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Hughes v. CACI

July 22, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge


The plaintiff, Samuel Hughes, brings this action against his former employer, CACI, Inc.-Commercial ("CACI"), and two of its employees,*fn2 alleging (1) discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq., (2) violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 2 U.S.C. § 216(b), and (3) the defendant's failure to comply with the "Common Law of the District of Columbia." Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 2. Currently before the Court is the defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration ("Defs.' Mot."); the defendants' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint and Compel Arbitration and to Correct Case Caption ("Defs.' Mem."); the plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint ("Pl.'s Opp'n"); and the defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Motion Opposing Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint ("Defs.' Reply"). For the reasons set forth below, this Court concludes that the plaintiff must submit his claims to CACI's internal mediation process, and if necessary, binding arbitration, in accordance with the Employment Agreement ("EA") he signed. Accordingly, this case will be dismissed.

I. Factual Background

Samuel Hughes commenced his employment with CACI as a paralegal in January 1997 and was promoted to the position of Project Manager in 2000. Compl. ¶ 12. CACI provided support services to the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), and after his promotion, the plaintiff was responsible for supervising up to twenty paralegals and managing multiple cases in which the DOJ was a party. Id. In 2003, one of the cases the plaintiff was assigned to supervise went to trial. Id. ¶ 13. During the trial, however, there were several mistakes committed in regards to the legal support services provided to the DOJ by CACI employees. Id. ¶¶ 13-17. In each instance when a mistake was made, the plaintiff was held responsible. Id. Because the DOJ attorneys were displeased with the service CACI had provided, CACI eventually terminated the plaintiff's employment. Id. ¶ 18. The plaintiff alleges, however, that the mistakes were in fact committed by others, all of whom are white. Id. ¶¶ 13-17. Thus, the plaintiff posits that his race was the motivating factor for his termination because the employees who actually committed the errors were not terminated, but he was. Id. ¶ 20.

Following his termination, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), which subsequently issued a notice of the plaintiff's right to sue. Id. ¶ 4. Thereafter, on July 26, 2004, the plaintiff filed this action alleging he was terminated, while white CACI employees, who actually committed the errors he was held responsible for were not. Thus, the plaintiff asserts that his termination was in violation of Title VII and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"). Id. ¶¶ 19-26. In addition, the plaintiff contends that the defendants created a discriminatory and hostile working environment, which intentionally caused him to sustain emotional distress. Id. ¶¶ 22, 24. The defendants now seek to dismiss this action due to the plaintiff's failure to comply with the arbitration clause contained in the EA which he signed when he commenced his employment. Defs.' Mot. at 1-2.

II. Standard of Review

The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defs.' Mot. at 1. This Court concludes, however, as have many others, that a motion to compel arbitration is properly reviewed under the summary judgment standard of Rule 56(c).

"Pursuant to § 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act . . ., 9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq. (2000), [a] defendant is entitled to 'petition . . . [the] district court which, save for [an employment] agreement, would have jurisdiction . . . [to issue] an order directing that such arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in [the employment] agreement.'" Brown v. Whitney, 267 F. Supp. 2d 61, 66 (D.D.C. 2003). "The [Federal Arbitration] Act itself does not state that a document entitled 'motion to compel' must be filed to trigger the protections of the [Federal Arbitration] Act, but states that the party must 'petition' the court for an order directing arbitration to proceed." Thompson v. Nienaber, 239 F. Supp. 2d 478, 483 (D.N.J. 2002). Because strict nomenclature regarding how a motion is titled is not required, "inasmuch as the district court's order to arbitrate is in effect a summary disposition of the issue of whether or not there has been a meeting of the minds on the agreement to arbitrate[,]" consideration of the motion according to the "standard used by district courts in resolving summary judgment motions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) . . . is appropriate." Par-Knit Mills, Inc. v. Stockbridge Fabrics Co., 636 F.2d 51, 54 n.9 (3d Cir. 1980). Thus, "[a]lthough styled as a motion to dismiss, in a motion to stay proceedings and/or compel arbitration, the appropriate standard of review for the district court is the same standard used in resolving summary judgment motions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)." Technetronic v. Leybold-Geaeus GmbH, 1993 WL 197028, at *2 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (citations omitted); see also Lok Tio v. Wash. Hosp. Center, 2004 WL 2663149, at *2-3 (D.D.C. 2004); Nelson v. Insignia/Esg, Inc., 215 F. Supp. 2d 143, 147 (D.D.C. 2002) (holding that "summary judgment [was] the proper procedural mechanism to use in evaluating whether the plaintiff must submit her claims to arbitration"). Accordingly, this Court will review the motion to compel under a summary judgment standard.*fn3

