District court rules fired Petsmart employee must pursue arbitration

By Chandra Lye | Oct 30, 2018


PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge has granted a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration for Petsmart after a former employee accused the company of firing her due to pregnancy. 

Annette Riveria filed a complaint against the company, claiming it refused to lighten her duties at work to accommodate her pregnancy. She began working as a vet assistant in June 2015, and as part of her employment, she signed an arbitration agreement. 

When Riveria was four months pregnant, she began to request different job duties that would not require her to handle or restrain animals as much.

“Plaintiff provided Defendant with a note from her midwife stating that Plaintiff could not lift more than 25 pounds and should be assigned to desk duty to allow Plaintiff to sit down more frequently,” according to the court filing

Riveria was fired shortly after for “making too many mistakes,” the court decision stated. 

“Defendant contends that the Agreement to arbitrate employment-related disputes is valid, and that Plaintiff’s claims fall within the scope of the Agreement,” the court documents stated. 

However, Riveria disagreed.

“Plaintiff contends that the Agreement is invalid because it lacks 'mutuality of consideration' and is an adhesion contract; the Agreement is unenforceable because it is ambiguous and unclear as to whether attorneys’ fees and costs, damages available to Title VII plaintiffs, are recoverable at arbitration; and Plaintiff’s pregnancy discrimination claim does not fall within the scope of the Agreement,” the Oct. 17 court filing stated. 

“However, the Agreement is broad in scope, as it does not limit the claims covered to those expressly identified. Rather, the Agreement requires the parties to arbitrate 'any employment related claim under federal, state, or local law,' which 'includes, but is not limited to” claims under several employment-related statutes.'"

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