Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Laterra v. GE Betz, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 14, 2017

RICCI LATERRA, Plaintiff
v.
GE BETZ, INC., and GENERAL ELECTRIC, CO., Defendants

          RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS OR STAY AND COMPEL ARBITRATION

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Ricci 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 employee.

         For the reasons that follow, this motion is DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Defendants' motion concerns the applicability of an arbitration agreement. The Court sets forth only those facts that are relevant to this inquiry.

         Ricci 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.[1] 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.

         Defendants 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 amendments.

         Kozak 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.

         Any 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.

         Thirty 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.

         Defendants 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.

         Daley 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.

         Defendants 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.

         According 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.