United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
DKT. # 8
B. LEIGHTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Comcast
Corporation's Motion to Compel Arbitration. Dkt. # 8. The
underlying case involves allegations of sexual harassment and
retaliation at the workplace. Comcast argue that Plaintiff
Corrie Robbins should be compelled to arbitrate this dispute
consistent with the company's alternative dispute
resolution program. In opposition, Robbins claims that she
never agreed to be bound by an arbitration agreement.
following reasons, DENIES Comcast's Motion.
began working at Comcast in 1999. She alleges that in 2017
she began experiencing sexual harassment at work. After some
time, she managed to get transferred to a different team and
then started working from home. However, Comcast later
discharged Robbins on August 21, 2018. She filed the current
lawsuit asserting discrimination-related claims on June 12,
2019, in state court. Defendants removed the case to federal
court on July 1. They then filed the current Motion to Compel
Arbitration, claiming that Robbins opted to participate in
Comcast's alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program
known as “Comcast Solutions.”
Solutions was rolled out in 2013 and entails three steps for
resolving disputes. The first step is an informal
“review/facilitation” process and the second step
is mediation. Dkt. # 9, Ex. B, at 4-6. If both of these fail,
the employee may request that the parties proceed to step
three, which is binding arbitration. Id. at 6. Under
the program, the parties mutually select an arbitrator from a
professional dispute resolution organization. Id.
The parties are allowed some limited discovery and may obtain
their own legal representation. Id. at 6-7. Comcast
pays for the arbitration hearing and reimburses the employee
for up to $1, 500 of their legal fees, regardless of the
outcome. Id. at 7. However, all results are kept
confidential. Id. The program covers all
“claims that involve an allegation that the employee
personally has been harmed or damaged by an unlawful action
taken by the Company or its representatives related to the
employment relationship.” Dkt. # 9, Ex. C, at 3.
took several steps to inform existing employees of its new
ADR program. First, Comcast mailed a cover letter and
brochure to all employees at their address of record on
September 27, 2013. Dkt. # 9 at 2. The cover letter informed
employees that Comcast Solutions was an “additional
resource” offering a “faster, less expensive, and
impartial option for addressing concerns of a legal nature
affecting your employment.” Dkt. # 9, Ex. D. In bold,
the letter states, “Your Action Required: . . . If you
prefer not to participate in the program, all you need to do
is complete an “Opt Out” form . . . and return it
no later than November 8, 2013.” Id. The
brochure is a seven-page document that broadly describes the
Comcast Solution's 3-step approach. Dkt. # 9, Ex. A.
However, it only mentions that the program involves waiving
access to the judicial system in regular-sized text on the
last few pages. Id. at 5-6.
Comcast sent out a mass email to employees on October 16,
2013, with the subject line “Comcast Solutions.”
Dkt. # 9 at 3. The email began by stating, “Information
regarding a new program called Comcast Solutions was recently
mailed to your home address” and provided a link to a
website with the program brochure. Dkt. # 9, Ex. F. The email
went on to tell employees that “[t]he consideration
period for participation in the Comcast Solutions Program
ends on Friday, November 8, 2013. . . . [I]f you do not wish
to participate in the program, you will need to complete and
return an ‘opt out' form . . . by no later than
November 8, 2013, if you have not already done so.”
every year Comcast has employees acknowledge the
company's Code of Conduct and Employee Handbook. Dkt. #
21 at 2. The acknowledgements form for 2017 and 2018
specifically state the following:
Unless I am not participating in Comcast Solutions because I
(i) previously "opted out" of the program during
the program roll out period, or (ii) am covered by a
collective bargaining agreement or an authorized employment
agreement which does not include participation in Comcast
Solutions, I understand that the Comcast Solutions Program is
a mutually-binding contract between me and Comcast and that
my continued employment with Comcast is confirmation that I
am bound by the terms of the Comcast Solutions Program.
Further information about the Comcast Solutions Program -
including the Program Guide, Frequently Asked Questions, and
various Program forms (including the Initial Filing form) --
is available for me to review on ComcastNow.
Dkt. # 21, Ex. A, at 5, 7. The acknowledgements also state,
“I understand that if I click ‘I do not
acknowledge' and disclose an exception below, I . . . am
still bound by the Comcast Solutions policy.”
Id. . at 6, 8.
presents evidence that it mailed the September 27 cover
letter and brochure to Robbins at her address of record,
which was 1214 179th St. Ct. E, Spanaway, WA. Dkt. # 9, Ex.
E. The letter was not returned as undeliverable. Dkt. # 9 at
3. Comcast also shows that the October 16 email was sent to
Robbins at her work email address and was opened.
Id. Comcast's email system allows the company to
require a recipient to verify that they read a particular
email, and Robbins provided such verification for the Comcast
Solutions email. Dkt. # 9, Ex. G. There is also evidence that
Robbins acknowledged Comcast's Code of Conduct and
Employee Handbook for the years 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018.
Dkt. # 21, Ex. A. Comcast has no record of Robbins opting out
of its ADR program. Dkt. # 9 at 3.
however, disputes that she received and viewed the Comcast
Solutions letter and email. In her sworn declaration, Robbins
states that she owned the 1214 179th St. property in 2013 but
had moved to a different address a few minutes away in 2004.
Dkt. # 19 at 3. Comcast's records show that Robbins did
not update her employee information to reflect this new home
address until 2017. Dkt. # 21 at 2. Robbins also states that
she never opened any email regarding Comcast Solutions. Dkt.
# 19 at 2. She explains that she received over 100 emails per
day while working for Comcast and claims that, although she
may have technically opened the email by scrolling through
subject lines on her screen, she did not read its contents or