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Pruett v. Iberiabank

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 31, 2018

WANDA PRUETT
v.
IBERIABANK

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY MAG. Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAREN L. HAYES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the undersigned magistrate judge, on reference from the District Court, is a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration [doc. # 5] filed by Defendant, IBERIABANK. For reasons stated below, it is recommended that the motion to compel be GRANTED, that the motion to dismiss be DENIED and that the case be STAYED pending the outcome of arbitration.

         On April 19, 2018, Defendant filed the instant motion. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's claims are subject to an arbitration agreement previously executed by the parties. See Motion, doc. # 5. Defendant asks the Court to dismiss this action, and order that Plaintiff may only pursue her claims through arbitration.

         On May 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed her response to the instant motion [doc. # 8]. Plaintiff does not dispute that the bulk of her claims must be submitted to arbitration, but asks the Court to stay, rather than dismiss, the instant law suit. On May 16, 2018, Defendant filed a reply [doc. # 9] arguing that dismissal was the appropriate remedy where all Plaintiff's claims are subject to arbitration. This matter is now ripe.

         Background

         On February 2, 2015, Plaintiff began her employment with Defendant assigned to Defendant's branch on 70th Street in Shreveport, Louisiana. See Complaint, doc. # 1, p. 2, ¶ 6.[1]At that time, Plaintiff and Defendant executed an Arbitration Agreement (the “Agreement”). See IBERIABANK Corporation Arbitration Agreement, doc. # 5-2, pp. 3-6. The Agreement's arbitration mandate encompasses "all disputes between the parties that may otherwise be brought before a court, governmental agency, or other tribunal, including but not limited to, . . . treatment by supervisors, co-workers or third-parties, . . . job assignments, and termination of employment . . . ." Id. at p. 3, ¶ 1(a). Specifically included in the arbitration mandate are claims for "retaliation" as well as "discrimination or harassment prohibited by applicable law, including statutory and/or common law claims of discrimination or harassment on the basis of . . . sex/gender . . ." Id. at p. 3, ¶ 1(b). The Agreement further provides that claims for “any form of preliminary or permanent injunctive relief” are specifically excluded from its arbitration mandate. Id. at p. 4, ¶ 1(c)(i).

         While employed by Defendant, Plaintiff claims that she was subjected to repeated verbal sexual harassment by a co-worker. See Id. at ¶ 7. Plaintiff reported these incidents to her supervisors, but her co-worker's harassment persisted. See id. at ¶¶ 8-10. Thereafter, Plaintiff was transferred to Defendant's branch on Texas Street in Shreveport, Louisiana, and her working hours were reduced. See id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff's working hours were increased after she complained about the reduction. See id.

         On September 3, 2015, Plaintiff complained to Defendant's regional office that her transfer was in retaliation for her complaint of sexual harassment and requested that she be returned to the 70th Street branch. See id. at ¶ 12. Defendant reassigned Plaintiff to the 70th Street branch, but reduced her level of job responsibility. See Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff's supervisors began closely scrutinizing her work. See id.

         Following her return to the 70th Street branch, Plaintiff overheard branch manager refer to Plaintiff as a “bitch.” See id. at p. 3, ¶ 15. Plaintiff complained to the branch manager's supervisor about this incident. See Id. at ¶ 15. Thereafter, Plaintiff's supervisors increased their scrutiny of her work. See Id. at ¶ 16.

         On March 2, 2016, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment. See Id. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's stated reasons for her termination were false and pretextual and that her termination was actually discriminatory and in retaliation for her previous complaints. See id.

         Plaintiff filed this suit on February 16, 2018, seeking declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief for sexual harassment, employment discrimination, and retaliation in violation of federal and state law.

         Law and Analysis

         The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) applies to “any arbitration agreement within the coverage of the Act” which includes written agreements to arbitrate if the contract “evidenc[es] a transaction involving commerce.” Specialty Healthcare Mgmt., Inc. v. St. Mary Parish Hosp., 220 F.3d 650, 654-56 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting, Moses H. Cone Memorial Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 23, 103 S.Ct. 927 (1983) and 9 ...


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