This Court will grant a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56(c) if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Bayer v. United States Dep't of Treasury, 956 F.2d 330, 333 (D.C. Cir. 1992). However, the non-moving party cannot rely on "mere allegations or denials . . ., but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there [are] genuine issue[s] for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (citation omitted). Under Rule 56, "if a party fails to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial" summary judgment is warranted. Hazward v. Runyon, 14 F. Supp. 2d 120, 122 (D.D.C. 1998) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of establishing the absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment, "the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). When reviewing the defendants' motion to compel arbitration, the Court must "give . . . the [plaintiff] the benefit of all reasonable doubts and inferences that may arise." Par-Knit Mills, Inc., 636 F.2d at 54. It is with this standard that the Court will evaluate the defendants' position that the plaintiff must submit his claims to CACI's internal mediation, and if necessary, to arbitration.

III. The Parties' Arguments

The defendants seek to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") due to his failure to comply with the Arbitration Clause contained in the EA, which he signed on January 27, 1997, when he commenced his employment at CACI. Defs.' Mem. at 2. The defendants maintain that the plaintiff voluntarily agreed to arbitrate any potential discrimination claim arising out of his employment with CACI. Defs.' Mem. at 2. To support their motion to compel arbitration, the defendants rely on paragraph eleven of the EA which reads in part:

Any controversy or claim arising out of, or relating to this Agreement, or its breach, or otherwise arising out of or relating to my CACI employment (including without limitation to any claim of discrimination whether based on race . . . or any other legally protected status, and whether based on federal or State law, or otherwise), shall be settled first by resort to mediation by CACI's Ombudsman and then, if mediation fails to resolve the matter, by arbitration. This arbitration shall be held in Arlington, Virginia in accordance with the model employment arbitration procedures of the American Arbitration Association. Judgment upon award rendered by the arbitrator shall be binding upon both parties and may be entered and enforced in any court of competent jurisdiction.

Defs.' Mem., Ex. A ¶ 11. Furthermore, the defendants argue that the EA is a legally binding, contractual agreement which, in the absence of special circumstances, this Court must honor. Defs.' Mem. at 7. Since the defendants argue that no such circumstances exist, they ask this Court to dismiss this complaint and compel the plaintiff to adhere to his contractual agreement to arbitrate. Id. at 7-8. Finally, the defendants argue that the arbitration clause is broad enough to cover the allegations raised in the plaintiff's complaint. Id. at 9. And, the defendants note that it is well-established jurisprudence that statutory claims, including claims arising under Title VII, may be subject to arbitration. Id. at 10.

The plaintiff asserts, however, that the arbitration clause does not apply in this situation. The plaintiff advances four arguments. First, the plaintiff contends that the arbitration agreement is not a binding, contractual obligation, but simply a CACI policy that is not binding on the plaintiff. Pl.'s Opp'n at 2. Second, the plaintiff argues that the arbitration clause is applicable only to current CACI employees, and that a reasonable person would not interpret the arbitration clause to encompass issues flowing from a wrongful termination. Id. at 3. Third, the plaintiff posits that the EEOC's process supercedes the EA's arbitration clause, and therefore this Court is the appropriate venue in which ...

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