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Albertson v. ART Institute of Atlanta

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

April 14, 2017

ROBERT ALBERTSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ART INSTITUTE OF ATLANTA, a Georgia Corporation, and EDMC MARKETING AND ADVERTISING, INC., a Georgia Corporation, a/k/a Education Management Corporation, a/k/a Education Management, LLC, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge Russel G. Vineyard's Final Report and Recommendation [10] (“R&R”). The R&R recommends the Court grant Defendants Art Institute of Atlanta (“AIA”) and EDMC Marketing and Advertising, Inc.'s (“EDMC”) (together, “Defendants”) Motion to Compel Arbitration [7).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts[1]

         On October 20, 2016, Plaintiff Robert Albertson (“Albertson”), a white male over the age of 50, filed his Complaint against defendants, alleging age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“§ 1981”). ([1] ¶¶ 13-29). According to the Complaint, in January 2001, Albertson was hired by Defendants as a faculty member at EDMC's AIA campus, and, in 2003, he became the Academic Director of Media for AIA. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6). He alleges that, following the hiring of Newton Myvett (“Myvett”) as President of AIA in 2011, he opposed certain discriminatory practices by another AIA professor against AIA students and began being treated with hostility by Myvett, which ultimately led to his termination without cause in January 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9, 11).

         In July 2012, EDMC instituted an Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy (“ADR Policy”), which utilizes a multi-step process for resolving employment-related disputes between EDMC and its employees and requires binding arbitration as the final step. (See [7.2] (the “ADR Policy”)). The ADR Policy provides in pertinent part:

Purpose of Policy
This policy is intended to create the exclusive means by which all work-related disputes between [EDMC] (and its related entities or asserted agents . . .) and its employees will be promptly addressed and fairly resolved. No employee will be harassed, intimidated, discharged, disciplined or otherwise retaliated against in any manner for utilizing these Alternative Dispute Resolution procedures. Accepting or continuing employment with the Company after receipt of this Policy constitutes agreement to abide by its terms. The term “employee” as used in this Policy includes current employees, former employees and applicants for employment.
Authority
This [ADR] Policy is promulgated pursuant to, and governed by, the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16.
Policy Coverage
This policy applies to the following individuals unless they are covered by (1) a collective bargaining agreement or (2) an employment agreement containing an arbitration provision:
• All full-time faculty and staff of EDMC and all of its subsidiaries employed on or after the Effective Date of this Policy. . .
Effective Date
This Policy is effective on and after July 1, 2012.

(Id. at 2 (footnote omitted)). The ADR Policy also provides that Level One Disputes may be processed through all four steps of the dispute resolution procedures, consisting of informal resolution, submission to the company's senior management, mediation, and binding arbitration. Level One Disputes include the following:

Level One Disputes: Claims alleging a violation of legally protected rights such as claims of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination or other alleged unlawful treatment, including asserted violations of state, local or federal law. By way of example, such claims include, but are not limited to, alleged violations of the [ADEA]; [Title VII and] the Civil Rights Acts of . . . 1991; the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2008 amendments to same; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Occupational Safety and Health Act; the Equal Pay Act; the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; the Family and Medical Leave Act; the Fair Labor Standards Act; Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act; the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974; the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act; [ยง 1981], or any alleged violation of public policy, any ...

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