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Vaughan v. Aegis Communications Group, LLC

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

September 9, 2014

WAYLON VAUGHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
AEGIS COMMUNICATIONS GROUP, LLC and AEGIS USA, INC., Defendants

Page 614

For Waylon Vaughan, Plaintiff: Anne W. Schiavone, Matt O'Laughlin, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Holman Schiavone, LLC, Kansas City, MO; Kelly A. McCambridge, LEAD ATTORNEY, McCambridge Law LLC, Lee's Summit, Mo.

For Aegis Communications Group, LLC, Defendant: Robert A Kaiser, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jeremy M Brenner, Armstrong Teasdale LLP-STL, St. Louis, MO.

For Aegis USA, Inc., also known as TPUSA-FCHS, Inc., Defendant: Jeremy M Brenner, Armstrong Teasdale LLP-STL, St. Louis, MO.

Page 615

ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Aegis Communications Group's (" ACG" ) Motion to Dismiss Count VII of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 29), Defendant Aegis USA, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Count VI (Doc. No. 42), Defendant ACG's Motion to Dismiss Count V (Doc. No. 47), and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Supplemental Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 62).[1] After careful consideration and for the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Supplemental Motion to Dismiss; and denies the Motions to Dismiss Counts V, VI and VII.

DOUGLAS HARPOOL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Page 616

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint alleges fraudulent inducement and misrepresentation in employment negotiations (Count I); negligent misrepresentation (Count II); unjust enrichment (Count III); breach of contract (Count IV); forced labor (18 U.S.C. § 1589; 1595)(Against Defendant ACG) (Count V); forced labor (18 U.S.C. § 1589; 1595)(Against Defendant Aegis USA) (Count VI); and Benefitting from Forced Labor (18 U.S.C. § 1589; 1595)(Against Defendant ACG)(Count VII). These claims are brought against Plaintiff's employers Aegis Communications Group, LLC (" ACG" ) and Aegis USA, Inc.[2]

Aegis USA and ACG operate call centers in various locations around the United States. Plaintiff began working for ACG in 2007 as a telephone sales representative at its Joplin, Missouri call center. Plaintiff took a leave of absence from June 2011 to June 2012 from his employment to participate in a Cross-Shoring Program. Plaintiff returned to Joplin, Mo. in June 2012 and is still employed as a telephone sales representative in the call center. Defendants contend 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. Plaintiff contends it was developed in response to the global market for outsourced customer service and intended to provide cheaper services to a client. Nonetheless, 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.[3] 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

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payment at the end of the program period. 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. ACG also informed participants they would later be placed in its " ACE Blue" supervisor training program. Plaintiff's leave of absence agreement stated " provided that 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." The Agreement further states " 'Good Standing' for purposes of this Agreement shall mean Employee completed the study program without any infraction of policy or any unexcused absences, as determined by the Company in its sole discretion and such determination shall be deemed final and binding between the parties." 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.

Plaintiff received a copy of the flyer on his desk and expressed his interest in the program. He then had a short meeting with the HR manager and the Joplin call center director regarding the opportunity to participate in the program. After the meeting, Plaintiff felt the program was a good opportunity and therefore had a telephone interview with an ACG executive in Texas. Plaintiff was accepted into the cross-shoring program after his interview.

As part of the process, Plaintiff went to Texas and attended several group discussions about the Cross-Shoring program. During the discussions, participants were informed about food, transportation, pay, education and work hours. Plaintiff was trained on the client account and was provided information about what would happen in India. Plaintiff did his own research on India, and at a minimum concluded he would not like the food there. Before Plaintiff left for Texas he sold all of his belongings, except for a truck. Plaintiff signed a leave of absence agreement with ACG on June 29, 2011.

Plaintiff arrived in India on July 3, 2011. Upon his arrival he was given an " Exchange Student Handbook," a set of off-campus guidelines and a PowerPoint presentation. Plaintiff had approximately $4,200 when he arrived in India. Plaintiff was told prior to leaving for India he would be working overnight shifts. Plaintiff did work overnight shifts, but did not work on American holidays or the weekends. Plaintiff complained about the food and the pay while in India. He voiced his complaints to the HR manager in Joplin, Mo. The HR manager forwarded Plaintiff's complaints to ACG's Vice President of Human Resources and ACG's liaison for the Cross-Shoring Program -- both of whom were located in Texas. These complaints

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were also communicated to the supervisors in India.

Plaintiff completed the Cross-Shoring program in June 2012 and returned to Joplin, Mo. Plaintiff returned to work at the call center, received the $2,000 bonus, received a certificate from eCornell and was placed in ACG's " ACE Blue" supervisor training program.[4] ...


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