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Mete v. Sears Holdings Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 21, 2014

NICOLE METE, Plaintiff,
v.
SEARS HOLDINGS CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

On June 5, 2014, Plaintiff Nicole Mete ("Mete") brought the present three-count Complaint against her former employer Defendant Sears Holdings Corporation ("Sears") alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. Before the Court is Defendant's motion to compel arbitration and stay the present proceedings brought pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 3. For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

Mete began her employment as a recruiter with Sears in February 2010 and resigned from Sears in May 2013. (R. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 4, 7.) Sears is a retail operation with over 2, 600 full-line and specialty retail stores and operates through its subsidiaries, including K-Mart Corporation. ( Id. ¶ 5.) Although she was based in Illinois, Mete was responsible for recruiting management for K-Mart stores in her assigned region, which included California, Oregon, Washington, and later North and South Dakota. ( Id. ¶ 7.) Given the nature of Mete's role, she often worked from home where she could perform virtually every function of her job. ( Id. ¶ 8.) Mete's work schedule was similar to other recruiters, who also worked primary from home. ( Id. ¶ 9.)

Further, Mete alleges that after she announced her pregnancy and need for FMLA leave, her supervisors told her that when she returned from maternity leave, she would be required to work in the office four days a week. ( Id. ¶ 10.) When Mete questioned her supervisors why she was "singled out, " her supervisors said they were going to talk to all recruiters about requiring them to work at Sears' headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Mete, however, maintains that this statement was false and that Sears never required other recruiters who lived a commutable distance from headquarters to work at the Sears' headquarters. ( Id. ) According to Mete, Sears ultimate response was that these other recruiters were "grandfathered." ( Id. ¶ 12.)

Mete began her maternity leave in early March 2013 hoping that Sears would reconsider its decision requiring her to work from its headquarters. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Despite her concerns, Mete prepared to return to work and arranged for in-home child care. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Also, Mete talked to one of her supervisors on the phone prior to her return to work and expressed her concerns, yet Sears refused to allow her to return to her prior work schedule, which included working from home four days a week. ( Id. ¶ 15.) Mete thus alleges that she was forced to resign in May 2013 due to the drastic change in her job and the financial impact it would cause. ( Id. )

During the week of April 2, 2012, Sears introduced an arbitration policy/agreement ("Arbitration Agreement" or "Agreement") to its employees, that states in relevant part:

Under this Agreement, and subject to certain exceptions specified within the Agreement, all employment-related disputes between you ("Associate") and Company that are not resolved informally shall be resolved by binding arbitration in accordance with the terms set forth below. This Agreement applies equally to disputes related to Associate's employment raised by either Associate or by Company.
....
Except as it otherwise provides, this Agreement applies, without limitation, to disputes regarding the employment relationship, trade secrets, unfair competition, compensation, pay, benefits, breaks and rest periods, termination, discrimination, or harassment and claims arising under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, American With Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as amended, Family and Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, and any and all state statutes addressing the same or similar subject matters, and all other state or federal and common law claims ("Covered Claims").

(R. 18-1, Ex. 1, Arbitration Policy/Agreement, at 1). The Agreement contains an opt out provision:

If Associate does not wish to be bound by the Agreement, Associate must opt out by following the steps outlined in this Agreement within 30 days of receipt of this Agreement. Failure to opt out within the 30-day period will demonstrate Associate's intention to be bound by this Agreement and Associate's agreement to arbitrate all disputes arising out of or related to Associate's employment as set forth below.

( Id. )

In response to Sears' motion to compel arbitration, Mete contends that the she did not receive, acknowledge, or review the Arbitration ...


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