SYLVESTER J. BRITTO, JR., Plaintiff, Appellant,
PROSPECT CHARTERCARE SJHSRI, LLC; PROSPECT CHARTERCARE, LLC; SANDRA NASTARI; ADDY KANE, Defendants, Appellees.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
RHODE ISLAND [Hon. William E. Smith, U.S. District Judge]
Richard A. Sinapi, with whom Joshua D. Xavier and Sinapi Law
Associates, LTD. were on brief, for appellant.
Jillian S. Folger-Hartwell, with whom Alexsa A. Marino and
Littler Mendelson, P.C. were on brief, for appellees.
Howard, Chief Judge, Selya and Thompson, Circuit Judges.
THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.
asked to referee yet another arbitration controversy "in
which the parties are litigating whether or not they should
be litigating." Rejecting Sylvester Britto's claims
about the (supposed) unenforceability of the arbitration
agreement before us, we affirm the district judge's order
sending his case to arbitration.
facts are undisputed and easily stated. Britto is an
African-American. In March 1987, when he was 26, he began
working as an at-will employee for St. Joseph Health Services
of Rhode Island ("St. Joseph," to save keystrokes).
Decades later, in June 2014, Prospect Chartercare SJHSRI, LLC
and Prospect Chartercare, LLC (collectively called
"Prospect," following Britto's convention)
acquired St. Joseph. During the transition, Prospect gave
Britto an offer letter outlining the terms for his continued
at-will employment. Among its many provisions, the letter
noted that Prospect could "change the terms of [his]
employment, including compensation and benefits, at any
time." The letter also instructed him, as a condition of
his continued employment, to sign on a line in the letter
below the words "ACCEPTED AND AGREED TO" - which
would "acknowledge [his] acceptance of the above terms
of employment" - and to sign two "additional
documents" included with the letter, one of which was an
relevant here, the arbitration agreement said that it was
subject to the Federal Arbitration Act (the "FAA"
from now on). And the agreement declared that "[t]o the
fullest extent allowed by law, any controversy, claim or
dispute between [Britto] and [Prospect] . . . relating to or
arising out of [Britto's] employment or the cessation of
that employment will be submitted to final and binding
arbitration." Taking a belt-and-suspenders approach, the
agreement added that it "cover[ed] all
employment-related claims including, but not limited to,
claims for . . . violation of public policy, discrimination,
harassment, or any other employment-related claim under any
state or federal statutes or laws relating to an
employee's relationship with his/her employer." In
its penultimate sentence, the arbitration agreement said:
BY AGREEING TO THIS BINDING MUTUAL ARBITRATION PROVISION,
BOTH YOU AND THE COMPANY GIVE UP ALL RIGHTS TO A TRIAL BY
agreement's last sentence proclaimed:
BY SIGNING BELOW, I CONFIRM THAT I HAVE READ, UNDERSTAND AND
AGREE TO THIS ARBITRATION AGREEMENT.
employee handbook also emphasized that it "reserve[d]
the right to revise, modify, delete or add to any and all
policies, procedures, work rules or benefits stated in this
[h]andbook or in any other document, except for the policy of
at-will employment set forth herein." The handbook also
mentioned arbitration, explaining that "[a]ll employees
are required to sign an agreement to arbitrate their
employment disputes as a condition of employment."
with Prospect's instructions, Britto signed the pertinent
papers at the end of a five-minute meeting with his
supervisor. The supervisor never asked him to read the
documents, never discussed the significance of the
arbitration agreement, and never said he could have an
attorney look the documents over (Britto had no lawyer with
him at the meeting, by the way). The company's
vice-president of human resources also signed the arbitration
months later, in January 2015, Prospect fired Britto for
(supposedly) violating the company's policies concerning
workplace violence and harassment. He was 54 at the time.
Prospect replaced him (allegedly) with a younger,
willing to take this turn of events lying down, Britto filed
charges of age and race discrimination with the appropriate
state and federal civil-rights commissions. And after getting
right-to-sue letters from them, he filed this federal-court
lawsuit against the defendants named in our caption, alleging
that his discharge violated a mix of federal and state laws -
specifically, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29
U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq.; Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et
seq.; the Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act,
R.I. Gen Laws §§ 28-5-1, et seq.; and the
Rhode Island Civil Rights Act, R.I. Gen. Laws §§
42-112-1, et seq.