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Conduragis v. Prospect Chartercare, LLC

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

November 29, 2017

GEORGE P. CONDURAGIS, Plaintiff,
v.
PROSPECT CHARTERCARE, LLC, d/b/a CHARTERCARE HEALTH PARTNERS, and PROSPECT CHARTERCARE PHYSICIANS, LLC, d/b/a CHARTERCARE MEDICAL ASSOCIATES, Defendants.

          ORDER

          John J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge

         George P. Conduragis has sued his former employers, Prospect CharterCARE, LLC, and Prospect CharterCARE Physicians, LLC (collectively, "Prospect"), for damages arising from Prospect's alleged violation of the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act ("RIPFMLA"). Prospect has moved to dismiss the suit and seeks to compel arbitration. ECF No. 9. For the reasons set forth herein, the motion is DENIED. I. BACKGROUND Mr. Conduragis was hired by Roger Williams Medical Center ("RWMC") in March of 2014. In the next few months, RWMC and its holding companies were to be acquired by Prospect. To this end, Mr. Conduragis received a letter from Kenneth Belcher, the chief executive officer of CharterCARE Health Partners, and Thomas Reardon, the president of Prospect East Holdings, Inc., announcing the acquisition of RWMC and its holding by CharterCARE and explaining its implications for RWMC employees (the "Letter"). The Letter stated in relevant part:

As a result of the transaction, depending upon your current location within the CharterCARE system, you will become an employee of Prospect CharterCARE, LLC, . . . [or] Prospect CharterCARE Physicians, LLC . . . (individually or collectively, the "Company").
. . .
At the time our transaction closes (as noted above, on or about June 20, 2014), you will become a Company employee and will remain in your current position, at your current status, rate of pay, and job title. As mentioned in our Quarterly Employee Forums, employees will not be required to re-apply for their positions. Company payroll dates and benefits providers will also remain the same.
. . .
Absent written agreement that states otherwise, your employment will continue on an at-will basis, meaning that either you or the Company can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason and it also means that the Company can change the terms of your employment, including compensation and benefits, at any time (this is no change from your present employment relationship with CharterCARE). . . .
Please sign below to acknowledge your acceptance of the above terms of employment with the Company and return to Chris Da Rosa, Human Resources Generalist. There are two additional documents you will need to sign. They are Prospect Medical Holdings' Code of Business Conduct and Ethical Business Practice ("Code of Conduct") and Arbitration Agreement.

ECF No. 9-3 at 2-3.

         The referenced agreement (the "Arbitration Agreement") was attached to the Letter via a hyperlink to an intranet site. No physical copy was attached. The Letter did, however, include the "review and receipt forms" for the Arbitration Agreement.

         The Arbitration Agreement stated that, "[t]o the fullest extent allowed by law, any controversy, claim or dispute between [Mr. Conduragis] and [Prospect] . . . relating to or arising out of your employment or the cessation of that employment will be submitted to final and binding arbitration." ECF No. 9-2 at 5. The Arbitration Agreement "covers all employment-related claims including, but not limited to, claims for unpaid wages, breach of contract, torts, violation of public policy, discrimination, harassment, or any other employment-related claim under any state or federal statutes or laws relating to an employee's relationship with his/her employer." Id. The Arbitration Agreement ends by reciting that, "by agreeing to this binding mutual arbitration provision, both [Mr. Conduragis] and [Prospect] give up all rights to a trial by jury." Id. (emphasis removed).

         Mr. Conduragis signed both the Letter and the Arbitration Agreement on the same day and subsequently retained his position, now as an employee of Prospect. In late December of 2016, Mr. Conduragis was terminated, allegedly in violation of the FMLA and RIPFMLA, giving rise to this action.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) governs written arbitration agreements. Seed U.S.C. § 1 et seq.; Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 119 (2001). When "construing an arbitration clause, courts and arbitrators must 'give effect to the contractual rights and expectations of the parties."' Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int'l Corp., 559 U.S. 662, 682 (2010) (quoting Volt Info. Scis., Inc. v. Bd. of Trs. of Leland Stanford Junior Univ.,489 U.S. 468, 479 (1989)). The federal policy favoring arbitration "does not totally displace ordinary rules of contract interpretation." Paul Revere ...


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