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Booker v. Beauty Express Salons, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

February 15, 2018

SHERITA BOOKER PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
BEAUTY EXPRESS SALONS, INC., ET AL. DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-16-867751

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Lewis A. Zipkin Andrea J. Latessa In Son J. Loving Zipkin Whiting Co., L.P.A.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES James H. Grove R. Christopher Yingling Nicola Gudbranson & Cooper Republic Building, Amy Berman Hamilton.

          BEFORE: Jones, J., Keough, P.J., and Celebrezze, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          LARRY A. JONES, SR., J.

         {¶1} In this appeal, plaintiff-appellant Sherita Booker ("Booker") challenges the trial court's January 13, 2017 judgment that granted the motion to stay the case pending arbitration that was filed by defendants-appellees Beauty Express Salons, Inc. and Leslie Pope ("Pope"). For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         Procedural Background

         {¶2} Booker, an African-American, filed this action in 2016, after her June 2015 termination as a hair stylist for Beauty Express Salons ("Beauty Express"). At all relevant times, Pope was the store manager at the salon; she supervised Booker and terminated her employment.

         {¶3} Booker's complaint set forth claims for relief based on the following: (1) race discrimination-disparate treatment; (2) race discrimination-hostile work environment; (3) retaliation; (4) negligent retention and supervision; and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         {¶4} Beauty Express filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative to stay pending arbitration. Attached to its motion was an arbitration agreement purportedly signed by Booker. Booker opposed the motion, contending that she had "no specific or recollection of the existence of the arbitration agreement, let alone reviewing or signing" it, and contended that the trial court had venue and subject-matter jurisdiction over her claims. According to Booker, "arbitration is not appropriate."

         {¶5} Booker contended that Beauty Express failed to authenticate the purported agreement it attached to its motion, as required by Evid.R. 901(A). She further contended that, even if the agreement were authenticated, her intentional infliction of emotional distress claim did not fall within the scope of the agreement and, therefore, the trial court had jurisdiction over that claim.

         {¶6} Additionally, Booker claimed that the arbitration agreement was both substantively and procedurally unconscionable. She also contended that because Pope did not sign the agreement, her claims against Pope were not subject to the agreement.

         {¶7} In response to Booker's claim about the authenticity of the agreement it submitted, Beauty Express filed an affidavit of Joni Jacobson ("Jacobson"), the senior vice president for human resources for Beauty Express. Jacobson averred that every new employee is required to fill out certain documents, including an "employment agreement" and an "arbitration agreement."

         {¶8} According to Jacobson, "[e]xecution of the employment agreement and the arbitration agreement by every applicant is a condition of employment. Those who do not complete the agreements cannot be hired." Jacobson also averred that the arbitration agreement Booker signed had been maintained in her personnel file, as was the company's customary business practice, and that the signature on the ...


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