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NICE Systems, Inc. v. Becquer

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 22, 2017

NICE Systems, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
Pedro J. Becquer, Defendants.

          Cicely R Miltich, Esq., and Randall E. Kahnke, Esq., Faegre Baker Daniels LLP; Jay P. Warren, Esq., Megan Awerdick Pierson, Esq, and Sarah W. Bloom, Esq., Bryan Cave LLP counsel for Plaintiff.

          Andrew M. Irlbeck, Esq., Andrew Irlbeck, Lawyer, Chartered; Jeffrey S. Storms, Esq., Newmark Storms Law Office, counsel for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment brought by Defendant Pedro J. Becquer. (Doc. No. 44.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff NICE Systems, Inc. (“NICE”) licenses software and sells related services worldwide. (Doc. No. 85 (“Wojcik Decl.”) ¶ 4.) Becquer worked for NICE from September 10, 2012, through January 15, 2016. As part of his employment, Becquer signed an offer letter on September 5, 2012 (the “Contract”). (Doc. No. 50 (“Storms Decl.”) ¶ 4, Ex. B at 4.) The Contract provides:

Position. Your position will be that of Strategic Account Executive reporting to Christopher Walker. In addition to performing duties and responsibilities associated with this position, from time to time the Company may assign you other duties and responsibilities. As a full-time employee of the Company, you will be expected to devote your full business time and energies to the business and affairs of the Company.

(Contract ¶ 1 (emphasis added).)

         Under the Contract, Becquer participated in NICE's commission plan (the “Plan”). NICE issues a new Plan each year. The Plans for 2012-2015 applied to all NICE sales representatives and expressly authorized NICE to change a sales representative's territory or account assignments. (Doc. No. 86 (“Bethoney Decl.”) ¶ 8, Exs. A, B.) Every year, sales representatives were required to sign a goal sheet to be eligible for commissions. (Bethoney Decl. ¶ 5.) Becquer's 2013 Goal Sheet listed his title as Strategic Account Executive, his manager as Christopher Walker, and his salary as $130, 000. (Id. ¶ 9, Ex. C.) In 2014, Becquer's Goal Sheet listed his title as Global Account Executive, his manger as Luis Villanueva, and his salary as $140, 000. (Id. ¶ 10, Ex. D.) Becquer signed both goal sheets electronically and, by signing, certified that he read, understood, and agreed to be bound by the terms and conditions contained therein. (Id.)

         When Becquer began working at NICE in September 2012, he was assigned one account, UnitedHealth Group (“UHG”). (Wojcik Decl. ¶ 7; Doc. No. 65 (“Warren Decl.”) ¶ 2, Ex. A, (“Wojcik Dep.”) at 95, 100.) Becquer reported to Christopher Walker, a Strategic Account Executive, who reported to Alan Wojcik, Sales Vice President for NICE. In 2013, Becquer moved from the UHG account to the CitiGroup (“Citi”) account. Wojcik considered the UHG and Citi accounts to be equal (one in the “healthcare vertical” and the other in the “bank vertical”) and he, therefore, considered Becquer's move to the Citi account to be lateral. (Wojcik Dep. at 95.) Nonetheless, Wojcik explained that he agreed to change Becquer's title to Global Account Executive at Becquer's request. (Id. at 97-99.) In 2013, Becquer helped new sales representatives working on the UHG account and primarily worked on the Citi account. (Warren Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. B (“Becquer Dep.”) at 40-41.) Becquer completed his switch from UGH to the Citi account as of January 1, 2014, at which time he began reporting to Villanueva, the Regional Vice President for Nice Strategic account bank clients. (Wojcik Dep. at 99-100; Warren Decl. ¶ 23, Ex. V (“Villanueva Dep.”) at 26; Wojcik Decl. ¶ 8.)

         Meanwhile, on July 29, 2015, and while working for NICE, Becquer entered into an employment contract with Mirantis, Inc., a separate company located in California, to work as an account executive in a full-time capacity. (Warren Decl. ¶ 5, Ex. D; Becquer Dep. at 77, 80.) Becquer worked for Mirantis from August 10, 2015, until January 11, 2016. At Mirantis, Becquer earned a base salary of $150, 000 per year, plus variable compensation of $150, 000 annually based on sales quotas, stock options, and other compensation. (Becquer Dep. at 80, 115-16.)

         On November 10, 2015, after hearing rumors that Becquer was working for Mirantis, Wojcik met with Becquer in Minneapolis and asked Becquer directly if he was working for Mirantis. (Wojcik Dep. at 26.) Becquer told Wojcik that Mirantis had offered him a position, but that he was waiting to see what would happen in January 2016 with his job at NICE. (Id.) Wojcik testified that he repeated the question: “So I said again, are you working for Mirantis? He said no, I'm not.” (Wojcik at 26-27.)

         On January 6, 2016, NICE promoted Becquer to Regional Vice President, Back Office. NICE asserts that the promotion was offered in an effort to address Becquer's desire to move from direct sales into a management position. On January 12, 2016, Becquer told Laura Cooper, NICE's Vice President of Human Resources for the Americas, that he had been working for Mirantis for thirty days, and that he had recently resigned from Mirantis. (Storms Decl. ¶ 19, Ex. Q.) Initially, NICE allowed Becquer to continue working at NICE on the condition that Becquer confirmed his resignation with Mirantis. (Id.) On January 14, 2016, Wojcik told Cooper that he had spoken with ...


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