Laterra v. GE Betz, Inc. et al
ORDER denying 15 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Victor A. Bolden on 8/14/2017.(Ghosh, S.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
GE BETZ, INC., and GENERAL
RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS OR STAY AND COMPEL ARBITRATION
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.
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
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
Since the filing of this case, GE has announced its intention to relocate from Fairfield, CT, to Boston, MA. See Ted
Mann & John Kamp, General Electric to Move Headquarters to Boston, WALL ST. J. (Jan. 13, 2016, 8:35 PM),
https://www.wsj.com/articles/general-electric-plans-to-move-headquarters-to-boston-1452703676 (“General Electric
Co. will relocate its headquarters from leafy suburban Connecticut to Boston’s busy waterfront . . . .”).
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 “has successfully completed Solutions and DRP Procedure
Amendment.” Certificate, Ex. C to Kozak Decl. Neither Ms. Kozak’s affidavit nor the
supporting exhibits show what documents were provided during the training or the precise
language Mr. Laterra reviewed in the training.
Mr. Laterra, in turn, argues that he has “no recollection” of receiving an e-mail from Ms.
Daley, clicking on a link to complete the MyLearning Training, completing the training, or
seeing the 2010 amendments to Solutions. Laterra Decl., Ex. A to Opp. Mem., ¶¶ 4-6. He also
asserts that he thinks that he “would have remembered being asked to agree to a policy which
required [him] to arbitrate any claims against GE, and that [he] would not have agreed to accept
such a policy.” Id. at ¶ 8.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
“The FAA creates a ‘body of federal substantive law of arbitrability, applicable to any
arbitration agreement within the coverage of the Act.” In re Am. Express Fin. Advisors Sec.
Litig., 672 F.3d 113, 127 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem’l Hosp. v. Mercury
Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24 (1983)); see also Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500
U.S. 20, 23, 111 S.Ct. 1647, 114 L.Ed.2d 26 (1991) (affirming that a claim under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act could be subject to compulsory arbitration when affected
employee signed a securities registration form containing an arbitration agreement). The Second
Circuit has observed that the Act “establishes a national policy favoring arbitration when the
parties contract for that mode of dispute resolution” and “calls for the application, in state as well
as federal courts, of federal substantive law regarding arbitration.” In re Am. Exp., 672 F.3d at
128. Despite this policy, arbitration “is a matter of consent, not coercion,” JLM Inds. v. Stolt–
Neilsen, SA, 387 F.3d 163, 171 (2d Cir.2004) (internal quotation omitted), and “federal law does
not require parties to arbitrate when they have not agreed to do so.” Collins & Aikman Prods. Co.
v. Building Sys., Inc., 58 F.3d 16, 19 (2d Cir.1995).
The FAA provides that “[a] written provision in . . . a contract evidencing a transaction
involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract
or transaction . . . shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at
law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. In this Circuit, courts follow a
two-part test to determine whether claims are subject to arbitration considering “(1) whether the
parties have entered into a valid agreement to arbitrate, and, if so, (2) whether the dispute at issue
comes within the scope of the arbitration agreement.” In re Am. Exp., 672 F.3d at 128.
In the context of a motion to compel arbitration brought under the FAA, courts apply “a
standard similar to that applicable for a motion for summary judgment.” Bensadoun v. Jobe-Riat,
316 F.3d 171, 175 (2d Cir. 2003); see also McAllister v. Conn. Renaissance Inc., No.
3:10cv1488(WWE), 2011 WL 1299830, at *3 (D.Conn. Apr. 5, 2011) (applying the same
standard in the context of a motion to compel arbitration under an employment arbitration
agreement of federal statutory claims, including a Title VII claim). The party seeking an order
compelling arbitration must “substantiate [its] entitlement [to arbitration] by a showing of
evidentiary facts” that support its claim that the other party agreed to arbitration. Oppenheimer &
Co., Inc. v. Neidhardt, 56 F.3d 352, 358 (2d Cir. 1995). “If the party seeking arbitration has
substantiated the entitlement by a showing of evidentiary facts, the party opposing may not rest
on a denial but must submit evidentiary facts showing that there is a dispute of fact to be tried.”
Id. If the evidence suggests a genuine issue of material fact, the district court must summarily
proceed to trial. Bensadoun, 316 F.3d at 175 (citing 9 U.S.C. § 4).
The present dispute primarily concerns the first question in this Court’s two-part inquiry
under the FAA: “whether the parties have entered into a valid agreement to arbitrate.” In re Am.
Exp., 672 F.3d at 128. Defendants argue that the 2010 amendments to the Solutions Procedure
constituted an enforceable agreement to arbitrate with Mr. Laterra. Mr. Laterra challenges the
enforceability of the agreement, arguing that he did not assent to its terms.
To decide whether a valid arbitration agreement exists, the court looks to the “ordinary
state-law principles that govern the formation of contracts” under the law of the state governing
the contract. First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 944 (1995). The parties
also disagree about which state’s law the Court should apply when answering this question.
Defendants argue that the Court should apply New York law, in accordance with the choice-oflaw provision in the 2010 Solutions amendment, Reply, 2, while Mr. Laterra argues that
Connecticut law should govern the question of the contract’s enforceability, Opp. Mem., 5.
For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees with Mr. Laterra. As an initial matter,
Connecticut law should be used to assess whether the parties agreed to arbitrate. Second, the
Court concludes, applying Connecticut law, that Defendants have not provided the facts
necessary to determine that the arbitration agreement is enforceable.
A. Choice of Law
The Second Circuit has observed that “[t]he validity of a contractual choice-of-law clause
is a threshold question that must be decided not under the law specified in the clause, but under
the relevant forum’s choice-of-law rules governing the effectiveness of such clauses.” Fin. One.
Pub. Co. v. Lehman Bros. Special Fin., Inc., 414 F.3d 325, 332 (2d Cir. 2005). This is logical,
because “[a]pplying the choice-of-law clause to resolve the contract formation issue would
presume the applicability of a provision before its adoption by the parties has been established.”
Schnabel v. Trilegiant Corp., 697 F.3d 110, 118 (2d Cir. 2012) (eventually declining to “resolve
this typically thorny choice-of-law question, because both Connecticut and California apply
substantially similar rules for determining whether the parties have mutually assented to a
contract term.”); see also Kulig v. Midland Funding, LLC, 2013 WL 6017444, at *3 (S.D.N.Y.
Nov. 13, 2013) (quoting the above language); but see Motorola Credit Corp. v. Uzan, 388 F.3d
39, 51 (2d Cir. 2004), cert. denied sub nom., 544 U.S. 1044 (2005) (“[A] choice-of-law clause in
a contract will apply to disputes about the existence or validity of that contract.”) (citation
In Motorola, which Defendants cite, plaintiffs Motorola and Nokia entered into financing
agreements with non-party companies Telsim and Rumeli Telefon. See Motorola, 388 F.3d at
43. Each agreement provided that it would be governed by and construed in accordance with
Swiss law. Id. Both of the non-party companies were controlled by the Uzan family of Turkey,
who were defendants in the action, but not signatories to the agreement. See id. at 43, 49.
Defendants sought to compel arbitration, but asserted that federal common law controlled issues
of arbitrability, despite the choice-of-law clause. Id. at 50. The court honored the choice-of-law
clause and applied Swiss law when assessing whether the plaintiffs could be held to the
arbitration clause, observing that “if defendants wish to invoke the arbitration clauses in the
agreements at issue, they must also accept the Swiss choice-of-law clauses that govern those
agreements.” Id. at 51.
