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Hall v. CVS Health Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 7, 2018

ROY HALL, Plaintiffs,
v.
CVS HEALTH CORP.; CVS PHARMACY, LLC.; MIKE DRAMER; and CODY BERGUSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on Defendants' “Motion to Dismiss, or, Alternatively to Stay, and to Compel Arbitration.” (Doc. 6). Plaintiff Roy Hall sued Defendants CVS Corporation; CVS Pharmacy, LLC; Mike Dramer; and Cody Berguson, alleging claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Alabama Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Civil Rights Acts of 1964, Civil Rights Act of 1866, Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, and laws of the State of Alabama. (Doc. 1). CVS contends that an arbitration agreement requires Plaintiff Hall's claims to be addressed through arbitration, while Mr. Hall contends no such agreement exists. For the reasons discussed in this Memorandum Opinion, the court FINDS that a genuine dispute of material fact exists regarding the formation of the arbitration agreement, which must be determined by a trial. Therefore, the court will DENY CVS's motion; the parties will proceed to trial on the limited question of whether Mr. Hall opted out of the arbitration agreement.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Mr. Hall's Position and Termination

         Plaintiff Roy Hall is an African American male, over the age of 40, who worked as a CVS pharmacist for more than 20 years at its Eastlake and Roebuck, Alabama, locations before CVS terminated his employment in December 2015. Defendant Dramer was a CVS district manager and Defendant Berguson was a CVS Pharmacy supervisor during the time relevant to this case.

         Mr. Hall worked the night shift at the Roebuck CVS location for 19 years. In 2014, he made at least two requests to transfer to the day shift, which CVS denied. CVS also denied Mr. Hall salary increases at each of his performance reviews for six straight years, explaining that his store's numbers/metrics were not meeting expectations. Sometime around February 14, 2014, Mr. Hall took his complaints further up the chain to Mr. Colquitt, a CVS Pharmacy supervisor, and then to the Human Resources Manager at CVS's headquarters.

         CVS eventually transferred Mr. Hall to the Eastlake location in July 2014 and assigned him to the day shift. There, Mr. Hall received his first pay increase in 6 years. But, Mr. Hall alleges that Mr. Berguson cut the number of labor hours for the Eastlake location and changed the pharmacy metrics to make it more difficult for Mr. Hall to meet his goals because he was angry that Mr. Hall complained to corporate headquarters. As a result, Mr. Hall had less pharmacy tech support and he had to perform multiple duties that are not generally performed by CVS pharmacists, such as operating the cash register, stocking, and “numerous other sales and administrative duties.” (Doc. 1 at 9).

         In late October, 2015, Mr. Hall unintentionally “mis-filled” a prescription by providing a customer with the wrong dosage of medication. The customer discovered the error, returned the medication the same day, and Mr. Hall noted the error on the pharmacy log. This was Mr. Hall's first “mis-fill” in his career with CVS.

         Mr. Berguson and District Manager Yeatman investigated the incident according to CVS policy. CVS never suspended Mr. Hall for the mis-fill and he continued working at the Eastlake location up until December 4, 2015. On that day, Berguson and Yeatman informed Mr. Hall that CVS was terminating his employment at the end of his shift. The only explanation Mr. Hall received was that CVS policy required the termination and that the decision was over Berguson's and Yeatman's heads. (Id. at 10).

         B. The Arbitration Agreement and Opt-out Provision

         In October 2014, CVS introduced an arbitration policy under which CVS and its participating employees waive their right to pursue employment-related claims in court. (Doc. 7 at 3). On October 5, 2014, CVS invited its employees to participate in a training course, Arbitration of Workplace Legal Disputes. The course explained the employee's rights as to arbitration, the manner in which they accept the policy's terms, and how they may opt out of the policy. (Id. at 5).

         The policy provided that employees would accept the policy by continuing their employment with CVS Health after becoming aware of the policy, but allowed employees to opt out within 30 days of first viewing or receiving the policy. (Doc. 6-1). To opt out, the policy explained that an employee

must mail a written, signed and dated letter stating clearly that he or she wishes to opt out of the CVS Health Arbitration of Workplace Legal disputes Policy. The letter must be mailed to [ CVS's P.O. Box in Rhode Island]. In order to be effective, the colleague's opt out notice must be postmarked no later than 30 days after the colleague first views or receives the policy. Please Note, sending in a timely notice is the only way to opt out. A colleague cannot opt out by refusing to complete training or attend meetings about the policy.

(Doc. 6-1 at 27).

The policy also informed employees that it covers
any and all legal claims, disputes or controversies [between CVS and an employee, including] disputes regarding . . . harassment, discrimination, retaliation and termination arising under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act . . . and other ...

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