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Watson v. Aegis Communications Group, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division

July 24, 2014

NICK ALEXANDER WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
AEGIS COMMUNICATIONS GROUP, LLC and AEGIS USA, INC., Defendants.

ORDER

DOUGLAS HARPOOL, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 51). After careful consideration and for the following reasons, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 51).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint alleges fraudulent inducement and misrepresentation in employment negotiations (Count I), negligent misrepresentation (Count II), wrongful termination in violation of public policy (Count III), unjust enrichment (Count IV), breach of contract (Count V); and false imprisonment (Count VI) against his former employers Aegis Communications Group, LLC ("ACG") and Aegis USA, Inc.[1]

Aegis USA and ACG operate call centers in various locations around the United States. Plaintiff began working for ACG in approximately 2009 as a telephone sales representative at its Joplin, Missouri call center. Plaintiff took a leave of absence in June 2011 from his employment with ACG to participate in a Cross-Shoring Program. The Cross-Shoring program was intended to be a mutually-beneficial opportunity for employees to obtain additional training and gain experience living, working and studying abroad, while also offering American clients access to American employees at a lower cost to clients. ACG permitted volunteer employees who were selected after an interview and ranking process to take a leave of absence from their jobs at ACG to participate in the program.

Aegis Aspire operated Aegis Global Academy ("Academy") in India and contracted with ACG to operate the Cross-Shoring Program.[2] Specifically, ACG entered a contract with Aegis Aspire to provide services under the Cross-Shoring Program. The "Master Support Agreement" was entered into on July 1, 2011 and stated the Company [ACG] requires Support in training and development of their employees and the Academy [Aegis Aspire] is willing and able to provide such Support. As set forth in the agreement, Support to be provided by Academy included, but was not limited to: "providing training and people development support to the employees of the Company on a residency programme basis, which would include without limitation, following: (1) class room training; (2) medical facilities; (3) practical training; (4) stipend; (5) mobile phone allowance; (6) administrative services; (7) transportation; (8) printing and stationary services; (9) any other auxiliary services."

Employees from Aegis Aspire prepared materials that described the Cross-Shoring Program and subsequently sent the materials to ACG management in Texas to be used to introduce the program to ACG employees. ACG management then created and distributed a basic flyer, based on materials and information provided by Aegis Aspire, to local HR managers at call centers around the United States, including Joplin, Mo. The flyer promised participants a $100 monthly allowance and that participants would receive a $2, 000 savings payment at the end of the program period. The flyer also stated "Aegis will pay for your fully furnished room and board..." The flyer references "Aegis" several times but does not identify a specific Aegis entity.

The Cross-Shoring program was a one year program that took place in India. ACG provided transportation to and from India. Aegis Aspire provided the meals, lodging, internet access, pre-paid cellular phone, Indian-based health insurance and transportation in India. Aegis Aspire provided the $100 per month stipend to cover miscellaneous expenses and also provided the educational component to the participants through a contract it had with Cornell University. Participants who completed the program in good standing were informed they would receive a complimentary Indian vacation excursion from Aegis Aspire.

ACG informed participants they would receive a $2, 000 pre-tax bonus at the end of the program period and would return to a position with ACG in the United States. Plaintiff's leave of absence agreement stated "provided Employee has successfully completed the one year study program and has remained in good standing throughout such one year period, Employee's return to work at Aegis and Employee's employment with Aegis will be reinstated as if he had never left employment with Aegis." If the participant did not complete the program the bonus would be retained by ACG to cover the cost of the participant's travel to and from India.[3]

Plaintiff saw a flyer posted on a cork board at the Joplin call center and applied for the program. He was initially turned down, but then later was accepted at which time he informed the company he still wanted to participate. After Plaintiff indicated his desire to participate, he had a short phone call with ACG's liaison for the program in which Plaintiff was able to ask any questions he had. He also participated in several round table discussions regarding the program in which he had the opportunity to ask questions. Plaintiff spoke with individuals from ACG and Aegis Aspire about the program before he left for India. Plaintiff went to Texas in May 2011 and was further trained for the program. Before leaving for India, Plaintiff participated in several round table discussions about the Cross-Shoring program. Plaintiff signed a leave of absence agreement with ACG on June 29, 2011

While participating in the Cross-Shoring Program, the participants were required to work in an Indian call center. Plaintiff voiced complaints to the HR manager in ACG's Joplin call center while he was in India regarding the Cross-Shoring program. Plaintiff's complaints were forwarded to ACG's Vice President of Human Resources, and ACG's liaison for the Cross-Shoring program - both of whom were in Texas. Plaintiff's complaints mainly included the issues with regard to the pay and food, but he also complained about the living conditions. The Head of Operations in Bangalore met with the participants of the Cross-Shoring Program to address complaints. Thereafter, at some point in time, Plaintiff informed his supervisors that he would not continue to work until they responded further to his complaints. Plaintiff remained in India but did not work for approximately six or seven weeks. After that time Aegis Aspire decided to terminate him from the Cross-Shoring program and sent him home.

Plaintiff was terminated from the Cross-Shoring Program in approximately May 2012. Aegis Aspire informed ACG of its decision and obtained authorization from ACG to purchase Plaintiff's return airplane ticket, since ACG was responsible for that cost. Plaintiff was given an envelope of travel paperwork by the Dean of the Academy and taken to the airport by bus. Plaintiff alleges he was missing part of his immigration paperwork and was prevented from boarding the flight. As such, Plaintiff stayed in a nearby hotel until he was able to leave India within 48 hours. ACG terminated Plaintiff upon his return from India.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper if, viewing the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp., v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law if they can establish there is "no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Once the moving party has established a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the ...


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