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Lamberti v. Motorola Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 24, 2014

CHARLES P. LAMBERTI, Plaintiff,
v.
MOTOROLA SOLUTIONS, INC., ROBERT SANDERS, and JESSICA MICCICHE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

PAUL G. GARDEPHE, District Judge.

Pro se plaintiff Charles Lamberti brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.[1] (Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 1)) Lamberti alleges that his former employer, Motorola Solutions, Inc. ("Motorola" or "the Company"), his former supervisor, Robert Sanders, and a Motorola human resources representative, Jessica Micciche, discriminated against him on the basis of his age, race, and gender, and retaliated against him after he complained about the discrimination. Defendants have moved for summary judgment, arguing that Lamberti waived his right to assert these claims by signing a separation agreement and a general release in exchange for severance payments and other benefits. (Dkt. No. 23) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

I. FACTS

Lamberti began working at Symbol Technologies - which was later acquired by Motorola - in January 1986. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1)[2] He started as an assembly line worker, but over the next twenty-five years he "worked [his] way up" to Senior Director of Engineering. (Id. ¶ 2) In that position, eight to ten departments reported to Lamberti, and he managed between 50 and 200 people at various times. (Id. ¶ 3; Pltf. R. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 3; Oslick Decl. (Dkt. No. 24), Ex. 1 ("Pltf. Dep. Tr.") 39, 41-42)

In September or October 2010, Lamberti alleged that he was being treated unfairly by his superiors at the Motorola office in Holtsville, New York, and he asked the Company to investigate his claims. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 9; Pltf. Dep. Tr. 49-50) Believing that Jessica Micciche, the local Human Resources representative, could not be objective, Lamberti asked Motorola to appoint an "independent third party outside of the business unit he worked in" to conduct the investigation. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10; Pltf. R. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 10; Pltf. Dep. Tr. 47-50) Motorola assigned Martha Visbal, a Florida-based Human Resources Director, to conduct the investigation. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 11) Lamberti communicated with Visbal via phone and e-mail regarding the investigation. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 13)

In November 2010, Visbal notified Lamberti that he was being laid off. (Id. ¶ 15) In a November 11, 2010 e-mail, Lamberti requested that his last day of work be sometime during the following week, that he be paid through December 31, 2010, and that his severance be paid in a lump sum. (Pltf. Dep. Tr. 63-64) Although Lamberti asserts that his requests regarding his last work and pay days were "standard" and "afforded to everyone" (id. at 64-65), Visbal claims that it was "[a]bsolutely not" a common practice at Motorola for laid off employees to remain on the payroll through the end of the quarter, or to be paid for several weeks even though they were not working. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19)

On November 12, 2010, Lamberti was provided with a proposed agreement that would govern the terms of his departure from the Company (the "Separation Agreement"). (Oslick Decl. (Dkt. No. 24), Ex. 6) The Separation Agreement, in part, states:

This letter will confirm that your last day of work with Motorola will be November 19, 2010, and that you are eligible to receive the severance payments and benefits provided by the Motorola, Inc. Involuntary Severance Plan ("ISP"). If you sign and do not revoke the General Release, which is part of the ISP, you will receive severance payments that total $85, 727.20. Separate and apart from the severance payments and benefits provided by the ISP, we have agreed that if you sign and do not revoke this Agreement, you will remain on payroll and Motorola benefits until December 31, 2010 and be eligible for your 2010 Motorola Incentive Plan payment. Please read this letter agreement carefully and return a signed copy to me if you agree with the conditions set forth herein. If you sign this letter, it will operate as a binding contract between you and Motorola.

(Id.) In exchange for the severance payments and other benefits referenced in the Separation Agreement, Lamberti agreed to, inter alia, "not file any lawsuit or internal claims or complaints against Motorola or otherwise recover money or other relief from Motorola in any forum." (Id.)

In the proposed Separation Agreement, Motorola makes clear that (1) the Agreement, if executed by Lamberti, will constitute an enforceable contract; (2) that Lamberti should consult with a lawyer; and (3) in the event Lamberti signs the Agreement, he will have seven days to revoke the Agreement:

If you sign this letter agreement, it will become a legal contract between you and Motorola with important consequences for both you and Motorola. Your signature will be your acknowledgement that you have freely and voluntarily agreed to the terms in this letter and have not been coerced or subjected to any duress by Motorola to do so. In addition, your signature will be your acknowledgement that you are advised and encouraged, by this writing, to consult with an attorney before signing this letter; that you have relied on your own judgment regarding the consideration being given for your promises and agreements and the language contained in this letter; that you have been given sufficient time to consider the terms of this letter; that you have read and understand the terms of this letter; that the consideration you are to receive is in addition to any you are otherwise entitled to receive; and that no statements made by Motorola have in any way coerced or unduly influenced you to sign this letter.
If you sign this letter, you will have seven (7) days afterward to revoke this agreement, if you so desire, by notifying Martha Visbal at 8000 West Sunrise Blvd., Plantation, FL 33322 within the seven (7) day revocation period.
If this offer is acceptable to you, please sign where indicated below and return it to Martha Visbal. Your signature below means you have freely and voluntarily agreed to the terms of this letter. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

(Id.)

