McAllister v. Smith Barney/Citigroup Global
Whether an individual is an at-will employee is a conclusion of law that may not be not within the competence of a fact witness such as an in-house corporate attorney. The pro se plaintiff, Angela McAllister, sued Smith Barney/Citigroup Global and other defendants, alleging that the defendants violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and engaged in age discrimination, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The defendants moved to stay litigation and to compel arbitration. In support, the defendants submitted the affidavit of Attorney Eugene Clark, an in-house attorney, opining that McAllister had been an at-will employee since 1991. The defendants claimed that the defendants started to require arbitration of employees' claims in 1993, when they added that condition to an employment handbook. In opposition, McAllister denied that she had ever worked as an at-will employee. Neither side offered any further evidence. The District Court, Bryant, J., denied the defendants' motion to stay litigation and to compel arbitration. The defendants appealed to the 2nd Circuit. Whether an individual is an at-will employee is a conclusion of law. It is not within the competence of a fact witness. Attorney Clark and Angela McAllister's conflicting statements on whether McAllister was an at-will employee lacked evidentiary value. Neither party provided testimony or documentary evidence to indicate whether the defendants issued promises or representations in connection with McAllister's employment. The 2nd Circuit remanded, to permit the parties to provide evidence about whether there was an employment contract, express or implied, the terms of that employment contract, and when the defendants started to require workers to arbitrate employment claims. "If McAllister had contract rights that were not compatible with the employer's general arbitration requirement," wrote the 2nd Circuit, "then the defendants' efforts to impose the arbitration requirement was not enforceable under Connecticut law."