268 F.3d 244 (4th Cir. 2001), 00-2297, Microstrategy v. Lauricia

Docket Nº:00-2297 No. 00-2434
Citation:268 F.3d 244
Party Name:MICROSTRATEGY, INCORPORATED, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BETTY J. LAURICIA, Defendant-Appellee, and CLAUDE DAVID CONVISSER; STACEY A. SPOLTORE; JOHN DOE, Defendants. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION,Amicus Curiae. BETTY J. LAURICIA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MICROSTRATEGY, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellant, and STACEY A. SPOLTORE; JOHN DOE, Defenda
Case Date:September 27, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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268 F.3d 244 (4th Cir. 2001)

MICROSTRATEGY, INCORPORATED, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

BETTY J. LAURICIA, Defendant-Appellee,

and

CLAUDE DAVID CONVISSER; STACEY A. SPOLTORE; JOHN DOE, Defendants.

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION,Amicus Curiae.

BETTY J. LAURICIA, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

MICROSTRATEGY, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellant,

and

STACEY A. SPOLTORE; JOHN DOE, Defendants.

Page 245

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Amicus Curiae.

No. 00-2297 No. 00-2434

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

September 27, 2001

Argued: June 4, 2001

Corrected October 19, 2001

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. T. S. Ellis III, District Judge.

(CA-00-985-A, CA-00-990-A)

Page 246

COUNSEL ARGUED: Daniel Meron, SIDLEY & AUSTIN, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Claude David Convisser, LAW OFFICE OF CLAUDE D. CONVISSER, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee. John Foster Suhre, EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae. ON BRIEF: Carter G. Phillips, Amanda L. Tyler, SIDLEY & AUSTIN, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Gwendolyn Young Reams, Associate General Counsel, Philip B. Sklover, Associate General Counsel, Vincent J. Blackwood, Assistant General Counsel, EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae.

Before WIDENER, TRAXLER, and GREGORY, Circuit Judges.

Vacated and remanded with instructions by published opinion. Judge Traxler wrote the opinion, in which Judge Widener and Judge Gregory joined.

OPINION

TRAXLER, Circuit Judge:

Betty Lauricia brought an action against her employer, MicroStrategy, Incorporated, alleging that MicroStrategy retaliated against her after she filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor. MicroStrategy moved to dismiss the action, contending that the lawsuit was premature because the EEOC issued Lauricia a "right-to-sue" letter fewer than 180 days after Lauricia filed her EEOC complaint. MicroStrategy also sought to stay the action and compel Lauricia to submit her claims to arbitration. The district court denied both motions, and MicroStrategy appeals.1 We vacate the district court's order and remand with instructions to compel arbitration.

I.

Lauricia was the head of MicroStrategy's Human Resources Department. During her employment, Lauricia signed a document entitled "Employee Acknowledgment Form and Agreement to Arbitrate" in which she acknowledged receipt of MicroStrategy's employee handbook. J.A. 63. The acknowledgment included a paragraph requiring Lauricia to arbitrate "[a]ny controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this Employee Handbook, procedures delineated in it, or the employment relationship otherwise cognizable at law and that could be the subject of legal action." J.A. 63.

On March 8, 2000, Lauricia filed a charge with the EEOC alleging age and sex discrimination. On March 10, Lauricia filed a complaint with the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division alleging that MicroStrategy was violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay overtime. On March 13, Lauricia, through counsel, notified MicroStrategy of the filing of the charges. The next day, Lauricia met with Jonathan Klein, MicroStrategy's vice president and general counsel, at Klein's request. Although Lauricia alleges that MicroStrategy knew about the charges at the time of this meeting, there apparently was no discussion of the charges at that time.

Later that day, MicroStrategy delivered to Lauricia a letter placing her on paid administrative leave "due to the conflict inherent to your continued active status . . . while pursuing discrimination and wage and hour claims against the Company." J.A. 330. The letter also stated that the company "view[ed] your conduct this afternoon, in engaging in discussions with counsel for the Company without informing

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them of the pendency of these claims, as a breach of your duty of loyalty to the Company," and reminded Lauricia that disclosure of any confidential information to anyone outside the company would be a breach of her "continuing obligations and duty of loyalty to the Company." J.A. 330. Lauricia remained on administrative leave until she was terminated on August 4, 2000.

On March 16, two days after it suspended Lauricia, MicroStrategy filed in federal district court an action against Lauricia and her attorney ("MicroStrategy I"). In that action MicroStrategy sought a declaration that it did not violate the Fair Labor Standards Act by placing Lauricia on paid leave and that terminating Lauricia would not violate the Act, and MicroStrategy alleged that Lauricia and her attorney should be held liable for stealing and disclosing trade secrets and other confidential information. The district court allowed MicroStrategy to depose Lauricia for the limited purpose of identifying documents and records in Lauricia's possession.

On April 24, the district court dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that there was no case or controversy because Lauricia had not filed suit against MicroStrategy. That same day, MicroStrategy appealed the decision to this court and sought emergency injunctive relief, which we denied. Before any briefs were filed, MicroStrategy moved to dismiss its appeal. The motion was granted, and the appeal was dismissed without prejudice.

On April 27, three days after the district court dismissed MicroStrategy I, MicroStrategy filed an action in Virginia state court against Lauricia and her attorney ("MicroStrategy II"), which included the same state-law claims as alleged in the previous action. MicroStrategy obtained an "Order for Writ of Possession" requiring Lauricia and her attorney to turn over various documents that MicroStrategy believed were confidential, and the sheriff seized the documents from Lauricia's attorney. Lauricia subsequently responded to a set of interrogatories and requests to produce submitted by MicroStrategy. See J.A. 382-418.

On May 9, 2000, Lauricia filed a second charge with the EEOC (the charge giving rise to this action), alleging that MicroStrategy had retaliated against her by placing her on administrative leave after she filed the initial charges. On May 11, the EEOC sent a letter to the parties stating that it had reasonable cause to believe a violation had occurred and inviting the parties to participate in the conciliation process. On May 19, the EEOC sent MicroStrategy a letter about possible conciliation remedies and gave the company until May 31 to respond. Lauricia, however, informed the EEOC that she did not wish to participate in the conciliation process and she requested that she immediately be issued her right-to-sue letter. The EEOC issued the letter on May 25, 2000.

On June 15, after receiving from Lauricia a courtesy copy of the lawsuit she intended to file, MicroStrategy filed in federal district court a third action ("MicroStrategy III "; MicroStrategy I, MicroStrategy II, and MicroStrategy III are sometimes collectively referred to as the "prior actions"). In MicroStrategy III, MicroStrategy named Lauricia and her attorney as defendants, sought a declaration that its conduct did not and would not violate Title VII, the ADEA, or the Fair Labor Standards Act, and reasserted its state-law claims. Lauricia filed her action against MicroStrategy the next day.

In August 2000, the district court consolidated the actions filed by MicroStrategy and Lauricia. The court also dismissed the state-law claims asserted by MicroStrategy,

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which had the effect of dismissing Lauricia's attorney as a defendant. MicroStrategy thereafter subpoenaed Lauricia's employment records from her former employers.

MicroStrategy first sought to compel arbitration in its motion to dismiss filed on July 12, 2000. MicroStrategy also contended in that motion that the district court lacked jurisdiction because the right-tosue letter issued by the...

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