United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Sabannah Division.
WILLIAM A. ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN GENERAL LIFE INSURANCE d/b/a AIG LIFE AND RETIREMENT, Defendant.
LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE
Court previously dismissed this case finding that it must be
arbitrated. Dkt. No. 4-3. Plaintiff timely refiled the
complaint. Dkt. No. 1. Subsequently, the Court stayed and
administratively closed this case pending resolution of the
arbitration. Dkt. No. 10. The final arbitration award has
been entered and filed with the Court. Dkt. No. 16-1.
Nevertheless, Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed a Motion to
Vacate Arbitration Award, dkt. no. 22, which is presently
before the Court. The Motion has been fully briefed and is
ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's
Motion is DENIED.
this Court ruled and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed that
Plaintiff's claims must be arbitrated, on July 5, 2017,
Plaintiff filed a demand for arbitration with the American
Arbitration Association ("AAA"). Dkt. No. 25-1. In
the demand, Plaintiff made the following relevant claims: (1)
that his former employer, Defendant American General Life
Insurance ("AIG") failed to promote him because of
Plaintiff's race as an African-American in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; (2) that AIG
violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981 by refusing to afford
Plaintiff the same right to make and enforce his employment
contract as was enjoyed by a similarly situated white male;
(3) that AIG illegally retaliated against Plaintiff in
violation of Title VII when Plaintiff engaged in protected
activity; (4) that the arbitration agreement requiring these
claims to be arbitrated was unenforceable because it was
breached by AIG; (5) that the arbitration agreement lacked
consideration; (6) that the arbitration agreement was not
mandatory and thus was unenforceable; (7) and that Plaintiff
was entitled to punitive damages.
arbitrator, Beverly P. Baker, was assigned to the case, and
she entered an Initial Case Management Order. Dkt. No. 22-3.
That document states that an "initial telephone
management conference call" was held on September 29,
2017, in which the parties, their attorneys, the arbitrator,
and a case manager for the AAA participated. Id. at
2. During that telephone call, Plaintiff argued that the
arbitration agreement should be voided for reasons (4) - (6)
listed above. Id. As a result of this argument, the
arbitrator requested briefings on these issues, and she made
her ruling on these issues in her Initial Case Management
Order. Id. In that Order, the arbitrator rejected
these three claims and explained her bases for doing so.
Id. As a result, the arbitrator concluded that she
had jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining claims.
the initial management phone call, Plaintiff created and
signed a memorandum recapping some of the discussions that he
found troubling. Dkt. No. 22-2. Relevant to this Order,
Plaintiff noted that the arbitrator refused to hear evidence
on the three claims that were raised. Id. at 2.
Thus, Plaintiff was, according to the memorandum, not
permitted to present evidence on the three jurisdictional
claims that the arbitrator rejected. Id.
March 28, 2018, the parties were notified that Arbitrator
Baker recused herself from the case. Dkt. No. 25-4. At some
point thereafter, a new arbitrator was appointed to the case,
Patricia A. Renovitch. Dkt. No. 22-5. Plaintiff resubmitted
to Arbitrator Renovitch his three claims arguing that the
arbitrator lacked jurisdiction, but Renovitch refused to
revisit those issues and stood by the conclusions of
Arbitrator Baker as memorialized in the Initial Case
Management Order. Id. at 2. The parties were
notified of Renovitch's decision on May 11, 2018.
early September 2018, a multi-day trial was held on
Plaintiff's remaining claims. Dkt. Nos. 22-6, 22-7, 22-8.
After the trial, the parties submitted closing argument
briefs setting forth their contentions. Dkt. Nos. 22-15,
22-18. On December 5, 2018, Renovitch issued a twenty-seven
page Interim Award detailing her findings of fact,
conclusions of law, and the ultimate award. Dkt. No. 22-11.
The factual findings relevant to this Order are that in 2003
Plaintiff was hired by AIG to be a sales agent. Id.
at 5. In early 2012, Plaintiff was still a sales agent and
was told by the general manager of his office, Thomas Gallo,
that a service manager position would soon become vacant and
that Plaintiff should stay and compete for it-at the time,
Plaintiff was considering leaving AIG. Id. at 6.
When the position became vacant, Gallo created a promotion
contest for the service manager ("SM") position.
Id. Three of the applicants were black, and one was
white, Roy Watson. Id. Watson, the white applicant,
was eventually deemed the winner of the contest and was given
the position. Id. at 10-11. Arbitrator Renovitch
agreed with Plaintiff that the promotion contest
discriminated against the black applicants, in favor of the
white applicant. Id. at 21. But, Renovitch rejected
Plaintiff's two other substantives claims and his
punitive damages claim. Id. at 22-27.
the interim award was entered, Plaintiff filed a Request for
Reconsideration, setting forth many grounds in which he
believed Arbitrator Renovitch erred. Dkt. No. 22-9. On
January 22, 2019, Renovitch rejected Plaintiff's
arguments and entered a Final Award. Dkt. No". 22-19.
filed this motion to vacate the award under 9 U.S.C. §
10(a) alleging that Arbitrator Baker and Arbitrator Renovitch
erred, were biased, and misbehaved in many ways when
adjudicating Plaintiff's claims.
Refusal to Hear Evidence Claim
first argues that the award should be vacated under 9 U.S.C.
§ 10(a)(3) because Arbitrator Baker refused to hear
evidence regarding three of Plaintiff's claims that
sought to void the arbitration agreement. Baker rejected
these claims and held that the arbitration agreement was
valid. Dkt. No. 22-3 at 2. Plaintiff also claims that
Arbitrator Renovitch declined to revisit Baker's refusal,
and thus, Renovitch also refused to hear that same evidence.
The claims centered around the contention that the arbitrator
lacked jurisdiction; specifically, they were: (1) that
Defendant violated an "open door policy" that was
part of the arbitration agreement, voiding the agreement and
making it unenforceable; (2) that the arbitration agreement
lacked consideration; and (3) that the arbitration agreement
was "not mandatory and/or enforceable as set forth in
the [Employee Dispute Resolution program]," dkt. no.
25-1 at 5. The evidence Plaintiff wished to present but was
not permitted to was testimony from witnesses about
"upper management[*s] knowledge of the contest
manipulations." Dkt. No. 22 at 18. These witnesses
"had information concerning what senior management said
and did regarding the contest and job positions [Plaintiff]
wanted to address by utilizing the open-door policy."
U.S.C. § 10(a) (3) an arbitration award must be vacated
"[w]here the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in
refusing . . . to hear evidence pertinent and material to the
controversy." Nevertheless, arbitrators "enjoy wide
latitude in conducting an arbitration hearing," and they
"are not constrained by formal rules of procedure or
evidence." Robbins v. Day/ 954 F.2d 679, 685
(11th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, First
Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan,514 U.S. 938, 948
(1995). "An arbitrator need not consider all the
evidence the parties seek to introduce but may reject
evidence that is cumulative or irrelevant." Scott v.
Prudential Sec, Inc., 141 F.3d 1007, 1017 (11th Cir.
1998). "In addition, *[a] federal court may vacate an
arbitrator's award only if the arbitrator's refusal
to hear pertinent and material evidence prejudices the rights
of the parties to the arbitration proceedings.'"