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SANDLER v. MARCONI CIRCUIT TECH. CORP.

February 16, 1993

ERIC SANDLER, Plaintiff,
v.
MARCONI CIRCUIT TECHNOLOGY CORP.; PLESSEY SEMICONDUCTORS LTD.; GEC, plc of ENGLAND; and DOUG J. DUNN, Defendants.


Platt


The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS C. PLATT

PLATT, Chief Judge.

 Defendants Marconi Circuit Technology Corporation ("Marconi"), Plessey Semiconductors Ltd. ("Plessey"), GEC, plc of England ("GEC"), and Doug J. Dunn move to dismiss plaintiff Eric Sandler's Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and 9(b). For the reasons set forth below, this motion is granted.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff was employed by Marconi, a subsidiary of Plessey and GEC, from April 4, 1987, through April 5, 1991. In the wake of his termination by Marconi, plaintiff initiated this suit in federal district court pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132.

 In Count I of the Amended Complaint, plaintiff claims defendants violated ERISA by first representing to plaintiff that he would be entitled to retirement benefits after three years of service with the company, and then, after plaintiff was terminated, representing to him that he was not fully vested because he had not worked for three years after enrollment in the plan. Amended Complaint PP 26, 49. Plaintiff further alleges that he was not furnished with a written copy of the plan until two months after his termination. Amended Complaint P 26.

 In Count II, plaintiff alleges a breach of a stock option agreement. Plaintiff claims he is entitled to monetary damages, notwithstanding the stock option agreement's clear statement that the option to purchase shares may only be exercised during employment by GEC or an affiliated company (Amended Complaint, Ex. A), because he was allegedly advised at the time of his termination that he would be allowed to exercise his stock option after his termination. Amended Complaint PP 62, 75.

 In Count III, plaintiff claims he was slandered based upon defendant Doug Dunn's statement that "Eric Sandler and the management of Marconi screwed up the company and we had to let them go." Amended Complaint P 78.

 Count IV sets forth a claim of employment discrimination based upon religion and nationality, founded upon defendant Dunn's statement that "we were able to kill two birds with one stone, when we got rid of Sandler, a Jew and a Spic." Amended Complaint P 85.

 DISCUSSION

 A. Count I

 Defendants move to dismiss the ERISA claim in plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Count I) on the ground that claims based on oral misrepresentations concerning a retirement plan are barred by ERISA. This Court agrees and finds that Count I must be dismissed in its entirety as to all of the defendants.

 In June 1989, Marconi advised plaintiff that he was eligible to participate in a retirement plan effective July 19, 1989. Plaintiff alleges that he was told that the plan would provide annual benefits commencing at age sixty in the amount of $ 100,000 per year for ten years with full vesting after three years of service with Marconi. Amended Complaint PP 25, 37-38, 49. Following plaintiff's termination, however, he received a written copy of the plan provisions and learned that, contrary to the terms disclosed orally, full vesting would not occur until after three years of plan participation. Plf.'s Ex. A, Supplemental Retirement Agreement, P 4. Accordingly, plaintiff was not entitled to retirement or death benefits under the retirement plan. Amended Complaint PP 26-27.

 Plaintiff charges that he relied to his detriment on the oral misrepresentations made to him concerning the company's retirement plan. Amended Complaint PP 45-46. As such, plaintiff's ERISA claim appears to be for promissory estoppel or fraud or breach of contract. Common law claims of promissory estoppel, breach of contract, or fraud, however, are pre-empted under ERISA. 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a) (1988) (ERISA "supersedes any and all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan"); see ...


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