Unlike the defendants in Motorola, Mr. Laterra seeks to avoid the choice of law clause
because he challenges the enforceability of the agreement in its entirety. Motorola’s holding,
which rested on the assumption that “the parties have chosen the governing body of law,”
therefore is less applicable here. Id. Furthermore, it is logical to treat the validity of the
contractual choice-of-law clause “as a threshold question” to be decided using the choice of law
rules of the “relevant forum,” in this case Connecticut. Financial One, 414 F.3d at 332. This
approach is most consistent with the approach the courts in this Circuit generally take when
deciding an issue of contract formation. See, e.g., Specht v. Netscape Commc’ns Corp., 150 F.
Supp. 2d 585, 591 (S.D.N.Y. 2001), aff’d, 306 F.3d 17 (2d Cir. 2002) (“Plaintiff’s claims arise
under this Court’s federal question jurisdiction. Hence, I would ordinarily refer to federal choiceof-law rules. However, my determination of the instant motion involves a question of state law:
was a contract formed? Therefore, in determining which state’s law to apply to this question, I
find it appropriate to rely upon the forum state’s choice-of-law rules rather than the federal
choice-of-law rules.”); Follman v. World Fin. Network Nat’l Bank, 721 F.Supp.2d 158, 162
(E.D.N.Y. 2010) (“To determine which state’s law to apply to the issue of contract formation, a
federal court sitting with federal question jurisdiction looks to the choice-of-law doctrine of the
In any event, the Court can take further guidance from the Second Circuit and avoid this
“typically thorny choice-of-law question,” Schnabel, 697 F.3d at 118, because both Connecticut
and New York’s choice of law provisions would suggest that Connecticut law should govern.
Applying Connecticut’s “choice-of-law rules governing the effectiveness of such
clauses,” Financial One, 414 F.3d at 332, the Court would not apply New York law to this
dispute. In Connecticut, “parties to a contract generally are allowed to select the law that will
govern their contract, unless either: (a) the chosen state has no substantial relationship to the
parties or the transaction and there is no other reasonable basis for the parties’ choice, or (b)
application of the law of the chosen state would be contrary to a fundamental policy of a state
which has a materially greater interest than the chosen state in the determination of the particular
issue.” Elgar v. Elgar, 238 Conn. 839, 850 (1996) (quoting 1 Restatement (Second), Conflicts of
Law § 187); Bank of Am., N.A. v. Klein, No. 3:10-CV-987 JBA WIG, 2012 WL 5286962, at *3
(D. Conn. Oct. 23, 2012) (articulating the same rule); see also Restatement (Second) of Conflict
of Laws § 187 (1971) (providing that a choice-of-law provision will not be enforced where “the
chosen state has no substantial relationship to the parties or the transaction and there is no other
reasonable basis for the parties’ choice,” or “the application of the law of the chosen state would
be contrary to a fundamental policy of a state which has a materially greater interest than the
chosen state in the determination of the particular issue and which ... would be the state of the
applicable law in the absence of an effective choice of law by the parties.”). Connecticut courts
also use Connecticut law to determine whether a choice-of-law clause resulted from an “express
choice [that was] made in good faith.” Id. at 848; see also Halling v. Jetseal, Inc., No.
CV010446481S, 2001 WL 34093942, at *1 (Conn. Super. Ct. June 5, 2001) (using Connecticut
law to determine whether parties had agreed to a choice-of-law provision selecting Washington
Connecticut choice-of-law principles would therefore apply Connecticut law for two
reasons. First, Mr. Laterra claims he did not make an express, good faith agreement to the forum
selection clause, and the Court must assess this argument using Connecticut law. Halling, 2001
WL 34093942, at *1. Second, New York has “no substantial relationship” to this dispute. In
Elgar, the choice of law clause was valid because the plaintiff was a New York resident,
“conducted many of her affairs in New York,” and agreed to the contract in New York. Id. at
851. Considering these factors, and consistent with rulings, such as Elgar, there are no
discernible connections to New York that would make the applicability of New York contract
Indeed, under New York’s choice of law provisions, the Court would not necessarily
apply New York law to the underlying dispute about the validity of the contract. In New York, a
choice-of-law clause is presumptively valid, but “the chosen law [must] bear a reasonable
relationship to the parties or the transaction.” Welsbach Elec. Corp. v. MasTec N. Am., Inc., 859
N.E.2d 498 (2006); Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, No. 11–CV–8149 (CS), 2017 WL
758518, at n. 7 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 2017) (emphasizing that this standard was “recently
articulated by the New York Court of Appeals”). Courts “have looked to the location of the
following factors: the parties’ negotiation of the agreement; performance under the agreement[;]
the parties’ places of incorporation; the parties’ principal places of business; and the property
that is the subject of the transaction.” Madden, 2017 WL 758518, at *9; see also McPhee v.
