United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
ANNE E. SCHEURER, Plaintiff,
FROMM FAMILY FOODS LLC, Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge.
an employment discrimination case in which plaintiff Anne
Scheuer alleges that her former supervisor sexually harassed
her while she was working at defendant Fromm Family Foods
LLC. Scheurer also alleges that after she complained about
the harassment, Fromm fired her in retaliation. She has sued
Fromm under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But
there is a slight complication: Scheuer was actually an
employee of a staffing agency, and when she applied to the
agency, she signed an application agreement that contained an
arbitration provision. Fromm now seeks to invoke that
provision and compel Scheuer to arbitrate her Title VII
claims. Scheuer opposes the motion because Fromm was not a
party to her application agreement with the staffing agency.
has not demonstrated that it is entitled to enforce the
arbitration provision in Scheurer’s application
agreement. The court will therefore deny Fromm’s motion
to compel arbitration.
court reviews a motion to compel arbitration like a motion
for summary judgment. Tinder v. Pinkerton Sec., 305
F.3d 728, 735 (7th Cir. 2002). The court considers all
evidence in the record and draws all reasonable inferences in
the light most favorable to Scheurer because she is the
non-moving party. Id.
2013, Scheurer applied to work at Richelieu Foods, Inc.,
which used Remedy Intelligent Staffing LLC to manage its
hiring, payroll, and other human resources tasks. Richelieu
and Remedy are not parties to this case. As part of
Scheurer’s application, she signed an
“applicant’s agreement.” Dkt. 15-2, at 6-9.
The agreement provided that Scheurer’s employment with
Remedy was at-will, and it also included an arbitration
provision that required Scheurer to arbitrate any disputes
with her “Employer . . . arising out of or relating to
[her] employment or the termination of [her]
employment.” Id. at 7. Remedy gave Scheurer an
employee handbook that reiterated the arbitration clause.
year later, Scheurer’s work at Richelieu had ended, and
Remedy assigned her to work at Fromm. Scheurer alleges that
while she worked at Fromm, her supervisor made unwanted
sexually explicit comments to her. Although she complained
about this harassment to her coworkers, to other supervisors,
and to human resources personnel at Fromm, her complaints
went unanswered. Fromm eventually fired Scheurer (which the
court construes to mean that Fromm had Remedy terminate her
assignment). Scheurer alleges that this termination was in
retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment.
filed suit on December 2, 2015, alleging claims under Title
VII for sexual harassment and retaliation. Fromm now moves to
compel arbitration, arguing that Scheurer’s claims are
subject to the arbitration clause in the application
agreement that she signed.
court has subject matter jurisdiction over Scheurer’s
claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, because they arise
under federal law.
moves to compel arbitration pursuant to the Federal
Arbitration Act (FAA). Although the FAA does not define the
standard that district courts must use to determine whether
to compel arbitration, federal courts have held that such
motions are “reviewed under a summary judgment
standard.” Tickanen v. Harris & Harris,
Ltd., 461 F.Supp.2d 863, 866 (E.D. Wis. 2006) (citing
Par-Knit Mills, Inc. v. Stockbridge Fabrics Co., 636
F.2d 51, 54 n.9 (3d Cir. 1980)); see also Tinder,
305 F.3d at 735. Because Fromm is moving to compel
arbitration, it must demonstrate that the application
agreement between Scheurer and Remedy requires Scheurer to
arbitrate the claims that she is alleging this case.
Vazquez v. Cent. States Joint Bd., 547 F.Supp.2d
833, 868 (N.D. Ill. 2008).
the FAA, the court will compel arbitration if three
conditions are present: (1) a written agreement to arbitrate;
(2) a dispute within the scope of the arbitration agreement;
and (3) a refusal to arbitrate. 9 U.S.C. § 4; Zurich
Am. Ins. Co. v. Watts Indus., Inc., 417 F.3d 682, 687
(7th Cir. 2005). Federal policy strongly favors arbitration,
and “once it is clear the parties have a contract that
provides for arbitration of some issues between them, any
doubts concerning the scope of the arbitration clause are
resolved in favor of arbitration.” Miller v.
Flume, 139 F.3d 1130, 1136 (7th Cir. 1998). In this
case, Scheurer does not dispute the scope of the arbitration
clause or that she has refused to arbitrate. But she
disagrees that Fromm can invoke the arbitration provision in
her application agreement.
fact that Fromm is not a party to the agreement would usually
mean that Fromm cannot invoke it. See Everett v. Paul
Davis Restoration, Inc., 771 F.3d 380, 383 (7th Cir.
2014). “However, the obligation to arbitrate a dispute
is not always limited to those who have personally signed an
agreement containing such a provision.” Id. A
nonparty may invoke an arbitration clause if the ordinary
principles of state contract law permit it to do so.
Arthur Andersen LLP v. Carlisle, 556 U.S. 624, 631
(2009). Those principles include “assumption, piercing
the corporate veil, alter ego, incorporation by reference,
third-party beneficiary theories, waiver and estoppel.”
Id. Here, Fromm contends that the principles of
equitable estoppel and third-party beneficiary entitle it to
compel Scheurer to arbitrate her claims. The court disagrees
and will therefore deny Fromm’s motion to compel