McAllister v. Smith Barney/Citigroup Global Markets Inc et al
ORDER denying 109 Motion for Reconsideration for the reasons set forth in the attached decision. Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 07/27/2017. (Lee, E.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
ANGELA D. MCALLISTER,
GLOBAL MARKETS INC.;
CITIGROUP INC.; PATRICIA
BALENZENTIS; ROBERT EAST;
KRISTEN KING; MICHELLE GREEN; :
ANDREW SMITH; ANDREW GRILLO; :
BRAD BARBER; DANA SPERLING; :
CITIGROUP GLOBAL MARKETS INC. :
CASE NO. 3:10-cv-01101-VLB
July 27, 2017
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION [DKT. 109]
This matter is before the Court on Motion for Reconsideration filed by
Plaintiff Angela D. McAllister (“Plaintiff” or “McAllister”) on December 19, 2016.
[Dkt. 109 (Mot. Reconsideration)]. Defendants filed their Opposition, see [Dkt. 110
(Opp’n Mot. Reconsideration)], to which Plaintiff did not submit a Reply, see D.
Conn. L. R. 7(d) (“Reply memoranda are not required and the absence of a reply
memorandum will not prejudice the moving party.”). For the foregoing reasons,
the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration.
Consideration of this motion requires a review of the procedural history.
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initiated this action with a complaint filed in this
Court on July 14, 2010. See [Dkt. 1 (Mot. in forma pauperis); Dkt. 2 (Compl.)]. The
original complaint alleged claims of employment discrimination under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act of 1967 (the “ADEA”) on the grounds of race, color, sex, and age
arising from her termination of employment on November 10, 2008. See [Dkt. 2].
Plaintiff amended the complaint nine days later on July 23, 2010, seeking in
addition “compensatory and punitive” damages but otherwise leaving the
complaint nearly identical. Several months later Plaintiff filed an employment
discrimination case in Connecticut Superior Court against the company
Defendants in this case, which Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. (“CGMI”) removed
to federal court. See McAllister, et al. v. Smith Barney/Citigroup Global Markets,
Inc., et al. (“McAllister II”), No. 3:10-cv-1696-CFD, ECF No. 1. On May 23, 2011,
McAllister II was consolidated with this case.
Defendants filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Litigation on
November 10, 2010, see [Dkts. 15 (Mot. Compel McAllister I) and 26 (Mot. Compel
McAllister II)], which the Court denied without prejudice to refiling with additional
evidence about the nature of Plaintiff’s employment including whether she was
an at-will employee and had a legitimate expectation she could bring her claims
in federal court. See [Dkt. 33 (Order on Mot. Compel)]. Defendants subsequently
filed a renewed Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Litigation on August 3,
2011. See [Dkt. 35 (Renewed Mot. Compel)]. The Court denied this motion on the
basis that Defendants did not provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate
Plaintiff’s employment was at-will.
See [Dkt. 46 (Order on Renewed Mot.
Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal in accordance with the
Federal Arbitration Act.
Thereafter, the Second Circuit concluded that, under
Connecticut law, whether a person is an at-will employee is a conclusion of law,
and it remanded the case for this Court to solicit competent evidence as to
whether Plaintiff had an employment contract with the Defendants and, if so,
Barney/Citigroup Global Mkts. Inc., 504 F. App’x 55, 56 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing
Stevenson Lumber Co.-Suffield, Inc. v. Chase Assocs., Inc., 932 8 A.2d 401, 40809 (Conn. 2007).
On remand and further factual development, this Court found McAllister
was an at-will employee subject to the mandatory arbitration provision as
specified in Defendants’ employee handbook. See [Dkt. 105 (Mem. Decision on
Mot. Compel) at 10]. This Court then granted the Defendants’ Motion to Compel
arbitration, id. at 17-18, which was affirmed by the Court of appeals two years ago
on May 26, 2015, see [Dkt. No. 108 (2d Cir. Mandate)].
More than a year and one half after the appellate court affirmed this court's
order to arbitrate the dispute, on December 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion for
Reconsideration in support of which Plaintiff submitted a memorandum of law
and exhibits. See [Dkt. 109].
Included among the exhibits are the arbitration
award, documents Plaintiff filed in the Connecticut Superior Court seeking to
vacate the arbitration award, and an order vacating the award without prejudice.
See [Dkt. 109-1 (Mot. Reconsideration Exs.)]. In her motion, Plaintiff requests the
Court to reverse the decision to compel arbitration because she disagrees with
the manner in which the arbitration proceedings took place, and asks the Court to
set aside its previous judgment and permit her to recover damages in federal
court. See [Dkt. 109 at 2 of PDF]. Plaintiff presents no evidence that she has
exhausted the arbitration proceedings by appeal or otherwise. On the contrary,
Defendants have alerted the Court that McAllister’s the case involving motion to
vacate the arbitration award is pending.
See McAllister v. Citigroup Global
Markets, Inc., Docket No. FBT-CV16-5032142-S (“Superior Court Action”).1
Plaintiff also submitted a letter from the State of Connecticut Commission
on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”), dated September 9, 2010,
regarding an enclosed draft summary of Reasonable Cause Finding. See id. at 37
of PDF. Plaintiff did not enclose the draft summary. She merely contends in her
Motion for Reconsideration that “the information provided to the court was
‘incomplete’ wherein the plaintiff did not attach the copy of [the] CCHRO letter
stating that the draft summary of REASONABLE CAUSE was final.” [Dkt. 109 at 2
of PDF]. The letter does not indicate this fact, however, as it states the following:
Transmitted herewith is a draft summary of Reasonable Cause
Finding prepared by the investigator assigned to your complaint. I
have reviewed it preliminarily and concur with it. However, prior to
taking final action, I am providing you with an opportunity to
comment. You have fifteen calendar (15) days from the date of this
letter to provide me with any written comments concerning the
investigator’s proposed findings. During this period you may also
The Court reviewed the publicly filed docket information. Defendants filed a
Motion to Open or Set Aside Judgment and/or Reargue Decision Granting
Application to Vacate Arbitration Award, which essentially challenges the
Superior Court’s decision to vacate the arbitration award without prejudice.
Defendants explained, “Although no reason is given, it is presumed that the
application was granted due to CGMI’s failure to appear in this matter until
December 13, 2016. As stated above, counsel was not aware of this proceeding
until December 8, 2016. This was due to an accident and/or mistake at CGMI’s
offices in New York City by which notice of this proceeding was misplaced and
never forwarded to arbitration counsel.” See Superior Court Action, Dkt. 109.00
(Mot. Open J.) at 2, available at:
o=11549409. The Superior Court granted the Motion, and as such the case is
review the materials in the case file and reference these in your
Unless I hear from you within this period, the
investigation will be closed and the Commission shall proceed with
its processing of the complaint. lf you do submit written comments,
they will be reviewed and considered. However, if your comments do
not rebut the substance of the investigator's summary or present
new evidence that requires further investigation, the investigator's
draft summary will be finalized.
[Dkt. 109-1 at 37 of PDF (emphasis in original)]. Plaintiff does not explain how
this document demonstrates the finality of the draft summary given that the
express language in the letter provides Plaintiff with the opportunity to submit
comments before the investigation closes. The Court is left to assume the draft
summary became final at a later date because Plaintiff did not comply with the
request from the letter. Irrespective, a reasonable cause finding is by definition
Reconsideration will generally only be granted when a party can point to
“an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the
need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Virgin Atl. Airways,
Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992) (quoting 18 C.
Wright, A. Miller & E. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure § 4478 at 790). As
such, reconsideration should be granted only when a “party can point to
controlling decisions or data that the court overlookedCmatters, in other words,
that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court.”
Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). This Court will not
grant a motion to reconsider “where the moving party seeks solely to relitigate an
issue already decided,” id., or where the moving party seeks “to plug gaps in an
original argument or to argue in the alternative once a decision has been made,”
Horsehead Res. Dev. Co., Inc. v. B.U.S. Envtl. Serv., Inc., 928 F. Supp. 287, 289
(S.D.N.Y. 1996) (citations omitted).
See Virgin Atl. Airways, 956 F.2d at 1255
(noting that “where litigants have once battled for the court’s decision, they
should neither be required, nor without good reason permitted, to battle for it
again”) (quoting Zdanok v. Glidden Co., 327 F.2d 944, 953 (2d Cir. 1964)).
Ultimately, however, the question is a discretionary one and the Court is not
limited in its ability to reconsider its own decisions prior to final judgment. See
Virgin Atl., 956 F.2d at 1255.
As a preliminary matter, Plaintiff has failed to present any controlling law or
relevant facts affecting this Court’s decision that she was an at-will employee
who was obligated by Defendants’ employee handbook to arbitrate the subject
employment disputes. Moreover, while Plaintiff does present “new evidence” it it
does not warrant reconsideration for two reasons. First, it does not establish that
she was not an at-will employee and not subject to binding arbitration. Contrary
to Plaintiff’s contention, the CHRO letter indicates the draft summary was not
final at the time the letter was issued.
Even if it were, Plaintiff does not
demonstrate how that would change the Court’s initial findings. Second, Plaintiff
also fails to explain why she could not have submitted the evidence for the
Court’s review in 2015.
This is not “newly discovered evidence;” it instead
constitutes an attempt to relitigate or plug gaps in the original argument. The fact
that the Connecticut Superior Court has vacated the arbitration award without
prejudice does not give any reason for the Court to determine she was not
subject to mandatory arbitration.
Nor would there be manifest injustice were this Court not to vacate its
order to arbitrate as Plaintiff has availed herself of the state courts to challenge
the arbitration award itself. The Court recognizes “[i]t is well established that
submissions of a pro se litigant must be construed liberally and interpreted “to
raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.” Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of
Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, (2d Cir. 2006) (citing this rule in the context of a motion to
dismiss) (internal quotation marks omitted). Such liberal construction is founded
on the policy that the court has an obligation “to make reasonable allowances to
protect pro se litigants from inadvertent forfeiture of important rights because of
their lack of legal training.” Id. (quoting Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir.
1983)). However, even when liberally construing this Motion to Reconsider, it
cannot be said that Plaintiff intends to vacate the arbitration award before this
Court. This is true for three reasons. First, by virtue of the fact that Plaintiff filed
a 12-page Motion to Vacate Arbitration Award in the Connecticut Superior Court,
see [Dkt. 109-1 at 4 of PDF], she has indicated that she is capable of filing and
understands how to file a Motion to Vacate, and therefore has elected not to do
so in federal court. Second, Judge Stodolink has already vacated the arbitration
award in the Superior Court, albeit without prejudice, and accordingly there is
nothing for this Court to vacate. See id. at 1. Third, the content of Plaintiff’s
Motion for Reconsideration makes clear that, in light of the fact that the
arbitration award has been vacated without prejudice, she seeks this Court’s
reversal of the decision to compel arbitration so she can litigate her employment
discrimination claims before this Court. See [Dkt. 109 at 2 of PDF]. Plaintiff has
not presented the Court with any legal authority indicating that the ongoing
litigation of an arbitration award in state court constitutes a valid reason to grant
a Motion for Reconsideration and revisit the issue of whether Plaintiff was an atwill employee and subject to mandatory arbitration.
Finally, this action appears to be vexatious as it seeks either to duplicate
the litigation Plaintiff initiated first in state court, relitigte a matter litigated twice
in this Court and twice before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, or it seeks
untimely relief on a basis for which relief is patently unavailable. Accordingly this
Motion to Reconsideration is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED
Digitally signed by VANESSA BRYANT
DN: cn=VANESSA BRYANT, o, ou,
Date: 2017.07.28 09:25:01 -04'00'
Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
Dated at Hartford, Connecticut: July 27, 2017
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