GLAD represented Kerry Considine in a discrimination suit against her employer, Brookdale Senior Living, after Brookdale denied her the right to put her wife, Renee, onto her employer-provided health plan. Kerry’s claim charged that Brookdale discriminated against her on the basis of her sex, in violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act.

Kerry filed her claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and shortly thereafter Brookdale changed its policy and decided to extend health insurance benefits to both same-sex and different-sex spouses.  Subsequently, the EEOC made an initial determination that there was “reasonable cause to believe that the Respondent [Brookdale] has discriminated against the Charging Party [Kerry] on account of her sex.”  Kerry then received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC.

Following the filing of our complaint in the federal district court in Connecticut, it came to light that Kerry had, as a condition of her employment, signed a mandatory arbitration agreement.  Brookdale moved to compel our case to arbitration, and the US District Court judge agreed, ruling that an arbitrator had to determine whether Kerry’s claims were subject to arbitration.

In arbitration, Kerry argued that her claims for declaratory and injunctive relief should not be in arbitration and should return to federal court based upon an express exclusion in the arbitration agreement.  Brookdale asserted that, at best, the agreement was ambiguous and, therefore, must be interpreted to favor arbitration.  On the merits, Brookdale also argued that Kerry had no current claim because she was now receiving the benefits that previously were denied. The arbitrator has now ruled that Kerry’s claim is subject to arbitration, and that Kerry’s claim on the merits should be dismissed in arbitration because it was not ripe (meaning essentially that she has no current, live controversy with Brookdale because she is receiving the benefits).

We do not believe the arbitrator’s ruling is correct on any point, but the arbitrator’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed.