Last Friday, an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) plaintiff seeking to represent a class of AT&T workers impacted by the copmany’s purported policy of replacing older workers with younger ones, fought the wireless carrier’s partial motion to dismiss. The opposition says that dismissal is premature in view of the affirmative defenses AT&T has raised and otherwise unwarranted.
In 2020, AT&T moved to compel arbitration in the Philadelphia, Penn case. Interpreting multiple contracts, the district court, and subsequently the Third Circuit, decided which was the applicable employment agreement. AT&T lost the argument, thereby depriving the company of its right to push for arbitration on a contractual basis.
This March, AT&T moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s collective action allegations on the basis that the controlling agreement, the “General Release,” explicitly bars the plaintiff from pursuing such claims. The wireless carrier further claimed that the plaintiff argued away her right to challenge this notion in a judicial estoppel contention.
Now, the plaintiff counters that AT&T mischaracterizes her argument to suggest that she has conceded the enforceability of the General Release as to her right to bring a collective ADEA action. The plaintiff says this is not so, that she has not reversed course, and AT&T has no right to assert judicial estoppel on this basis.
The opposition also contends that under Pennsylvania law, AT&T’s attempt to enforce the ADEA collective action waiver “is a request for specific performance, which sounds in equity and is barred by the doctrine of unclean hands” and would be unconscionable.
The plaintiff contends that AT&T has unclean hands because it misrepresented to her that signing a collective action waiver would be of no consequence as she had already released her ADEA claims anyway. As to unconscionability, the filing claims that enforcement of the waiver would deprive the plaintiff of ability to pool human resource-type information to build her case and would make the cost of individual suit prohibitively expensive.