The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge
This is an employment discrimination and wrongful termination suit filed by Pastor George W. Carthan against his former employer, Alliance.*fn1 Carthan asserts that he was terminated on account of his race, age and religion, and was retaliated against for filing civil rights complaints, all in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. Additionally, he alleges tortious interference with his prospective economic advantage and promissory estoppel.*fn2 Alliance moves for summary judgment.
Carthan, a fifty-two year old African American male, began his employment at Alliance in Pennsauken, New Jersey, on July 16, 2002. He was discharged less than one year later, on June 30, 2003. Carthan was employed as a "Clerk," a supervisory position, in Alliance's Pennsauken facility. This facility employs approximately 130 employees who primarily engage in product packaging and assembling point of purchase displays.
In the First Amended Complaint, Carthan alleges that, prior to his employment with Allaince, in a conversation with his soon-to-be supervisor, Lori Carter, Carter advised him that all employees are occasionally required to work overtime on Saturdays and Sundays. Carthan responded that because he was a Pastor, he would be unable to work on Sundays.
Once employed by Alliance, Carthan was trained by a Caucasian employee, James McNally, Chief Clerk of the Product Cage. Soon thereafter, McNally was transferred to an Alliance facility in Morrestown, New Jersey.
The first alleged incident of racial discrimination occurred two weeks after the commencement of Carthan's employment, when he walked into the "product cage" where three Caucasian employees were located. Upon his entrance, one of them stated, "it would be best for all of us if you would just leave." Carthan reported this remark to Carter, but did not specifically complain that the remark had racial implications. Carter denies awareness of the fact that Carthan believed this was a race-based comment.
Also beginning soon after the commencement of his employment, Carthan complains that he was scheduled to work on Sundays on several occasions. It is undisputed that it was Carthan's responsibility to find replacements for his Sunday shifts, although on at least one occasion, Alliance bore the responsibility for him. It is also undisputed that Carthan fulfilled that responsibility when necesseary.
The events leading up to and on the weekend of June 25-26, however, are disputed. Carthan asserts that on June 23, 2003, Carter told him that he was required to work the Sunday shift on the following weekend, or face reprimand. On Thursday, June 24, 2003, Carthan met with Carter and told her that he could not work on that Sunday, but could work on Saturday, to which Carter purportedly replied "something will have to be done about this." The next day, Carter again informed Carthan that he must work that Saturday and Sunday. When Carthan reminded her of his restrictions, Carter allegedly replied, in the presence of another employee, that "if he [Carthan] couldn't work on Sunday than he couldn't work on Saturday." Carthan purportedly replied "Ok that's fine with me."
Alliance nevertheless secured coverage for his Sunday shift and told Carter that he was required to either work that Saturday or to find someone to cover the shift for him. Carthan alleges that while he was able to find an employee to cover his Saturday shift, two Caucasian employees who were scheduled for shifts that weekend did not work and did not find coverage for their shifts, yet they were not reprimanded in any way. Carthan, however, was discharged from Alliance the following Monday when he returned to work.
The replacement Carthan found to cover his Saturday shift is the source of much contention and the alleged reason for Carthan's termination. Alliance disputes that Carthan found coverage for his shift. It acknowledges that while Carthan presented Duane Jones to Carter as a substitute for his shift, Carter expressly disapproved of Jones because he was not adequately trained for Carthan's position. Carthan maintains that Carter said nothing when he told her that Jones would be his substitute on Saturday, and therefore, he assumed Joens was a suitable substitute. Jones did, in fact, cover for Carthan that Saturday, and was unable to perform required tasks. Ultimately, at some point that Saturday after it became clear that Jones was inadequately trained, Frank Durst, Senior Clerk, asked another supervisory Clerk, Rob Marrero, to cover for Jones. As a result, Marrero worked a double-shift. Marrero sent an e-mail to Carter the following Monday, June 30, complaining that Carthan provided an unacceptable substitute for the Saturday shift and that he was not a "team player." Alliance contends that when Carter read this e-mail and became aware of Carthan's insubordinate conduct in failing to find a suitable replacement as Carter had allegedly ordered, Carthan was terminated.
Carthan's position was filled by McNally, who was transferred back to the Pennsauken facility a few weeks prior to Carthan's discharge. Alliance claims that after Carthan was terminated, Carter asked the two first shift clerks, Marrero, African American, and McNally, a younger Caucasian man, to devise a plan to cover Carthan's former shift until the position was filed. McNally volunteered to do so, and took over Carthan's position.
After his termination, Carthan filed a Charge of Discrimination with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") on August 8, 2003, alleging wrongful discharge on the basis of race, age and religion. On February 11, 2004, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. On June 24, 2005, Carthan filed a Complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, ...