Lamberti signed the Separation Agreement and returned it to Visbal on November 18, 2010. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 45) He did not exercise his option to revoke the Agreement within seven days. (Id. ¶ 48)

In accordance with the Separation Agreement, Lamberti received his salary for the six-week period between November 19, 2010 and December 31, 2010. (Pltf. Dep. Tr. at 79-80, 82) These payments total $18, 000. (Id.) His medical benefits were also continued through December 31, 2010. (Id. at 91-93)

The "General Release" referenced in the Separation Agreement is a separate document that Lamberti was required to sign in order to receive severance benefits. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 30) Lamberti is not certain whether he received a copy of the General Release before he signed the Separation Agreement. (Pltf. Dep. Tr. 72) Visbal states that she sent Lamberti a copy of the General Release on November 12, 2010, at the same time that she sent him the Separation Agreement. (Visbal Decl. (Dkt. No. 25) ¶ 6) It is undisputed that Lamberti had received a copy of the General Release by January 5, 2011. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt ¶ 51)

The General Release states:

I hereby unconditionally and irrevocably release, waive and forever discharge Motorola, Inc., Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc., Motorola Mobility, Inc. and their affiliates, parents, successors, subsidiaries, directors, officers, and employees ("Motorola"), from ANY and ALL causes of action, claims and damages, including attorneys fees, whether known or unknown, foreseen or unforeseen, presently asserted or otherwise, which have or could have arisen to date out of my employment or separation from employment or any notice regarding my separation. This General Release ("Release") includes, but is not limited to, any claim or entitlement to pay, benefits or damages arising under any federal law, including but not limited to any claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act... and any claim arising under any common law principle or public policy; and any claim under Motorola's Human Resources policies....
I understand by signing this Release I am not releasing any claim or right which cannot be waived by law, including the right to file an administrative charge of discrimination and the right to file or pursue a workers' compensation claim....
I am signing this Release knowingly and voluntarily. I acknowledge that: (1) I have been advised in writing to consult an attorney before signing this Release; (2) I have relied solely on my own judgment and/or that of my attorney regarding the consideration for and the terms of this Release; (3) the severance allowance and severance benefit provided under the Motorola, Inc. Involuntary Severance Plan which I will receive for signing this Release are consideration in addition to anything to which I am otherwise entitled; (4) I have been given up to forty-nine (49) days to consider this Release, and an additional seven (7) days... after signing to revoke it in writing; (5) I have read and understand the Release and further understand that it includes a general release of any and all known and unknown claims to date I may have against Motorola; (6) I agree that if I decide to revoke this Release I will notify a designated Employee Relations representative at Motorola of such revocation in writing; and, (7) no statements or conduct by Motorola have in any way coerced or unduly influenced me to execute this Release....

(Oslick Decl. (Dkt. No. 24) Ex. 9)

Although Lamberti acknowledges that the General Release advises him to consult with an attorney, he testified that he "didn't even consider" doing so, because he did not think that "slowing the process [of receiving his severance pay] [was] something that was feasible." (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 62; Pltf. Dep. Tr. at 119) The General Release provides Lamberti with up to forty-nine days to sign it. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 64)

On January 5, 2011 - along with a copy of the General Release - Motorola sent Lamberti an "Older Workers Benefit Protection Act List." (Jensen Decl. (Dkt. No. 33) ¶ 5; Oslick Decl. (Dkt. No. 24), Ex. 10) The 198-page list set forth "the job titles and ages of all individuals who were selected for the reduction-in-force (and thus were eligible for severance benefits), and a list of individuals in the same organizational unit who were not selected for the reduction-in-force (and thus were ineligible for severance benefits)." (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 51; Jensen Decl. (Dkt. No. 33) ¶ 5; Oslick Decl. (Dkt. No. 24), Ex. 10) The list includes a notice with the following information concerning the General Release:

• You have 49 days from the date you receive this list to sign and return the General Release to Motorola, which will entitle you to receive the severance allowance and severance benefits afforded under the Motorola Inc. Involuntary Severance Plan.
• You may sign and return the General Release at any time after you receive this list as long as it is after your last day on payroll and before the expiration of the 49 days.
• From the date you sign and date the General Release, you will then have an additional seven (7) calendar days... to revoke it. Motorola must receive your revocation in writing by the close of the seven-day... period.
• If you do not revoke the release, the severance allowance will be paid to you once the ...

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