (Id. at ¶ 27)

         On another work day in this general time frame, Plaintiff was scheduled to work a 5.5 hour shift. (Id. at ¶ 31) Plaintiff alleges that during this shift she was notified by Mr. Stewart that he was going to be late for work. (Id.) Defendant's policy states that an employee will be reprimanded if they do not take a lunch break after six hours of work. (Id. at ¶ 30) Realizing that because Mr. Stewart was going to be late for work, this would mean that Plaintiff would be required to work for over six hours on that day, Plaintiff took a 32-minute lunch break on that day. (A/, at ¶¶ 29, 31)

         On June 30, 2016, Plaintiff was terminated for taking this "unscheduled lunch break." (D.I. 1 at ¶¶ 12, 33; see also D.I. 5 at 2) Plaintiff contends that this reason proffered by Defendant for her firing (i.e., that Plaintiff was fired because she took the unscheduled lunch break) is pretextual; instead, Plaintiff asserts that she was really terminated due to discriminatory and retaliatory conduct on the basis of her sex, stemming from the incidents described above regarding Mr. Stewart. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 35)

         3. The Arbitration Agreement

         During the term of Plaintiff s employment, in 2014, Defendant implemented its Arbitration Program. (D.I. 6 at ¶ 4; D.I. 5 at 2) Pursuant to the program, each DTS Associate was required to read the corresponding materials, including the Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims (hereinafter, the "Arbitration Agreement"). (D.I. 6 at ¶¶ 5-6; id., ex. 3) The Arbitration Agreement provides, inter alia:

The Parties agree to the resolution by arbitration of all claims or controversies ("claims"), past, present or future, that can be raised under applicable federal, state, or local law, arising out of or related to Associate's employment (or its termination), that... the Associate may have against... Dollar Tree .... Claims subject to arbitration include but are not limited to, claims for: . ...

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