United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
dispute in this case centers on an employee's
non-competition agreement. Plaintiff Rishi Vas Kurra
(“Kurra”) brings a Complaint for declaratory
judgment against his former employer, Defendant Synergy
Computer Solutions, Inc. (“Synergy”) seeking a
declaration (1) that the non-competition clause in
Kurra's employment agreement is unenforceable; and (2)
that Kurra is not contractually obligated to reimburse
Synergy for approximately $9, 550 in visa application fees
and travel expenses that Synergy paid on Kurra's behalf.
October 30, 2015, Kurra filed his original Complaint
(“Compl.”) in the Massachusetts Superior Court
for Middlesex County. See [ECF No. 1-2]. On November
25, 2015, Synergy removed the action to federal district
court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. See
Notice of Removal [ECF No. 1].
after removing the action, Synergy filed a Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3),
alleging improper venue. [ECF No. 4]. Synergy contends that
this dispute is governed by a forum-selection clause in
Kurra's employment agreement, which requires that all
disputes be resolved by a court in Michigan. In the
alternative, Synergy moves to transfer this action to the
United States District Court for the Eastern District of
December 22, 2015, Kurra filed a Motion to Remand the action
to state court. [ECF No. 8]. Kurra argues that there is no
basis for diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332,
because the statute's $75, 000 amount-in-controversy
requirement is not satisfied. Id.
Court held a hearing on the parties' respective motions
on January 13, 2016. For the reasons set forth in this
Memorandum and Order, Kurra's Motion to Remand is
DENIED, and Synergy's Motion to Dismiss is
DENIED, but its alternative Motion to Transfer is
FACTS ALLEGED IN THE COMPLAINT
Complaint alleges as follows:
a computer programmer, is a currently a resident of Dracut,
Massachusetts. Synergy is a Michigan corporation with a
principal place of business in Bingham Farms, Michigan.
Compl. ¶¶ 1-2.
to Kurra, on or about January 23, 2014, he entered into a
Visa Application Agreement with Synergy's affiliated
entity in Hydurabad, India, pursuant to which Synergy agreed
to employ Kurra in the United States for 18 months, and to
apply for an H1-B visa on his behalf. Id. ¶
claims that during the negotiation of this agreement, Synergy
represented to him that it had several clients in need of his
services, and that Kurra would be “staffed” on a
project for one such client. Id. ¶ 10.
Synergy applied for and received an H1-B visa on Kurra's
behalf, which allowed him to work in the United States from
October 2014 through September 30, 2015. Id. ¶
7. In the visa application, Synergy represented that Kurra
would be performing duties as a computer programmer analyst
on projects for Synergy's client, Johnson Controls, Inc.
(“JCI”). Synergy further represented that JCI had
a “master service agreement” with Synergy for
technical support on various projects. Id. ¶
Synergy obtained the visa, it rearranged for Kurra's
relocation to Michigan. Kurra arrived in the United States on
or about February 16, 2015. Id. ¶ 8. When he
arrived, however, a representative from Synergy's human
resources department informed him that she had no knowledge
of any contract with JCI, and that Synergy currently had no
projects for Kurra to work on. Id. ¶ 12.
Synergy instructed Kurra to search job postings in order to
find a position where Synergy could staff him. From
Kurra's arrival until March 15, 2015, Synergy paid him a
stipend in lieu of a salary. Id. ¶ 8. Kurra was
officially placed on Synergy's payroll on March 16, 2015.
further claims that after he arrived in Michigan, Synergy
required him to execute a “Non-Competition, Invention,
Reimbursement and Confidentiality Agreement” (the
“NonCompetition Agreement”). Kurra's
Complaint alleges that the terms of the Non-Competition
Agreement had not been disclosed to him in January 2014, when
he negotiated and signed the Visa Application Agreement in
India. Id. ¶ 9. Kurra signed the
Non-Competition Agreement on March 16, 2015.
Kurra found a position at a staffing company called
“Randstad, ” which was located in Woburn,
Massachusetts. Compl. ¶ 13. Kurra began working for
Randstad on or about June 22, 2015. Randstad, in turn, placed
Kurra with its own client, Kronos, Inc.
(“Kronos”), a company located in Chelmsford,
Massachusetts. Id. At all relevant times, however,
Kurra remained a Synergy employee and was paid by Synergy,
not by Randstad or Kronos. Id.
2015, Kurra raised certain issues with Synergy's human
resources department, including a concern about whether
Synergy intended to apply for an extension of his H1-B visa,
which was set to expire on September 30, 2015. Id.
¶ 16. On or about July 14, 2015, Synergy's Human
Resources Manager, Damaris Madigral (“Madigral”),
confirmed that Synergy would apply for a visa extension on
August 15, 2015. Id. Although Kurra followed up with
Madigral in three separate emails dated August 24, September
11, and September 28, 2015, Madigral failed to respond.
Id. ¶¶ 17-18.
September 30, 2015, which was the last day on which an
employer could submit a renewal application for his H1-B
visa, Kronos offered Kurra a full-time position as a Kronos
employee, and it further agreed to file an H1-B visa
extension application on his behalf. Id. ¶ 19.
about October 5, 2015, Kurra informed Synergy that he was
resigning effective October 11, 2015. Id. ¶ 20.
Kurra claims that in response, Synergy's Business
Development Manager threatened to take legal action and seek
reimbursement for payments under the Visa Application
Agreement. Id. ¶ 21. Synergy followed up with a
letter to Kurra dated October 7, 2015, in which counsel for
Synergy made a formal demand for reimbursement in the amount
of $9, 550, which Synergy allegedly spent on Kurra's
travel and visa expenses. Id. ¶ 22. This letter
also reminded Kurra about the terms of his Non-Competition
Agreement, which provided in relevant part as follows:
Employee agrees that he/she, for the twelve (12) month period
following termination or resignation, will not solicit,
contact or hire, either directly or indirectly, any of
Synergy's clients, consultants, and/or employees for the
purpose of providing computer/engineering technology
services, human resource/staffing systems and/or any products
and services competitive with the products and services
offered by Synergy.
Id. ¶¶ 22-23; see also Guduguntla
Decl., Ex. B.
alleges, upon information and belief, that Kronos is not a
client of Synergy. Compl. ¶ 24. He further alleges that
he did not solicit or contact Kronos for the purposes of
providing services; rather, it was Kronos that approached
the Court notes that the Non-Competition Agreement contains a
choice-of-law clause, which provides that the Agreement
“shall be construed in accordance with Michigan
law.” Guduguntla Decl., Ex. B. The Agreement also
contains a forum-selection clause, stating that:
Employee agrees that all actions arising directly or
indirectly out of this Agreement shall be litigated only in
the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Michigan, Southern Division, or the Oakland County, Michigan
Circuit Court, and Employee hereby irrevocably consents to
the personal jurisdiction and venue of those
MOTION TO REMAND
Motion to Remand challenges this Court's federal subject
matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Court addresses the
jurisdictional issue before turning to Synergy's Motion
to Dismiss or Transfer. See Herbert H. Landy Ins. Agency,
Inc. v. Navigators Mgmt. Co., No. 14-12552, 2014 WL
3908179, at *3 (D. Mass. Aug. 8, 2014).
courts are courts of limited subject matter jurisdiction. In
this action, Synergy asserts that the Court has subject
matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, which
requires the parties to be citizens of different states, and
the amount in controversy to exceed the sum or value of $75,
000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Although Kurra
does not dispute that the parties are diverse, he argues that
the amount in controversy does not exceed the $75, 000
case is removed to federal court on the grounds of diversity
jurisdiction, the amount in controversy is governed by 28