Gen. Elec. Int’l, Inc., 426 F. App’x 33, 34–35 (2d Cir. 2011) (deriving a “reasonable
relationship” to New York from several factors, including the forum selection clause, the
defendant’s “substantial presence in New York,” the defendant’s cooperation with a vendor in
New York, and the fact that the decedent’s “paychecks . . . originated from New York.”).
In this case, both Defendants are located outside of New York, and the record does not
contain evidence that either was incorporated there. Mr. Laterra lived and worked in
Connecticut, and would have entered the alleged contract with Defendants in Connecticut. New
York law does not bear any relationship—neither a “reasonable,” Welsbach, 7 N.Y.3d at 629,
nor a “substantial” one, Elgar, 238 Conn. at 850—to the parties and the transaction at issue here.
As a result, the arbitration agreement’s choice-of-law clause, which requires the application of
New York law, would not control the resolution of the dispute about whether the parties agreed
B. Validity of Arbitration Agreement
Under Connecticut law, “for an enforceable contract to exist, the court must find that the
parties’ minds had truly met.” Fortier v. Newington Group, Inc., 30 Conn. App. 505, 510, 620
A.2d 1321, cert. denied, 225 Conn. 992 (1993) (adding that “an agreement must be definite and
certain as to its terms and requirements.”). Additionally, “[f]or a promise to be enforceable
against the promisor, the promisee must have given consideration for the promise, defined as ‘a
benefit to the party promising, or a loss or detriment to the party to whom the promise is made.’”
Deleon v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., No. 3:16-CV-00767 (CSH), 2017 WL 396535, at *2 (D.
Conn. Jan. 30, 2017) (citing Helenese v. Oracle Corp., No. 09-351, 2010 WL 670172, at *3 (D.
Conn. Feb. 19, 2010)).
The same principles apply to contract modification. For a modification of a contract to
be valid, “there must be mutual assent to the meaning and conditions of the modification and the
parties must assent to the same thing in the same sense . . . if they are to vary the contract in any
way.” Manzin v. United Bank & Trust Co., 6 Conn. App. 513, 516, 506 A.2d 169, 171 (1986);
Torosyan v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., 234 Conn. 1, 17, 662 A.2d 89, 98 (1995) (for an
employer to “modif[y] the preexisting terms of employment, the plaintiff must have consented to
“To form a valid and binding contract in Connecticut, there must be a mutual
understanding of the terms that are definite and certain between the parties.” L & R Realty v.
Connecticut National Bank, 53 Conn. App. 524, 535, 732 A.2d 181 (1999). A party, therefore,
“cannot actually assent to an offer unless [she] knows of its existence.” Schnabel, 697 F.3d at
123 (citing 1 WILLISTON ON CONTRACTS § 4:16); Carbone v. Atl. Richfield Co., 204 Conn. 460,
472, 528 A.2d 1137, 1143 (1987) (employee manual was not incorporated into employment
contract because the plaintiff “was not aware of the manual before or during his employment,
and therefore did not rely on its provisions at any time.”); Manley v. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of
Connecticut, No. CV 910322213S, 1996 WL 532506, at *4 (Conn. Super. Ct. Sept. 10, 1996)
(“[I]f a discharged employee was completely unaware of the personnel manual or any of the
policies effectuated by it then it would in fact be difficult to find that a personnel manual could
be the basis of a breach of contract claim . . .”). “A person can assent to terms even if he or she
does not actually read them, but the ‘offer [must nonetheless] make clear to [a reasonable]
consumer’ both that terms are being presented and that they can be adopted through the conduct
that the offeror alleges constituted assent.” Schnabel, 697 F.3d at 123 (citing Specht, 306 F.3d at
Defendants argue that Mr. Laterra “impliedly agreed to comply with [the arbitration
clause] by continuing his employment after receiving notice of it in the MyLearning Training.”
