On June 23, 2006, Judge Douglas Woodlock of the United States District Court (Massachusetts) granted summary judgment to AT&T in an action alleging intentional and negligent misrepresentations. Plaintiff, Beverly George, initially brought her claims in state court; the Company removed the action to federal court.
George retired effective August 1, 2004. She claimed that the Company’s misrepresentations induced her to retire. Company managers allegedly assured her that the facility where she worked would not experience any workforce reductions or close. Six (6) weeks after her retirement, the Company announced it was reducing the work force by 140 employees. If plaintiff had still been employed, she would have been eligible to receive 100 weeks of severance pay under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
Judge Woodlock dismissed plaintiff’s complaint on two (2) grounds. First, he found plaintiff’s state law claims preempted by federal labor law. He found that the question of whether plaintiff was defrauded out of severance benefits required interpretation of a provision of the collective bargaining agreement which exempts from eligibility for severance benefits those employees who leave voluntarily without inducements by the Company.
Additionally, Judge Woodlock found the evidence insufficient to raise a triable jury issue as to misrepresentations. Plaintiff could not show that the statements made by her managers were false when made. Plaintiff could not show that her managers knew or should have known of the downsizing decision when they made the alleged misrepresentations some three (3) months earlier.