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Sir v. Diagnostica Stago, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

September 28, 2017

RACHEL SIR, Plaintiff,
v.
DIAGNOSTICA STAGO, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Rachel Sir filed this action against Diagnostica Stago, Inc. (“Diagnostica Stago”) asserting claims for hostile work environment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). Before the Court is Diagnostica Stago's Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. No. 7) to the District of New Jersey on the basis of forum non conveniens. Plaintiff filed a response. (Doc. No. 12.) For the following reasons, this motion will be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Sir, a Tennessee resident, interviewed for a job with Diagnostica Stago in Parsippany, New Jersey on September 8, 2009, and began her employment with Diagnostica Stago on September 28, 2009. (Doc. No. 8-1, Townsend Declaration, at 1.) On September 29, 2009, Sir signed a Confidentiality Agreement in which she agreed not to disclose proprietary information and consented to personal jurisdiction in New Jersey for actions relating to that agreement. (Id. at 8.)

         Sir worked remotely in Diagnostica Stago's Southeast territory as a Telesales Representative. (Id. at 1.) She alleges that a coworker sexually harassed throughout her employment, and that she reported her coworker's behavior to human resources in April 2015. (Doc. No. 1 at 2-3.) That same month, Sir's manager put her on a 90-day performance improvement plan (“PIP”). (Id. at 3.) On July 7, 2015, Diagnostica Stago terminated Sir's employment. (Id.)

         II. ANALYSIS

         “For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Under section 1404(a), “district courts have ‘broad discretion' to determine when party ‘convenience' or ‘the interest of justice' make a transfer appropriate.” Reese v. CNH Am. LLC, 574 F.3d 315, 320 (6th Cir. 2009). The moving party has the burden of proving that “the relevant factors weigh strongly in favor of transfer.” Winnett v. Caterpillar Inc., No. 3:06-cv-00234, 2006 WL 1722434, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. June 20, 2006) (citing Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 645-46 (1964)).

         The first step when analyzing a motion to transfer is ensuring that the case originally “might have been brought” in the proposed alternative venue. Id. (citing Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 645-46). Here, parties do not dispute that venue is proper in this Court and the District of New Jersey.

         To determine the more convenient forum, the Court “should consider the private interests of the parties, including their convenience and the convenience of potential witnesses, as well as other public-interest concerns, such as systemic integrity and fairness, which come under the rubric of ‘interests of justice.'” Moore v. Rohm & Haas Co., 446 F.3d 643, 647 n.1 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing Moses v. Bus. Card Express, Inc., 929 F.2d 1131, 1137 (6th Cir. 1991)).

         A. Sir's Choice of Forum

         A plaintiff's choice of forum is given significant consideration when balancing these factors, particularly where the plaintiff brings claims under Title VII. Smith v. Kyphon, Inc., 578 F.Supp.2d 954, 961-62 (M.D. Tenn. 2008) (finding that Title VII's venue provision “embodies a public policy determination that Title VII plaintiffs should have a choice of where to bring suit”) (discussing Thomas v. Rehab. Servs. of Columbus, Inc., 45 F.Supp.2d 1375 (M.D. Ga. 1999)).

         Valid forum selection clauses are enforced through § 1404(a) transfer and typically given controlling weight. Atlantic Marine Const. v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 134 S.Ct. 568, 579 (2013). Diagnostica Stago concedes, however, that the forum selection clause in the Confidentiality Agreement does not govern here due to the nature of this action. (Doc. No. 8 at 7.) Diagnostica Stago nonetheless contends that the forum selection clause in the Confidentiality Agreement “evinces [Sir's] willingness to accept the requested jurisdiction and venue in Federal Court in New Jersey.” (Doc. No. 8 at 7.) The Court does not consider the forum selection clause in the Confidentiality Agreement to weigh in favor of transfer. The Court will give weight to Sir's choice of forum.

         B. Private Interest Factors

         “Private-interest factors include ‘relative ease of access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining attendance of willing, witnesses; and all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive.'” Hefferan v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc., 828 F.3d 488, 498 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947)). The number and location of non-party witnesses are also weighed more heavily than those of party witnesses. Dan&# ...


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