16 L. Ed. 2d 218, 86 S. Ct. 1130 (1966). See also Lyon v. Whisman, 45 F.3d 758, 760 (3d Cir. 1995); Sinclair v. Soniform, Inc., 935 F.2d 599, 603 (3d Cir. 1991).
To determine whether a claim is part of the "same case or controversy," this court looks to whether "the state and federal claims . . . derive from a common nucleus of operative fact." United Mine Workers, 383 U.S. at 725. In Lyon, the Third Circuit held that a plaintiff's claim for overtime wages under the FLSA shared no common nucleus of operative facts with her state law claims for breach of contract and tort based on her employer's alleged failure to pay a promised bonus on time. The Third Circuit pointed out that the proper analysis of the "common nucleus" requirement of United Mine Workers, requires an intensely fact-specific inquiry. Lyon, 45 F.3d at 760. Moreover, the Lyon court declared, that, in a federal court action in which jurisdiction is based upon the FLSA, the fact that both state and federal claims arise out of the "employment relationship," without more, provides an insufficient factual nexus to confer supplemental jurisdiction. Id. at 762.
The court in Lyon also observed that the FLSA was a statute with a narrow, well-defined purpose -- to guarantee minimum standards and eliminate abuses in wages and hours worked. Id. at 763. As such, the Third Circuit expressed doubt that Congress, in enacting the FLSA, intended to authorize supplemental jurisdiction to the full extent of Article III. Id. at 764. Indeed, the Lyon court warned that "when a court exercises federal jurisdiction pursuant to a rather narrow and specialized federal statute it should be circumspect when determining the scope of its supplemental jurisdiction. Id.
In Lyon, the Third Circuit decided, sua sponte, to vacate the district court's order as it applied to the Lyon's state law claims, and to remand with directions to dismiss those claims without prejudice. In view of the fact that neither of the parties in Lyon had challenged the district court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction, just as neither party has challenged supplemental jurisdiction here, the Third Circuit's conclusion in Lyon is particularly significant. See id. at 764 n.10. It is fair to say, at least in actions predicated upon the FLSA, that the Third Circuit "interprets section 1367 and Gibbs very narrowly." Derasmo v. Hospitality Franchise Sys., Inc., 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6349, Civ. A. No. 93-46, 1995 WL 274501, at *8 (D.N.J. May 8, 1995).
The Third Circuit clearly indicates that, when a narrow statute such as the FLSA is the only source of federal jurisdiction, the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction is proper only when the state and federal claims "are merely alternative theories of recovery based on the same act." Lyon, 45 F.3d at 761 (quoting Lentino v. Fringe Employee Plans, Inc., 611 F.2d 474, 479 (3d Cir. 1979)). Applying the teaching of Lyon to the present case, I conclude that plaintiffs' state law claims, both statutory and common law, involve distinct factual issues, which will require distinct proofs, not encompassed within plaintiffs' FLSA claim.
Federal courts in this district routinely exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims brought under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination, when jurisdiction is predicated upon Title VII. This is unremarkable, in view of the fact that the Law Against Discrimination is aimed at much the same evils that Title VII addresses, and its analytical structure mirrors that of Title VII. See, Abrams v. Lightolier Inc., 50 F.3d 1204, 1212 (3d Cir. 1995) ("New Jersey courts in applying the NJLAD generally follow the standards of proof applicable under the federal discrimination statutes[.]"); Kapossy v. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 921 F. Supp. 234, 240 (D.N.J. 1996); Maidenbaum v. Bally's Park Place, 870 F. Supp. 1254, 1258 (D.N.J. 1994), aff'd, 67 F.3d 291 (1995). Indeed, in such cases, the state law claim is generally the equivalent of an alternative legal theory, because it shares the identical factual basis, the challenged employment action.
In this case, plaintiffs' minimum wage claim under the FLSA requires no more than proof of an employment relationship, which is disputed, and proof of the wages paid and time periods involved, which is apparently undisputed. By contrast, plaintiffs' New Jersey statutory claims, as well as their breach of contract claim, require much more.
Plaintiffs contend that District 13 has violated provisions of New Jersey's public employment law, including the following:
Except as otherwise provided by law no permanent member or officer of the paid or part-paid fire department or force shall be removed from his office, employment or position for political reasons or for any cause other than incapacity, misconduct, or disobedience of rules and regulations established for the government of the paid or part-paid fire department and force, nor shall such member or officer be suspended, removed, fined or reduced in rank from or in office, employment or position therein except for just cause as hereinabove provided and then only upon a written complaint, setting forth the charge or charges against such member or officer.
N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40A:14-19 (West 1993). It is undisputed that no formal charges have been proffered, nor hearings held involving these plaintiffs. However, to prove a violation of this statute, plaintiffs must establish, at a minimum, that they have been "suspended, removed, fined or reduced in rank from or in office, employment or position." This crucial fact is unrelated to plaintiffs' FLSA claim. Indeed, as in Lyon, this claim shares no more than the fact of the employment relationship with plaintiffs' FLSA claim. Plaintiffs must prove distinct facts in order to prevail, and they seek much different relief.
Plaintiffs next contend that District 13 violated certain provisions of New Jersey's Exempt Fireman's Tenure Act, which prohibit the removal of any firefighter holding an exempt certificate, except for cause. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 40A:14-60, 40A:14-63 (West 1993). Section 40A:14-60 establishes that:
Whenever any person possessing an exempt fireman certificate holds an office, position or employment of the State, or a county or municipality or a school board or board of education for an indeterminate term, such person shall hold his office, position or employment during good behavior and shall not be removed therefrom for political reasons but only for good cause after a fair and impartial hearing.