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Leshner v. McCollister's Transportation Systems

September 13, 2000

CRAIG E. LESHNER,
PLAINTIFF,
V.
MCCOLLISTER'S TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS, INC.; MCCOLLISTER'S MOVING & STORAGE, INC.; JOHN DOES 1-10, FICTITIOUS PERSONS OR CORPORATIONS, JOINTLY, SEVERALLY, AND ALTERNATIVELY,
DEFENDANTS



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

HONORABLE JOSEPH E. IRENAS

OPINION

Presently before the Court is defendants McCollister's Transportation Systems, Inc. and McCollister's Moving & Storage, Inc.'s motion to dismiss plaintiff Craig E. Leshner's claims brought under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367, 1441(a). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

From June 1, 1981 until his termination on November 17, 1999, plaintiff Craig E. Leshner ("Plaintiff") was an employee of defendants McCollister's Transportation Systems, Inc. and McCollister's Moving & Storage ("Defendants"). (Compl. at ¶ 2). Plaintiff claims that, throughout his employment, Defendants consistently overloaded him with work and took advantage of his able job performance, for which he received excellent reviews. (Id. at ¶ 3). In 1991, Plaintiff suffered a nervous breakdown, allegedly as a result of his excessive workload. (Id. at ¶ 4). Because of this breakdown, Plaintiff claims, Defendants temporarily reduced his responsibilities, but soon thereafter began adding to them again, despite their awareness of his stress-related problem. (Id. at ¶ 5).

In May 1995, Plaintiff suffered another nervous breakdown, again, allegedly due to his excessive workload. Upon his return to work, Defendants gave Plaintiff a new position as Assistant Warehouse Manager of the electronic warehouse. (Id. ¶ 6). Although they knew of the cause of Plaintiff's last breakdown, Plaintiff asserts, Defendants gave him additional work, promoting him to Manager of Warehousing Services, which included the electronic warehouse and the off-site crating division. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-8).

Plaintiff states that, in August 1996, after the Safety Director and the Safety Supervisor were terminated, Defendants sought to assign those responsibilities to Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 9). According to Plaintiff, when he protested that the additional duties would be excessive and would cause him undue stress, Defendants told him the additional duties would be only temporary. However, Defendant never relieved him of the additional duties. (Id.). Further, Plaintiff contends, Defendants later assigned him the additional responsibilities of the Fleet Administration Department, despite their knowledge of his condition and again over his objections. (Id. at ¶ 10). Plaintiff claims that throughout this period, from 1995 to 1998, he repeatedly requested that Defendants reduce his work burden and Defendants persisted in giving him additional work and responsibilities.

According to Plaintiff, in July 1999, Defendants acknowledged that Plaintiff was on the verge of a breakdown due to his excessive workload and relieved him of his responsibilities as Warehouse Manager. (Id. at ¶ 12). Plaintiff contends that, on August 21, 1999, he was reassigned those responsibilities, being told that the warehouse was "falling apart" without him. (Id.). On August 25, 1999, Plaintiff suffered yet another nervous breakdown. (Id. at 13). Plaintiff alleges that, at the time of this breakdown, he was working six to seven days a week and sixty to seventy hours a week. He states that he held the equivalent of two full-time management positions -- the Electronic Warehouse Manager, Crating Manager, and Manager of the Lockheed Martin Project -- as well as the full-time position of Safety Manager, which included managing the Fleet Administration Department. (Id.).

Plaintiff states that he was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and stress disorder, which was diagnosed as severe with anxiety and insomnia. (Id. at ¶ 14). According to Plaintiff, Defendants were advised of this and acknowledged his serious health condition. (Id. at ¶ 15). On November 4, 1999, Plaintiff's physician sent a letter to Defendants informing them that Plaintiff would be ready to return to work on November 8, 1999, but could assume only the responsibilities of Safety Manager and no others. (Id. at ¶ 16). Plaintiff states that, in response, Defendants insisted that he assume all of the responsibilities he held prior to his most recent breakdown, even though Defendants had at least four different people handle those responsibilities during his absence. (Id. at ¶ 17).

On November 12, 1999, Plaintiff's physician informed Defendants that Plaintiff was well enough to assume his responsibilities as Safety Manager, including managing the Fleet Administration Department. (Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiff states that Defendants again refused to reinstate him unless he were able to assume all of his prior responsibilities. (Id. at ¶ 19).

During this same period of time, Plaintiff filed a worker's compensation claim, despite, he alleges, Defendants' efforts to persuade him to file for regular disability. (Id. at ¶ 52-53). On November 17, 1999, Defendants terminated Plaintiff's employment. (Id. at ¶ 20).

On or about June 20, 2000, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants and John Does 1-10 with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County. On July 11, 2000, the instant action was removed to this Court. Counts I and II allege that Defendants violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination , N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq. ("NJLAD"), by discriminating against Plaintiff based upon his disability and by failing to provide reasonable accomodation. Count III alleges that Defendants violated the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq., by failing to reinstate Plaintiff after medical leave. Count IV alleges that Defendants unlawfully retaliated against Plaintiff for filing a worker's compensation claim. Count V repeats these allegations and claims as to John Does 1-10.

On August 24, 2000, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Counts I and II of the complaint pursuant ...


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