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Glaxosmithkline LLC v. Beede

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 6, 2014



PAUL M. FREEMAN, ESQ., MATTHEW J. GRIESEMER, ESQ., FREEMAN HOWARD, P.C., Hudson, New York. Attorneys for Defendant.


MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.


On January 2, 2013, Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a complaint, alleging claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, fraudulent inducement, and declaratory relief. See Dkt. No. 1.

Currently before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint, brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Dkt. Nos. 13, 19, 24. Also before the Court is Plaintiff's letter motion seeking to strike a certain document submitted by Defendant with his reply papers. See Dkt. Nos. 25, 26, 29.


Plaintiff is a limited liability company organized under the laws of Delaware. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 1. Defendant is a New York State domiciliary who was previously employed by Plaintiff. See id. at ¶¶ 2, 5-6.

Beginning in 1981, Defendant was employed by Stiefel Laboratories ("Stiefel"). See id. at ¶ 5. Plaintiff acquired Stiefel in 2009, and terminated Defendant in 2011 as part of a reduction in work force. See id. at ¶¶ 6-7. In conjunction with the termination, Plaintiff provided Defendant with a Benefits at Termination of Employment Employee Package ("Employee Package"). See id. at ¶ 7; see also Dkt. No. 13-2.[1] That Employee Package contained, as relevant here, a Notice of Termination of Employment, a Severance Pay and Medical/Dental Benefit Election Form, and a General Release. See Dkt. No. 13-2 at 4-9. Each of these documents provides that execution of the General Release was a precondition for entitlement to severance pay or other benefits. See id.

The Notice of Termination of Employment contained the following relevant statement:

You may be eligible for certain benefits under the GlaxoSmithKline Severance Pay Plan. Your benefits are explained in this booklet. Eligibility for any GSK-sponsored employee benefit plans shall be determined in accordance with the terms of the Plans, and all benefits under the Severance Pay Plan are contingent upon your signing and not revoking a General Release Agreement form. By signing and not revoking the General Release Agreement, you surrender any legal claims against the Company. You should read the Release carefully before signing it. Because important legal rights are involved, the Company encourages you to consult your own attorney before signing the General Release.

See id. at 4.

Similarly, the Severance Pay and Medical/Dental Benefit Election Form provides as follows:

You are eligible for Severance Pay of [amount redacted] if you sign and return the General Release, do not revoke it, and work until the conclusion of your assignment.

See id. at 5. The Election Form allowed for a choice between receiving the severance pay in one lump sum or two installments, with both options containing the following language:

Your [Severance Pay] will be issued as soon as administratively possible after your termination date, provided you (1) sign this Election form, (2) sign and do not revoke the General Release, (3) sign the Older Worker Benefit Protection Act Disclosure (if provided to you), and (4) return the original and completed documents in the enclosed envelope in a timely manner.

See id. The Election Form also allowed Defendant to elect to receive paid medical/dental benefits for twelve (12) months, contingent upon his execution of, and not revoking, the General Release.

The General Release begins with a notice encouraging Defendant to consult an attorney, then states, under the heading "General Release of All Claims, " as follows:

In consideration of the monies and other consideration to be received by me and to which I am not otherwise entitled, the adequacy of which I hereby acknowledge, and intending to be legally bound, I hereby unconditionally and forever release, waive and forever discharge GlaxoSmithKMline LLC... from any and all claims, agreements, causes of action, demands or liabilities of any nature whatsoever in law or equity (collectively referred to as "claims") arising, occurring or existing at any time prior to the signing of this General Release, whether known or unknown, with the sole exception of the claims that are set forth in subparagraph I.B below.

Subparagraph I.B of the Release provides:

This General Release does not apply to claims for worker's compensation benefits or unemployment benefits filed with applicable state agencies. This General Release does not bar a challenge under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act ("OWBPA") as to the enforceability of this waiver and release of claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") alone. This General Release does not apply to claims that cannot be released, for example, claims under federal ...

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