Arbitration Compelled in Sexual Harassment/Assault Case Against ABM

In Mancilla v. ABM Industries, Inc., 2020 WL 4432122(S.D.N.Y. July 29, 2020), a sexual harassment/assault case, the court granted defendants’ motion to compel arbitration.

The facts of this case, as alleged, are horrific:

Plaintiff reported to work on the night of September 17, 2018, and was informed that her ABM supervisor that night would be Defendant Eddie Sanders. Plaintiff had not previously been supervised by Sanders — indeed, until then she had never met him. Plaintiff did the usual janitorial work required of her until approximately 5:00 a.m. on September 18, 2019, when Sanders approached her and engaged her in conversation as she continued her work. During the conversation, Sanders suggested to Plaintiff that she should have sex with him.

After Plaintiff refused, Sanders directed Plaintiff to follow him to an area where he said cleaning work was required. Plaintiff did as directed and followed Sanders into a room with no windows and no exit except the door through which they had entered. At that point, Sanders, a very large man, closed the door and stood between Plaintiff and the door, demanding that she submit to him. Sanders proceeded to rape her; she begged him to stop. Sanders then left Plaintiff alone in the room. [Citations omitted.]

As to defendants’ motion, the court explained, inter alia:

Given its holistic review of the record — which included matching up the Rawlins Declaration and the Mancilla Declaration — the Court finds that the ABM Defendants have satisfied their burden to show that Plaintiff agreed to the Mutual Arbitration Agreement. Plaintiff concedes that when she reported for work at ABM, she “was instructed to go online and complete the employment process,” and that she “followed the online instructions to complete and process and [ ] signed documents electronically where [she] was instructed to do so.” Further, she does not dispute that she signed the Employee Acknowledgement. And while she does contend that “she does not recall seeing” the Mutual Arbitration Agreement, this is insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the parties entered into an arbitration agreement. [Citations omitted.]

The court also held that the agreement was not “unconscionable,” rejecting plaintiff’s arguments based on the “massive disparity in bargaining power between her and ABM” and “the relative speed with which Plaintiff was both hired and onboarded,” finding that the latter fact “does not establish that ABM used deceptive or high-pressured tactics to induce her to sign the agreement.”

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