Second Circuit Holds No Substantive Right To Bring A Pattern-Or-Practice Title VII Claim

Reversing a denial of a motion to compel arbitration in Parisi et al. v. Goldman, Sachs & Co. et al., the Second Circuit held that a plaintiff does not have a substantive right to bring a pattern and practice claim under Title VII. The plaintiff at issue in Parisi alleged gender discrimination under Title VII, seeking to bring her claims on behalf of herself and a putative class of female Goldman Sachs employees. During her employment, the plaintiff signed a broad arbitration agreement, which covered her discrimination claims and did not contain a provision providing for class-wide arbitration. 

Goldman Sachs moved to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s claim on an individual basis, arguing under the Supreme Court’s holding in Stolt-Nielsen that the company cannot be compelled to arbitrate on a class-wide basis where the arbitration agreement is silent on the issue. The district court denied Goldman Sachs’ motion on the ground that it would make it impossible for the plaintiff to arbitrate a pattern-or-practice claim, which the court deemed to effectively operate as a waiver of a substantive right under Title VII.

On appeal, the Second Circuit reversed the district court’s decision. The court held that there is no substantive right to pursue a pattern-or-practice claim under Title VII. Rather, the court confirmed that pattern-or-practice is simply a method of proof. Accordingly, the Second Circuit saw no reason to deviate from the liberal federal policy in favor of arbitration and reversed the district court’s ruling. This ruling is a welcome development for employers, which have faced roadblocks in enforcing arbitration agreements from district courts within the Second Circuit.