2d Circuit: Employment Agreement’s Venue Selection Clause Trumps Title VII’s Venue Provision

From DeBello v. VolumeCocomo Apparel, Inc., 2017 WL 6616704, at *3 (C.A.2 (N.Y.), 2017):

We conclude … that in the circumstances here, DeBello’s public policy argument does not overcome the presumption that “a valid forum-selection clause [should be] given controlling weight in all but the most exceptional cases.” Atl. Marine, 134 S.Ct. at 581 (alteration in original) (quoting Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 33, 108 S.Ct. 2239, 101 L.Ed.2d 22 (1988) (Kennedy, J., concurring)). This is not an exceptional case. In Martinez, we upheld a forum selection clause designating England as the exclusive forum for the plaintiff’s claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, despite the Act’s incorporation of Title VII’s special venue provision and the “Act’s identification of a strong federal interest in combatting [sic] discrimination based on disability.” 740 F.3d at 229. We are not persuaded here that the freely-bargained forum selection clause is unenforceable based solely on its conflict with a policy preference reflected in Title VII’s special venue provision. Although DeBello is deprived of his choice of venue, he retains his right to litigate his discrimination claims. Cf. Desiderio v. Nat’l Ass’n of Sec. Dealers, Inc., 191 F.3d 198, 205 (2d Cir. 1999) (compulsory arbitration clauses enforceable for Title VII claims). Moreover, DeBello, an experienced professional who was hired for an executive position at a relatively high salary, willingly entered into his employment agreement knowing it contained a forum selection clause, and he did so after he had the opportunity to consult with an attorney and make changes to the Agreement. VolumeCocomo is headquartered in Los Angeles and DeBello regularly interacted with VolumeCocomo’s California-based employees.