Macy's wins appeal argument that employee had given up her right to go to court
In the recent Sixth Circuit case Tillman v. Macy's, Inc., the appellate court ruled that Macy's could compel Tillman to arbitrate her claim of race discrimination. TIllman's employment was terminated in 2009, and Macy's argued that an arbitration program it adopted while Tillman was an employee was binding on Tillman and extinguished her other civil rights relating to due process and a civil trial.
Tillman was hired by a Macy's predecessor in 2001 and became a Macy's employee in 2005. Following the merger of Tillman's employers, Macy's rolled out a "Soluions inSTORE" program that included an Early Dispute Resolution Program Election Form. The mailing including this form told employees that they could "opt out" of the program, but that if they continued employment, they would be bound by its terms. Tillman claimed she never received the mailing and in any event she did not respond to it.Tillman did attend a mandatory video meeting where the program was described. The company argued that she also received a mailing similar to the 2006 mailing in 2007. Tillman claimed that she did not receive this mailing, either. Based on this program and Tillman's failure to notify the company that she "opted out" of the binding arbitration agreement (under which she waived her applicable civil rights), Macy's argued that she was bound by the terms of the agreement and had given up her right to sue the company.
The District Court disagreed with Macy's lawyers. The judge held that a limited review is required before compelling an unwilling party to arbitrate his or her denial of civil rights, and that Macy's had not proved a "knowing and voluntary waiver" of her constitutional rights. The Sixth Circuit disgreed and held that Tillman's lawsuit must be dismissed because she had received a valid offer of binding arbitration and had, by her course of action, assented to that offer.