Reply Mem., 5. The parties’ briefs highlight a disagreement among courts in this District about
whether an at-will employee can consent to a modification of his employment contract by
continuing to work. Def.’s Reply, 5; Opp. Mem., 11 (citing Torosyan, 234 Conn. at 18-19)
(“When an employer issues an employment manual that substantially interferes with an
employee’s legitimate expectations about the terms of employment ... the employee’s continued
work after notice of those terms cannot be taken as conclusive evidence of the employee’s
consent to those terms”).2 The Court need not reach this issue today, because Defendants have
not demonstrated that they notified Mr. Laterra of the precise nature of the proposed
modification to his employment contract. Even if the Court held that Mr. Laterra could manifest
his consent to the 2010 amendments by continuing to work for Defendants, the record would
need to show that Mr. Laterra understood the contractual modification. In this case, those critical
facts are missing.
Some courts in this District have concluded that Torosyan does not apply to arbitration agreements. See Fahim v.
CIGNA Inv., Inc., No. 3:98-cv-232 (PCD), 1998 WL 1967944, at *3 (D.Conn. Sept.10, 1998) (distinguishing
Torosyan where employee was at-will and enforcing arbitration policy accepted by continued employment on the
basis that the employee had no “legitimate expectation about the terms of employment, i.e. to be free of the
arbitration policy”) (internal citations omitted); Pomposi v. GameStop, Inc., No. CIV.A 3:09-CV-340 (VLB), 2010
WL 147196, at *5 (D. Conn. Jan. 11, 2010) (following Fahim and further distinguishing the case because the
plaintiff “had also signed an acknowledgment in which he expressly agreed to resolve claims under C.A.R.E.S.”);
Carey v. Connecticut Gen. Life Ins. Co., 93 F. Supp. 2d 165, 169 (D. Conn. 1999) (noting that the plaintiff’s reliance
on Torosyan was “misplaced” because the case “did not address the modification of an employment arrangement
exclusively within an at-will context,” but concluding regardless that the plaintiff had manifested her assent to the
arbitration clause other actions in addition to her continued employment); but see Phillips v. CIGNA Investments,
Inc., 27 F. Supp. 2d 345, 353 (D. Conn. 1998) (“After a thorough analysis of relevant caselaw, we . . . respectfully
disagree with the result reached in Fahim.”); McAllister v. East, 611 F. App’x 17, 19 (2d Cir. 2015) (citing Torosyan
to conclude that even when an employment agreement is implied, “to become enforceable . . ., proposed
modifications, like the original offers, must be accepted[,]” and reasoning that the plaintiff’s decision to continue
working was not determinative but “relevant to determining whether . . . she consented”) (internal citations omitted).
Defendants propose that Mr. Laterra received notice of the arbitration clause in the
MyLearning Training program. Ms. Kozak’s affidavit attaches a certificate stating that Mr.
Laterra “personally accessed” the My Learning training program and asserts that “by completing
the My Learning Training, Mr. Laterra acknowledged that he was covered by the Solutions ADR
Procedure.” Kozak Decl. I, ¶ 7.
Defendants, however, have not demonstrated that the MyLearning Training gave Mr.
