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Zhang v. UnitedHealth Group

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 13, 2019

Yufan Zhang, Plaintiff,
v.
UnitedHealth Group and Sujatha Duraimanickam, Defendant.

          Kaitlyn L. Dennis, Gustafson Gluek PLLC, Counsel for Plaintiff.

          Sandra L. Jezierski and Jeremy D. Robb, Nilan Johnson Lewis PA, Counsel for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael J. Davis United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to compel arbitration or in the alternative, to dismiss Plaintiff's claims.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff was an employee of Defendant UnitedHealth Group (“UnitedHealth”) from December 2014 through November 14, 2016. (Amended Complaint ¶¶ 3, 11.) In 2016, he was a senior developer and reported to Defendant Sujatha Duraimanickam. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that during the time Duraimanickam was his supervisor, she repeatedly made remarks that Plaintiff was less capable of performing the work of developer compared to his younger coworkers and pressured Plaintiff to resign his position. (Id.) When he failed to resign, Plaintiff alleges that Duraimanickam: 1) restricted his access to important developer resources after younger developers were hired; 2) assigned him complicated and lengthy projects with unrealistic deadlines; 3) claimed Plaintiff lacked the requisite skills for his job, even though he worked in a web development environment that he created and developed the training material for; and 4) exaggerated mistakes to make them look like major issues. (Id. ¶ 3.) It is Plaintiff's claim that Duraimanickam set him up for failure as rationale for terminating his employment. (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims all other members of Duraimanickam's team were treated differently than Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 4.) He claims they were all provided the resources they needed to complete their work and were given adequate time and flexible deadlines to complete projects. (Id.)

         Plaintiff pursued dispute resolution regarding his claims against Duraimanickam within UnitedHealth. Plaintiff claims that human resources failed to adequately investigate his claims and adopted Duraimanickam's biased assessment of Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 5.)

         In his May 2017 charge filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (“MDHR”), which was cross-filed with the EEOC, Plaintiff claimed he was discriminated against based on age. (Robb Decl. Ex. 1.) He claimed he “was treated differently and less favorably than my younger coworkers. My supervisor made unfavorable comments about my age. I was subjected to constant discipline and I was discharged on November 14, 2016.” (Id.) He further claimed, “It is my belief I was discriminated against on the basis of my age/56 in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended.” (Id.)

         By notice dated February 27, 2018, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right To Sue. (Id.) Plaintiff's original pro se complaint was filed on May 25, 2018[1], and an Amended Complaint was filed on August 13, 2018. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has asserted claims of age discrimination under the ADEA and the MHRA and a claim of defamation.

         II. Motion to Compel Arbitration

         UnitedHealth asserts that immediately before Plaintiff was hired, he was sent an offer letter and UnitedHealth's Employment Arbitration Policy (“Policy”). (Duraimanickam Decl., Ex. 2.) The offer letter specifically provides “Your agreement to be bound by the terms of the Policy is a condition of your employment. Once you are on board, you will be required to electronically acknowledge in Employee Self Service your understanding of the Policy.” (Id. Ex. 1 at p. 5.)

         The Policy requires UnitedHealth employees to arbitrate any dispute that “arises from or relates to employment, including termination of employment.” (Id. Ex. 2, Section B.) The Policy further provides that it applies to ADEA claims, state discrimination claims and defamation claims. (Id.)

         A. ...


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