Sexual Harassment Claims Against Uber Technologies et al Subject to Arbitration, Court Holds

In Fuller v. UBER Technologies Inc., No. 150289/2020, 2020 WL 5801063 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Sep. 25, 2020), the court held that plaintiff’s claims of sexual harassment were subject to arbitration.

From the decision:

Plaintiff’s primary argument for avoiding arbitration is that his dispute resolution agreement with Apex has a carve out for sexual harassment claims, and thus these claims are not subject to arbitration. However, the exception that plaintiff refers to in the agreement merely provides that “[c]laims of sexual harassment or retaliation for reporting sexual harassment are excluded from coverage of this Agreement, to the extent required by applicable law.” McCauley Aff., Exh. 2, para. 1(c). Plaintiff argues that the applicable law is New York law and that under CPLR 7515, contract provisions requiring the mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims are prohibited. However, as discussed above, the FAA is applicable here and it preempts any inconsistent state law. Thus, CPLR 7515 cannot block Apex from enforcing its arbitration agreement with plaintiff to arbitrate his sexual harassment claims. Latif v. Morgan Stanley & Co., 18-CV-11528, 2019 WL 2610985, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 26, 2019).

Plaintiff also argues that defendants Uber and Williamson cannot compel arbitration because they are not signatories to the dispute resolution agreement. Of course an obligation to arbitrate can be based only on consent and, thus, as a general matter, only signatories to a contract are bound by and are entitled to enforce a contract’s arbitration clause. Sokol Holdings, Inc. v. BNB Munai Inc., 542 F.3d 354, 358 (2d Cir. 2008). However, under principles of estoppel, a non-signatory to an arbitration agreement may compel a signatory to arbitrate a dispute where the relationship between the parties, the contracts they signed and the issues raised among them demonstrates that the issues that the non-signatory is seeking to resolve in arbitration are intertwined with the agreement. Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). Further, the relationship between the parties must indicate that the signatory either intended the agreement to apply to the non-signatory or that it would be inequitable for the signatory to refuse to arbitrate on the ground that it did not have an agreement to arbitrate with the non-signatory. Id. at 361.

As discussed above, the dispute that the Uber defendants seek to resolve is clearly related to and covered by the dispute resolution agreement. While the dispute resolution agreement was executed by Apex, as plaintiff’s employer, it is clear based on the employment contract that plaintiff would be performing work for Uber, which is designated as Apex’s client in the employment contract. McCauley Aff., Exh. 1, para. 26. Indeed, in plaintiff’s complaint, he does not distinguish between the defendants, treating them all as employers for purposes of his claims. Under these circumstances, it would be inequitable to allow plaintiff to avoid arbitrating his employment related claims against the Uber defendants simply because they are not signatories to the dispute resolution agreement. See Ragone v. Atlantic Video at Manhattan Center, 595 F.3d 115, 127 (2d Cir. 2010) (non-signatory could compel arbitration of Title VII sexual harassment claims where plaintiff understood non-signatory to be her co-employer).

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