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Jaworski v. New Jersey Turnpike Authority

January 29, 2007

PETER JAWORSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Tonianne J. Bongiovanni United States Magistrate Judge

This matter comes before the Court through a motion by Plaintiff, Peter Jaworski ("Plaintiff") for leave to Amend his Complaint to include a cause of action for retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [DocketEntry No. 15]. Plaintiff filed a Brief in Support of his Motion ("Moving Brief"). On December 19, 2006, Defendant New Jersey Turnpike Authority ("NJTA" or "Defendant") filed opposition to Plaintiff's Motion ("Opposition Brief")[Docket Entry No. 18]. Plaintiff filed a reply brief ("Reply Brief") on December 26, 2006 [Docket Entry No. 20]. The Court held oral argument on January 22, 2007 [Docket Entry No. 26]. After considering the submissions and arguments of the parties, and for good cause shown, Plaintiff's Motion for leave to Amend the Complaint is DENIED without PREJUDICE.

OPINION and ORDER

I. Background

NJTA is an independent state agency that assumes control for the operation and maintenance of the some toll roads in New Jersey including the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway (Opposition Brief at 2). Plaintiff was hired in September 2002 by the New Jersey Highway Authority ("NJHA") which eventually merged with the NJTA. Plaintiff was appointed as a Radio Licensing Engineer and Communications Engineer "to improve the aged and outmoded [Garden State] Parkway Communication Systems." (Id. at 3). Plaintiff's role included providing input on various contracts for New Jersey Highways (Moving Brief at 2).

Beginning in November 2002, as part of his job, Plaintiff wrote the technical specifications and evaluated bids for an award of Contract #58-783D (Complaint*fn1 at ¶ 32). Soon thereafter, Plaintiff's co-workers became concerned that their technical evaluations would be ignored by new officials of Defendant after the consolidation with NJHA and Defendant occurred (Id. at 33). After a vote, Contract #58-783D was to be awarded to Siemens (Id. at 34).

Plaintiff alleges that following the merger of the NJHA and NJTA his "employment status drastically changed by reason of discriminatory practices activated by the new NJTA Director, Michael Lapolla, and various managers under him." (Complaint at ¶¶ 5, 9). Eventually, after the merger, the award of Contract #58-783D was challenged by Executive Director, Tim McDonough (Id. at 37). Plaintiff alleges that it became clear that "there was a pre-selected contractor favored by NJTA management, without a competitive bidding process." (Id.) "Plaintiff was requested to offer his input for the correct award of Contract #58-783D and to promulgate new improvements for planned maintenance of the system." (Id. at 38)(emphasis added). In response to the request to offer input, Plaintiff wrote a detailed letter dated January 10, 2003, to NJTA Chairman Jerold L. Zaro. (See Id.). In this letter, Plaintiff writes to support the award of the contract to Siemens, and an increase on emphasis for in-house communications electronic maintenance. (Corrected Cert. of David A. Krenkel, Esq. at Ex. B (hereinafter "Zaro Letter")). Plaintiff's letter also states that he authored the NJHA specifications, provided support throughout the technical evaluations and remains engaged in the supporting engineering process related to the contract. (Id.) Plaintiff also states that his views are "consonant with those of NJHA Engineering Management" and "[a]s both an NJHA Engineering Principal and a lifelong New Jersey Tollpayer/Taxpayer, I feel very strongly in favor of this award, as a proper and cost effective solution" to the dilemma NJHA faced. (Id.) The letter continues with statements that all of Plaintiff's colleagues agree with his position that the Siemens contract was the better choice, and that any rumors from outside NJHA regarding failure or incompatibility of Siemens' equipment were unsubstantiated. (Id.) The letter was signed "Peter S. Jaworski, Communications Systems Engineer, NJHA Engineering." (Id.) Plaintiff further asserts that following the receipt of his letter, "Zaro totally supported [Plaintiff] and wrote to [Tim McDonough]... to verify support." (Complaint at ¶ 38).

Soon thereafter, Plaintiff learned that his superiors were "enraged" at him for writing the letter, and he was instructed to "become silent despite his job responsibilities." (Id. at 39). Eventually, Plaintiff resigned his position on April 20, 2004. (Opposition Brief at 2).

Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendant on September 14, 2005, alleging that he was wrongfully discharged, retaliated against and harassed at the Defendant entity. (See Docket Entry No. 1). Specifically, Plaintiff's Complaint included causes of action alleging a hostile work environment, retaliatory termination, age discrimination bias, violation of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, and outrage. (Moving Brief at 2). Plaintiff now seeks to amend his Complaint to include a cause of action for retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This includes claims that Defendant violated Plaintiff's right to hold employment without infringement of his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association.

II. Analysis

A. Motion to Amend Standard

Leave to amend the pleadings is generally given freely. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Notwithstanding this liberal standard, courts will deny a motion to amend on grounds of dilatoriness or undue delay, prejudice, bad faith or futility. See Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 121 (3d Cir. 2000); Hill v. City of Scranton, 411 F.3d 118, 134 (3d Cir. 2005). If there is an absence of undue delay, bad faith, prejudice or futility, a motion for leave to amend a pleading should be liberally granted. Long v. Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 400 (3d Cir. 2004). In reviewing a motion to amend, the court looks only at the pleadings. Pharm. Sales & Consulting Corp. v. J.W.S. Delavau, Co., Inc., 106 F. Supp.2d 761, 765 (D.N.J. 2000).

B. Undue Delay and Prejudice

Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's Motion to Amend his Complaint must be denied because of undue delay in filing the motion and the prejudice to Defendant if the amendment were allowed.

The Third Circuit has held that a motion for leave to amend should be denied when the delay in amending the pleading is undue. Cureton v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 252 F.3d 267, 273 (3d Cir. 2001). A delay becomes undue when it places an unfair burden on the non-moving party or the court. Id. However, the mere passage of time does not require that the motion be denied. Id. Moreover, delay alone is an insufficient ground to deny leave to amend. Id. When determining whether there is undue delay, the Court ...


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