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Trainor v. Qwest Government Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

July 31, 2019

JULIE TRAINOR, Plaintiff,
v.
QWEST GOVERNMENT SERVICES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          T.S. Ellis, III United States District Judge

         At issue in this employment dispute is defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiffs Jury Demand. Defendant argues that plaintiffs jury demand must be stricken because plaintiff knowingly and voluntarily gave up her right to a jury trial when she signed four documents containing jury waivers. Plaintiff responds that the jury waivers are unenforceable because defendant cannot prove that her consent to the waivers was voluntary. Alternatively, plaintiff argues that even if the jury waivers are enforceable, they do not apply to her claims because her claims arose prior to the waivers, which are not retroactive. For the reasons discussed infra, the jury waivers are enforceable and one of the waivers expressly applies to plaintiffs claims. As such, defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiffs Jury Demand must be granted.

         I.

         According to the Second Amended Complaint, plaintiff Julie Trainor was employed by Level 3 Communications ("Level 3") as an account director. In that capacity, Trainor was responsible for the procurement and management of federal contracts. Trainor was paid a salary and earned commission in accordance with the Level 3 commission plan. Pursuant to the plan, Trainor was paid a small portion of her commission on a sale sixty days after the government paid Level 3's invoice. The remainder-and the bulk-of Trainor's commission was paid in February of the following year, and then only if Trainor remained employed at that time. Thus, if Trainor was not employed in February of the year following the closing of a contract, she was not entitled to receive the bulk of her commission on the deal.

         On November 1, 2017, defendant Qwest Government Services, Inc. (d/b/a CenturyLink QGS) ("Qwest") acquired Level 3. At the time, Trainor expected to receive $245, 000 in commission in February 2018. Qwest extended offers of employment to a number of Level 3's employees, including Trainor. On November 15, 2017, Trainor formally accepted employment with Qwest, signing the letter extending Trainor an offer of employment ("Offer Letter"). The Offer Letter included an attachment containing the terms and conditions of Qwest's employment offer. As relevant here, the Offer Letter contained an express waiver of both Trainor's and Qwest's rights to litigate claims against the other before a jury. Specifically, the Offer Letter provided, in relevant part, that

As used in this Attachment, "CenturyLink" means any subsidiary or affiliate of CenturyLink, Inc. (including subsidiaries and affiliates of CenturyTel, Embarq, Qwest, Savvis, or Level 3), and any predecessor or successor to those subsidiaries or affiliates....
To the extent permissible by law, you voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waive any right you may have to a jury trial with respect to any Claims .... CenturyLink also voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waives any right it may have to a jury trial with respect to any Claims-----
The term "Claims" ... means any claim, controversy or dispute between you and CenturyLink relating in any way to your hiring, employment, compensation, terms and conditions of employment, the termination of your employment, or the interpretation of your offer letter or any attachment to it....

Pl.'s Ex. 1, 5, 7.

         Subsequently, Qwest announced its commission plan for 2018. Trainor accepted Qwest's 2018 commission plan by signing three agreements ("Commission Plans") in March and May 2018.[1] These agreements also contained express waivers of Trainor's and Qwest's right to a jury. Specifically, each Commission Plan provided that

The 2018 Sales Compensation Agreement... is by and between the subsidiary or affiliate of CenturyLink, Inc., which is Participant's employer, ... and/or its parent, successor and affiliated companies ("the Company") and the Plan Participant identified on the Acknowledgement ("you," "Participant," or "Plan Participant")....
Both the Company and Plan Participant voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently agree to waive their right to jury trial regarding any and all claims or causes of action arising out of or relating to Plan Participant's employment with the Company. This waiver includes, but is not limited to, claims or causes of action relating to Plan Participant's application, hiring, employment, resignation, discharge, termination, and wages ....

Def.'s Ex. 6, 2-3 (formatting altered).

         Trainor remained employed by Qwest until December 21, 2018. On December 17, 2018. Trainor initiated this action against Qwest. Her Second Amended Complaint asserts claims of: (i) discrimination in pay, in violation of the Equal Pay Act;[2] (ii) discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;[3] (iii) hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII; (iv) retaliation, in violation of Title VII; and (v) retaliatory hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII. Trainor demanded a trial by jury.

         Qwest now seeks to strike Trainor's jury demand, arguing that she knowingly and voluntarily waived her right to a jury trial when she signed the Offer Letter and the three Commission Plans containing jury waivers.[4] Trainor admits that she signed the Offer Letter and thrice signed the Commission Plan. However, Trainor argues that the jury waivers these documents contain are unenforceable because Qwest cannot prove her consent to the jury waivers was voluntary. This, Trainer contends, is because she would not have received the $245, 000 in commission she expected in February 2018 had she refused to sign the Offer Letter and the Commission Plans, as she was required to be employed in February 2018 to receive the $245, 000 in commission. Alternatively, Trainor argues that even if the jury waivers are enforceable, they do not apply to her claims because her claims arose prior to the waivers, which are not retroactive.

         For the reasons that follow, Trainor's consent to the jury waivers was voluntary, and the Offer Letter's jury waiver expressly applies to Trainor's claims. As such, ...


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