254 F.3d 588 (5th Cir. 2001), 00-11317, Hughes Training Inc. v Cook

Docket Nº:00-11317
Citation:254 F.3d 588
Case Date:June 29, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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254 F.3d 588 (5th Cir. 2001)



GRACIE COOK; LITTLETON COOK, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 00-11317

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

June 29, 2001

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Before EMILIO M. GARZA, STEWART, and PARKER, Circuit Judges.

ROBERT M. PARKER, Circuit Judge:

Appellants Gracie and Littleton Cook appeal from the district court's final judgment that vacated an arbitration award against Gracie Cook's former employer, Raytheon Company.1 The Cooks argue that the district court applied an incorrect standard of review to the arbitrator's decision and that, even if the court applied the correct standard of review, the facts support the arbitrator's award of damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

I. Facts

Hughes Training hired Gracie Cook as a senior engineering assistant in 1993.2 When she accepted the job, she signed a "Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims." The agreement stated that all employment disputes would be submitted to final and binding arbitration. The agreement contained the following provision:

Arbitration under [the] Agreement may be compelled and enforced according to the Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.) and shall be conducted in accordance with the EPRP [(Employee Problem Resolution Procedures)] Arbitration Procedure.

The Employment Problem Resolution Procedures contained the following terms relating to an appeal from an arbitration award:

Either party may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction to compel arbitration under this Agreement, to enforce an arbitration award, and to vacate an arbitration award. However, in actions seeking to vacate an award, the standard of review to be applied to the arbitrator's findings of fact and conclusions of law will be the same as that applied by an appellate court reviewing a decision of a trial court sitting without a jury.

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By signing the document, Cook acknowledged that she had read both the arbitration agreement and the Employment Problem Resolution Procedures.

After Cook obtained a degree in management information systems, Raytheon transferred her to the Database Engineering Department under the supervision of Mike Braudaway. Employees in Braudaway's department created "geocells," which are visual databases that reflect topography in different areas of the world for use in flight simulators. The department worked under stringent budgetary and time demands for which Braudaway was responsible.

According to Braudaway, Cook struggled to comply with the budgetary and time constraints from the beginning. She required two additional weeks of training compared to the other employees in the department. Braudaway teamed Cook with another employee, Carmen Bernal, in an effort to improve the efficiency and quality of her work. Braudaway believed that Cook's work improved somewhat but that she was still "inconsistent" and error-prone. 3 According to Cook, Braudaway accused her of "building cow patties."

After a meeting in May of 1996, Braudaway informed Cook in writing that she would have until May 31, 1996, to improve her data base development skills. At that time, Raytheon would evaluate her work, and, if her skills did not improve, Raytheon would take further corrective action, which could include termination. In response, Cook accused Braudaway of discrimination. Braudaway in turn told her not to "play the race card." Braudaway never reported the discrimination claim to Raytheon's Human Resources Department for an investigation.

Braudaway gave Cook a "test bed" evaluation to complete within a specified period of time without the help of coworkers. Within a few days of receiving the test, Cook met with Braudaway and Melanie Dively, the manager of the Human Resources Department. Cook became very distraught and stressed during the meeting. She began to cry, stutter, and rub her arm. Braudaway offered to call Cook's doctor, but she refused.

Cook took medical leave within days of the meeting. She complained to her physician that she had difficulty processing her speech and sustaining her short-term memory. The physician concluded that she suffered from several mini-strokes that were propagated by her stress at work. Raytheon learned that Cook suffered a stroke in 1988 and that, on the date of the meeting, she exhibited stroke-like symptoms.

Upon Cook's insistence, the physician permitted her to return to work on...

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