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Gibson v. Neighborhood Health Clinics

August 21, 1997

MONA GIBSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

NEIGHBORHOOD HEALTH CLINICS, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division. No. 1:95-CV-307 William C. Lee, Chief Judge.

Before Bauer, Cudahy, and Flaum, Circuit Judges.

Flaum, Circuit Judge.

Argued May 23, 1997

Decided AUGUST 21, 1997

Mona Gibson appeals the district court's dismissal of her claims under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") against her former employer, Neighborhood Health Clinics ("NHC"). The district court dismissed Gibson's claims on the ground that she had contractually agreed to submit any claims against NHC to arbitration. We reverse and remand.

I.

Gibson, who had previously been employed by NHC under circumstances not relevant to the instant case, was rehired by NHC on December 22, 1994. On December 30, 1994, at which time Gibson, although rehired, had not yet returned to work, NHC held a meeting at which all employees were presented with a new Associates Policy Manual (the "Manual"), and required to sign a new Associates Understanding (the "Understanding"). Gibson was not required to attend the meeting and in fact she did not. The Understanding included the following language:

I agree to the grievance and arbitration provisions set forth in the Associates Policy Manual. I understand that I am waiving my right to a trial, including a jury trial, in state or federal court of the class of disputes specifically set forth in the grievance and arbitration provisions on pages 8-10 of the Manual.

The Manual states that when an employee alleges a violation of her rights under the ADA or Title VII (or other provisions not relevant here):

THEN IT IS CLEARLY INTENDED AND AGREED THAT THE SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE MEANS FOR THE RESOLUTION OF ALL DISPUTES, ISSUES, CONTROVERSIES, CLAIMS, CAUSES OF ACTION OR GRIEVANCES BY AN EMPLOYEE AGAINST NEIGHBORHOOD HEALTH CLINICS SHALL BE THROUGH THE PROCESS OF ARBITRATION AND PURSUANT TO . . . THE INDIANA UNIFORM ARBITRATION ACT. (emphasis and capitalization in the original).

The opening two paragraphs of the Manual include the following language:

Neighborhood Health Clinics reserves the right at any time to modify, revoke, suspend, terminate, or change any or all terms of this Manual, plans, policies, or procedures, in whole or in part, without having to consult or reach agreement with anyone, at any time, with or without notice. . . .

. . . [W]hile Neighborhood Health Clinics intends to abide by the policies and procedures described in this Manual, it does not constitute a contract nor promise of any kind. Therefore, employees can be terminated at any ...


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