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Raglani v. Ripken Professional Baseball, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 16, 2013

JENNA RAGLANI
v.
RIPKEN PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL, d/b/a ABERDEEN IRONBIRDS

Page 518

For Jenna Raglani, Plaintiff: David E Schreiber, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of David E Schreiber, Bethesda, MD.

For Ripken Professional Baseball, LLC, Defendant: Kevin C McCormick, LEAD ATTORNEY, Whiteford Taylor and Preston LLP, Baltimore, MD.

OPINION

Catherine C. Blake, United States District Judge.

Page 519

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Jenna Raglani filed this action against her former employer, defendant Ripken Professional Baseball (" RPB" ), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Maryland state law. Raglani alleges that she was discriminated against and terminated because of her gender. RPB has filed a motion to dismiss or to stay and compel arbitration, based on an arbitration agreement with Raglani. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

In July 2006, Raglani began working for RPB as an Account Representative. (Complaint ¶ 10). Raglani was successful in her position and was promoted to Assistant General Manager of Ticket Sales in October 2010. ( Id. ¶ 11). In 2011, Raglani entered into a romantic relationship with a subordinate employee. ( Id. ¶ 18). She alleges that this was not unusual, and that several other RPB employees had engaged in sexual relationships with subordinates, despite an official policy against such conduct. ( See id. ¶ ¶ 13-18). After conducting an investigation, RPB terminated Raglani on July 6, 2011, citing her relationship and RPB's apparent determination that she had instructed others to lie about the relationship. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 27-32). Raglani alleges that she was treated differently from her male colleagues who engaged in similar behavior with subordinates. ( Id. ¶ 45). She filed a claim with the EEOC a few months after her termination and received a right to sue letter on October 1, 2012. ( Id. ¶ 4). Raglani subsequently filed this action alleging unlawful gender discrimination, negligence, wrongful discharge, and breach of contract.

When Raglani joined RPB, she signed a Problem Support Policy (" PSP" ) Acknowledgement and Agreement, which stated it was " a valid and binding legal obligation . . . in consideration of [her] hiring for employment or [her] continued employment . . . " (Def.'s Mot, Ex. A.1, ECF No. 4-3). The PSP stated it was a " procedure" to be used by " [a]nyone who feels they have a problem that requires management's attention . . . ." (Def.'s Mot., Ex. A.2 (" PSP" ), ECF No. 4-4, at 1). A section of the PSP entitled " Policy Application" explains that the PSP " applies to all applicants and all team members of [RPB]" and that the " policy is meant to deal with nearly all problems encountered by team members except where there is another specific process in place to resolve problems (i.e., unemployment claims and benefit plan disputes)." (PSP at 4). That section also states that " [a]ll steps in the process will be enforced except where prohibited by State law" and that " this policy do[es] not necessarily create any entitlement to progressive discipline or termination only for cause. The employment relationship is 'At Will' . . ." ( Id. ).

If an employee " team member" is not satisfied that their " problem" has been resolved at two lower levels of procedures (that include steps for seeking assistance

Page 520

up the management chain), the PSP's " Level III" is entitled " Impartial Problem Resolution" and states:

If the problem involves a legally protected right such as protection against age, race, or sex discrimination and is not resolved internally . . . it may be appealed to Level III. Level III involves an impartial external third party and has mediation as the first step. If the problem cannot be mediated satisfactorily by both parties, the final resolution will be at the binding arbitration step.

(PSP at 2-3). The agreement then calls for mediation, stating:

Mediation is a non-binding step in which the problem is presented to a neutral third party. If a team member cannot resolve their problem internally . . . they must file a formal request for mediation with Human Resources. Mediation is a mandatory step before arbitration. Human Resources will provide a list of qualified Mediators from which the team member may select one. . . .

(PSP at 3). The " binding arbitration" provision in the PSP then states, in its entirety:

If the problem cannot be resolved at the mediation step, the final step in the PSP is binding arbitration. Human Resources will provide a list of qualified Arbitrators upon a formal request to move to this step. A date will be set by the Arbitrator and both parties must appear on this date. The rules of the arbitration will be subject to the Federal Arbitration Act and agreed to by both parties. An exchange of information (" discovery" ) occurs according to requests by the Arbitrator. Discovery may be conducted with all three parties of Ripken Baseball at Level II: the immediate Supervisor, the Direct Report to the COO and the COO. Ripken Baseball will assume responsibility for the costs of the Arbitrator. If the team member decides to have their attorney ...

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