Laterra notice of the arbitration clause, such that he could assent—impliedly or manifestly—to
its terms. The language of the MyLearning Training is not in the record. Furthermore, while
Defendants provide the Solutions Procedure as an exhibit to Ms. Kozak’s affidavit, they do not
make clear whether the text of the Solutions Procedure available to employees as part of the
MyLearning Training. Because “there must be mutual assent to the meaning and conditions of [a
contract] modification,” Manzin, 6 Conn. App. at 516, the Court cannot conclude that Mr.
Laterra agreed to the arbitration clause.
Defendants urge the Court to follow several cases in this District upholding arbitration
agreements in the employment context. See Opp. Mem., 6 (citing Pingel v. Gen. Elec. Co., No.
3:14-CV-00632 (CSH), 2014 WL 7334588 (D. Conn. Dec. 19, 2014); Deleon, 2017 WL 396535,
at *3). In each case, however, the defendant employer gave the plaintiff the opportunity to agree
explicitly to the terms of the arbitration clause.
In Pingel, the Solutions arbitration policy was a “condition of [the plaintiff’s] new
employment,” not a unilaterally imposed contract modification. Pingel, 2014 WL 7334588, at
*1. While she did not receive a hard copy of the agreement that included the arbitration clause,
Ms. Pingel signed a form indicating that she “acknowledge[d] that the offer of employment made
to [her was] contingent upon meeting all employment requirements,” including “[her] review and
agreement to the Solutions Procedure.” Id. It further stated that she agreed “to resolve disputes
in accordance with the terms of the  Procedure” and “to waive the right to pursue Covered
Claims . . . against [Defendant] in Court.” Id.
The Acknowledgment Form in Pingel also specified that the plaintiff’s “signature . . .
constitutes acknowledgment of [her] receipt and review of a copy of and agreement to the
Solutions Procedure.” Id. Finally, GE also sent an e-mail to the plaintiff that included an offer
letter as well as an invitation to visit its “Transfer Offer” website “to review important GE
policies,” including the Solutions Procedure. Daley Letter; Kozak Decl. ¶ 6.
Similarly, in Deleon, the plaintiff “accessed the Arbitration Agreement on two occasions”
and was given the right to opt out of the program, as well as “materials . . . explaining the right to
opt-out of the program [and making] clear that associates would be bound by the Arbitration
Agreement if they did not opt-out.” Deleon, 2017 WL 396535, at *3.
In short, in those cases, the records contained clear indications of the employees’ assent
to the arbitration agreement. Here, the Court cannot determine whether Mr. Laterra was
informed that participating in the training would constitute agreement to the Solutions Procedure,
whether he was given the right to opt out of the agreement, or whether he was informed of the
consequences of disagreeing with it. Without the training’s text, the Court cannot evaluate
Defendants’ argument that Ms. Daley’s e-mail put Mr. Laterra on inquiry notice of the
arbitration clause by describing the 2010 amendments and linking to the MyLearning Training.
See Schnabel, 697 F.3d at 120 (“[W]here there is no actual notice of the term, an offeree is still
bound by the provision if he or she is on inquiry notice of the term and assents to it through the
conduct that a reasonable person would understand to constitute assent[, but] an exception to this
general rule exists when the writing does not appear to be a contract and the terms are not called
to the attention of the recipient.”).
Accordingly, the Court cannot determine whether a “reasonable person” would be likely
to understand that he or she was agreeing to a contract when clicking through the MyLearning
Training, nor can it determine whether the training made Mr. Laterra aware “that disputes arising
between him [and Defendants] were to be resolved by an alternative dispute resolution
procedure.” Schnabel, 697 F.3d at 126. Because Defendants do not provide “evidentiary facts”
showing that the parties agreed to arbitrate, Oppenheimer, 56 F.3d at 358, their motion is denied.
For the reasons stated above, Defendants’ motion to dismiss is DENIED.
SO ORDERED at Bridgeport, Connecticut this 14th day of August.
/s/ Victor A. Bolden
VICTOR A. BOLDEN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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