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Johnson v. Cook Composites and Polymers

March 3, 2000

GEORGE JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COMPOSITES AND POLYMERS, INC., TOTAL COMPOSITES, INC., JAMES LEONARD AND GLEN CRUZ, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, District Judge

HONORABLE JOSEPH E. IRENAS

OPINION

Presently before the Court is defendant Total Composites, Inc.'s ("Total") motion to dismiss plaintiff George Johnson's employment discrimination claims under Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Defendants Total and Cook Composites and Polymers, Inc. ("Cook") also move to dismiss plaintiff's Title VII claim for failure to properly exhaust it with the Equal Opportunity Commission. In addition, all defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1982. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's § 1982 claim is granted. In addition, both Total's motion to dismiss plaintiff's discrimination claims and Total and Cook's motion to dismiss plaintiff's Title VII claim for his alleged failure to exhaust it are denied.

I.

Plaintiff, an African-American, was hired by defendant Cook as a "helper" until he could be trained as a "chemical kettle operator." (Compl. at ¶ 14). According to plaintiff, before his training was completed, two of the company's chemical kettle operators left Cook and he was assigned their duties. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16).

Plaintiff alleges that while at Cook, his co-workers referred to him as "chicken George," "Toby" and "stupid nigger." (Id. at 18). Plaintiff claims that he complained about these alleged remarks to his supervisors, defendants James Leonard and Glen Cruz. (Id. at ¶ 19). Plaintiff states that on one occasion, a co-worker was required to apologize to him for his racist comments but on many other occasions, his supervisors did nothing. (Id. at ¶ 20). In addition to these alleged racist remarks, plaintiff also asserts that he was subjected to employees "doing the NAZI salute in his presence." (Id. at 21). Plaintiff claims that he complained to defendant Leonard about the saluting but Leonard took no action. (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23). He also asserts that his co-workers complained about him to management and ostracized him because of his race. (Id. at ¶ 24).

Plaintiff alleges that despite the racist work environment, he performed his job responsibilities in "a workmanlike manner with satisfactory results." (Id. at ¶ 25). At the beginning of 1999, plaintiff contends that he heard rumors that "they were going to get the nigger fired" and that defendant Cruz told him "the best day of my life will be when I get rid of you." (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27). On March 22, 1999, plaintiff was terminated from his job for leaving a burner on in the plant. (Id. at ¶¶ 28-29). Plaintiff not only denies leaving the burner on, but alleges that non-black employees who have left burners on in the past have not been terminated. (Id. at ¶¶ 30, 33). Specifically, he cites to an incident where an explosion occurred injuring a worker. This explosion was caused by a white employee who left a burner on in the plant. According to plaintiff, the white employee responsible for this explosion was only suspended, not terminated. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-35).

On July 14, 1999, plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Pl. ex. A). On September 9, 1999, at plaintiff's request, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue. This right to sue notice terminated the processing of his charge and stated that "Less than 180 days have passed since the filing of this charge, but I have determined that it is unlikely that the EEOC will be able to complete its administrative proceeding within 180 days from the filing of the charge." (Id.)

On October 19, 1999, plaintiff filed the instant action against his employer, Cook, its parent corporation, Total, and his supervisors, James Leonard and Glen Cruz ("defendants"). In counts one and two, plaintiff alleges that Cook and Total violated 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq. ("Title VII"); in count three, he alleges that all of the defendants violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(a), et seq. ("NJLAD"); and in count four, plaintiff alleges that all defendants violated 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1982.

II.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court will accept the allegations of the complaint as true. Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996). Dismissal of claims under Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Although the court must assume as true all facts alleged, "[i]t is not . . . proper to assume that the [plaintiff] can prove any facts that it has not alleged." Associated General Contractors of Calif., Inc., v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). Finally, when "[c]onfronted with [a 12(b)(6)] motion, the court must review the allegations of fact contained in the complaint; for this purpose the court does not consider conclusory recitations of law." Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Pepsico, Inc., 836 F.2d 173, 179 (3d Cir. 1988) (emphasis added).

III.

Defendants ask this Court to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because: (1) plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to show that Total, Cook's parent corporation, can be held liable; (2) plaintiff prematurely terminated the requisite administrative procedures before the Equal Opportunity Commission; and (3) plaintiff's ยง 1982 claim does not apply to employment disputes. In his brief, plaintiff disputes defendant's first two arguments but concedes ...


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