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AthenaHealth, Inc. v. May

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 13, 2018

AthenaHealth, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
Lauren May, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge

         This case arises from an employment dispute between Athenahealth, Inc. (“Athena” or “plaintiff”) and its former employee, Lauren May (“May” or “defendant”). Athena alleges that May failed to return, upon her termination, a laptop computer provided to her by Athena. May counterclaims that she was wrongfully discharged from her employment.

         Athena moves to dismiss four of May's counterclaims for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. For the reasons that follow, Athena's motion will be allowed, in part, and denied, in part.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Athena, a Delaware corporation with its principle place of business in Watertown, Massachusetts, is a nationwide provider of web-based healthcare management services. May began working for Athena as a market analyst in or about November, 2011, in the Watertown office. May and Athena entered into an at-will employment agreement (“the Agreement”). May later transferred to Athena's Princeton, New Jersey, office and sometime thereafter began working remotely from her home in New Jersey.

         Beginning in 2015, Athena reorganized its Access and Awareness Division and May's position changed to “Senior Growth Analytics and Operations Associate”. May asserts that in an effort to convince her to transfer to that position, Athena's vice president, Jamie Mallinger (“Mallinger”), promised May that she would have absolutely nothing to worry about in making the transition to a different team and continuing working from home.

         May alleges that in March, 2016, her manager prompted her to misappropriate the technology, intellectual property and trade secrets of Decidedly, LLC, a company that provided Athena access to its system. May expressed her concern to the manager and her discomfort in fulfilling the request. Nevertheless, May insists that her manager continued to pressure her to mirror some of the successful features of the intellectual property of Decidedly, LLC.

         In March, 2016, and again in May, 2016, defendant contacted Athena's senior corporate counsel and expressed her concerns regarding her manager. Shortly thereafter, counsel held a meeting with Athena employees addressing May's concerns. Less than two weeks after that meeting, May's manager informed her that she could not effectively fulfill the core requirements of her position while working remotely and that her continued employment would depend upon her attendance at her assigned work station. May submits that this was the first time Athena had raised concerns about her remote working arrangement. May resigned from her employment on June 17, 2016.

         B. Procedural History

         Athena filed its complaint against May on August 30, 2016. The next day, it moved for an emergency temporary restraining order (“TRO”) requesting that May return the laptop she had kept. A TRO was entered by United States District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV on September 2, 2016, directing May to return the subject computer or otherwise to retain custody but refrain from using it.

         The TRO was extended by United States District Judge Indira Talwani until this session issued a preliminary injunction directing May to return the computer. On November 2, 2016, Athena moved the Court to find May in contempt for failure to return the computer, in violation of the preliminary injunction.

         That motion was eventually denied as moot because May had apparently complied with the terms of the injunction.

         In January, 2017, May filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. That motion was denied in August, 2017, and in November, 2017, May filed her amended answer and amended counterclaim. In her amended counterclaim, May alleges that Athena's actions constituted 1) breach of contract (Count I), 2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count II), 3) wrongful discharge (Count ...


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