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Shorts v. Parsons Transportation Group

January 19, 2010

TIMOTHY SHORTS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PARSONS TRANSPORTATION GROUP, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Timothy Shorts brings this action against Parsons Transportation Group ("Parsons"), asserting causes of action based upon Parsons' alleged violations of the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., stemming from his employment with and termination by Parsons. Before the Court is Parsons' motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration [#3] under the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the Court concludes that the motion must be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Shorts was hired by Parsons in 2004 as a Business Development Manager. Before beginning his employment with Parsons, he signed the following "offer letter":

By signing this letter, you acknowledge that your association with Parsons is based on the mutual consent of you and Parsons. . . . [I]n the event that conflicts arise, Parsons has a three-step Employee Dispute Resolution (EDR) Program. The EDR Program includes Freedom of Expression and Appeal, Mediation, and Arbitration as the exclusive means of resolving workplace disputes. By accepting employment, you agree to resolve all legal claims against Parsons through this process instead of the court system.

Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A, Attach. 2 at 2. Shorts also signed an "Employee Agreement" with regard to the EDR Program that stated:

I hereby waive my right to go to court regarding legally protected rights, and understand, agree and acknowledge I will not be able to have a trial by jury for claims relating to those rights. Instead, by accepting and continuing employment, I agree to utilize the dispute resolution provisions offered by the EDR Program.

Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A, Attach. 3 ¶ 3. In addition to being provided to employees at the outset of their employment, the terms of the EDR Program was also available online.

On January 7, 2009, Shorts underwent reconstructive knee surgery and was granted leave from January 7, 2009, through April 1, 2009, under the FMLA for his surgery, recuperation, and rehabilitation.When Shorts returned from his leave on April 1, 2009, Ginger Evans, the Aviation Division Manager, placed him on "no fly" status,*fn1 Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ("Pl.'s Opp'n) Ex. 1 ¶ 4, and told him that "he was not to meet with potential customers for Aviation's active pursuits." Id. Shorts alleges that the restrictions severely limited his ability to perform his job.

Shortly after talking with Evans, on April 24, 2009, Shorts met with Robert Bax, a Senior Vice President, and a Parsons Ethics Officer, to discuss the restrictions that had been placed on him and the connection the restrictions may have had to his FMLA leave. Shorts states that he understood Bax would "look into the matter," but that Bax never "provide[d] guidance or suggest[ed] the use of defendants' Employee Dispute Resolution program" to him. Id. ¶ 6.

On April 27, 2009, Evans announced that someone had been hired to assume Shorts' duties on a full-time basis. Shorts met with the Senior Human Resource Representative, Stefani Califano, on May 20, 2009 and expressed concern about his position after the hiring of a new Business Development Lead. He told Califano that "no other full-time permanent positions were being presented to [him] by Ms. Evans," Id. ¶8, and explained the restrictions that had been placed on him. Shorts also stated that he thought that he would be fired if Evans became aware of his conversation with Bax.Shorts alleges that Califano provided no guidance and at no point suggested the use of Parsons' Employee Dispute Resolution program.

On June 10, 2009, Califano notifiedShortsthat he was being terminated. Shorts again alleges that Califano failed to suggest the use of Parsons' EDR program, even though he told her that he had not received any guidance on how to dispute the actions taken by Evans. On June 23, 2009, Shorts received a letter terminating his employment with Parsons effective July 16, 2009.

Three days later, Shorts' attorney sent a letter to James Shappell, President of Parsons, alleging violations of the FMLA and requesting to speak with someone prior to Shorts' termination. Shorts' attorney sent a follow-up letter on July 14, 2009 after not receiving a response. On July 16, 2009, Parsons replied through emails from Richard Reddy, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, and Michelle Johnson, Employee Relations Manager. The emails from Reddy and Johnson referred Shorts' attorney to Parsons' EDR materials. In relevant part, Johnson's email read, "I am forwarding the Parsons' EDR materials and information and review. . . . [As noted by Richard ...


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