United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS OR STAY AND COMPEL
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Laterra (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against
GE Betz, Inc. and General Electric Company (collectively,
“Defendants”), who jointly employed Mr. Laterra
before his employment ended in April 2015. Mr. Laterra claims
that Defendants violated the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§
621-634, et seq., and the Connecticut Fair
Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 46a-58, et seq., by discriminating
against him on the basis of his age. Defendants have moved to
dismiss the Complaint or stay proceedings and compel
arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act
(“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., arguing that
Mr. Laterra agreed to participate in Defendants'
alternative dispute resolution program when he was an
reasons that follow, this motion is DENIED.
motion concerns the applicability of an arbitration
agreement. The Court sets forth only those facts that are
relevant to this inquiry.
Laterra lives in Niantic, Connecticut and is sixty-one years
old. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 2. Defendant General Electric
Company (“GE”) is a corporation licensed to
conduct business in the State of Connecticut and located in
Fairfield, CT. Id. at ¶ 4. Defendant GE
Betz, Inc. (“GE Betz”), a subsidiary of GE, is a
corporation duly licensed to conduct business in the State of
Connecticut with a corporate headquarters in Trevose, PA.
Id. at ¶ 3. Mr. Laterra alleges that he worked
for both Defendants as a Field Service Representative from
2005 until April 2015, when Defendants ended his employment.
Id. at ¶ 25. Mr. Laterra alleges that his
managers commended his “valued” and
“successful” performance until 2013, when his
supervisor, Mr. Darrin Conary, began to make
“repeated” and “disparaging” comments
about his age. Id. at ¶¶ 13-19. This
treatment allegedly continued until April 2015, when
Defendants fired him and replaced him with a much younger and
less qualified employee. Id. at ¶¶ 20-24.
In addition to challenging his termination, Mr. Laterra
specifically alleges that “towards the end of [his]
employment, Defendant[s] began subjecting Plaintiff to a
hostile work environment.” Id. at ¶ 24.
attach the Declaration of Jennifer Kozak. Ms. Kozak is an
Executive Human Resources Business Partner for GE Betz, and
in 2010 she worked as an “Executive Human Resources
Manager for GE's Global Supply Chain.” See
Declaration of Jennifer Kozak (“Kozak Decl. II”)
at ¶ 2, Ex. A to Reply, ECF No. 25. Through Ms. Kozak,
Defendants assert that, for the past seventeen years, they
have “managed most United States employment disputes
through Alternative Dispute Resolution [(“ADR”)]
procedures.” Declaration of Jennifer Kozak
(“Kozak Decl. I”) at ¶ 4, Ex. to Mot. to
Dismiss, ECF No 15-2. In 2009, Defendants assert, “GE
began moving to a common ADR program called Solutions.”
Id. at 5. Defendants further claim that
[i]n 2010, GE amended its Solutions ADR procedure to
incorporate several legislative, judicial and agency
developments concerning the content of alternative dispute
programs with mandatory arbitration provisions. Prior to
implementing the 2010 amendments, GE sent all impacted
employees an email with a link to a My Learning training
course where they could learn more about ADR and the 2010
amendments. The My Learning training explained the
Decl. I, 4. The amendments stated that “[c]overed
employees and the Company are not allowed to litigate a
Covered Claim in any court.” 2010 Solutions ADR
Procedure, Ex. B to Kozak Decl., at II.M (“Solutions
Procedure”). It defined “Covered Claims [to]
include all claims that arise out of or are related to an
employee's employment or cessation of employment . . .
where a court in the jurisdiction in question would otherwise
have the authority to hear and resolve the claim under any
federal, state or local municipal or county statute,
regulation or common law.” Id. at II.K. The
Procedure expressly included “employment discrimination
and harassment claims, based on, for example[, ] age, ”
as “covered claims.” Id. It also stated
that “[t]his Agreement shall be construed, interpreted
and applied in accordance with the law of the State of New
York, without regard to choice of law principles.”
Id. at II.W.
employee who consented to the Solutions Procedure would be
bound to raise any “covered claim” using
Defendants' dispute resolution procedures. Solutions
Procedure, II.K. The Solutions Procedure required covered
employees to engage in several levels of dispute resolution
and mediation procedures before proceeding to arbitration.
Id. In arbitration, employees and the Company agreed
to an “expedited” discovery process in which
parties could exchange discovery for ninety days.
Id. at II.D.7.
days later, a jointly-selected arbitrator would proceed over
a hearing on the employee's claims. Id. at
II.D.11. The Procedure generally limited the length of the
hearing to two eight-hour days and the number of witnesses
that the employee could call to testify, including experts,
to five. Id. at III.D.16. Employees who agreed to be
bound by the Procedure would also completely waive their
right to a jury trial. Id. at II.M. Finally, covered
employees would be bound by the Procedure's choice of law
provision, Id. at II.W, would be unable to
participate in any class action against Defendants,
id. at II.M, and were required to keep the dispute
resolution process “strictly private and
confidential.” Id. at III.D.6.
have attached as an exhibit a copy of a message signed by
Sharon Daley, Vice President of Human Resources of GE Energy.
See Daley Letter (undated), Ex. A to Kozak Decl. I.
Defendants claim that all employees received this message by
e-mail in 2010. See Kozak Decl., 6. Ms. Daley's
letter described the 2010 amendments:
Since DRP and Solutions were introduced, there have been
several legislative, judicial and agency developments
regarding the content of alternative dispute programs with
mandatory arbitration provisions. These developments have led
us to amend DRP and Solutions to ensure they continue to
provide an effective and fair means of resolving workplace
disputes early, quickly, and with limited disruption to
employees' lives and the workplace.
Letter. The letter also included a link that employees could
access “for an explanation of ADR and these
amendments.” Id. The link led to an online
training program called MyLearning ADR Training
(“MyLearning Training”). Id.; Kozak
Decl. I, ¶ 4.
claim that Mr. Laterra completed the MyLearning Training
concerning the 2010 Solutions Procedure Amendments on
December 30, 2010. Kozak Decl. I, ¶ 7. Defendants attach
a copy of a “Certificate of Completion” generated
by Mr. Laterra as an exhibit to Ms. Kozak's Declaration.
They further assert that, “in completing the My
Learning training, Mr. Laterra acknowledged that he was
covered by the Solutions ADR Procedure.” Kozak Decl. I,
¶ 7; Certificate of Completion, Ex. C to Kozak Decl. I.
to Ms. Kozak, “[i]n order to access the web-based
MyLearning Training concerning the 2010 Solutions Procedure
amendments, Mr. Laterra was required to login electronically
using his employee identification number and his
self-designated password.” Kozak Decl. II, ¶¶
5-6. Ms. Kozak adds that the computer program would not have
generated a certificate for Mr. Laterra unless he
“personally accessed” the MyLearning Training
site with his employee designation number and personal
password. Id. at ¶ 6 (“The Certificate of
Completion certifying that Mr. Laterra successfully completed
the 2010 Solutions Procedure amendments training would only
have been generated by the MyLearning Training module if Mr.
Laterra had personally accessed the MyLearning Training
utilizing his employee identification number and his
self-designated password and then proceeded to successfully
complete the training module concerning the 2010 Solutions
Procedure amendments.”). The Certificate includes one
sentence of text, stating that Mr. Laterra ...