On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Somerset County, L-0330-03.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 22, 2007
Before Judges Weissbard, S.L. Reisner and Gilroy.
Plaintiff Aaron Reddick appeals from trial court orders dated March 11, 2005, March 22, 2005, and September 21, 2006, which dismissed his complaint against defendant AT&T and several individual defendants employed by AT&T, and denied his motion for reconsideration. We affirm.
Reddick, who is African-American, began working for AT&T in 1984. In 1998, he was promoted into a managerial position as Results Manager. Thereafter, he was promoted several times and, at his request, was transferred several times to different areas within the company. However, the undisputed record discloses that in all of those assignments, he had work performance and disciplinary problems.
Those problems included complaints from co-workers as well as managers. For example, in November 1998, plaintiff sent inappropriate sexual e-mails to a female co-worker, resulting in his eventually apologizing to the co-worker and to management. In 2001, another co-worker complained that she felt threatened and offended when plaintiff sent her an e-mail berating her for responding to a request that plaintiff believed should have been forwarded to him. Plaintiff apologized for his "indiscretion."
AT&T also documented repeated problems with plaintiff's work performance in each of his assignments, and plaintiff's resistance to accepting his supervisor's criticisms. For example, when one of his supervisors, Mr. Erdman, criticized plaintiff for failing to submit a report on time, plaintiff complained that Erdman should have requested the report by e-mail rather than by leaving plaintiff a voicemail message, because plaintiff preferred to communicate by e-mail. Erdman reminded plaintiff that Erdman was frequently out of the office on the road and did not have access to a computer, and that plaintiff was expected to check his voicemail. AT&T also documented additional instances of insubordination, as when plaintiff failed to complete a report as directed by his manager and instead left on vacation.
After receiving an unfavorable performance review in March 2002, plaintiff filed an internal complaint alleging race discrimination. After AT&T began investigating the complaint, plaintiff went on medical leave due to a claimed mental disability. When he failed to return to work after a year's absence, he was terminated in May 2003 pursuant to AT&T's company policy concerning employee leaves of absence.
Plaintiff served defendants with an amended complaint in June 2003. Count One of the complaint alleged racial discrimination in violation of the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and reprisal for complaining about "defendants' activities, which are against the public Policy of this State." Plaintiff contended that AT&T gave him inadequate support and otherwise undermined his efforts to perform his job in a satisfactory manner, that AT&T tolerated substandard work performance from white employees while holding plaintiff to a higher standard, that plaintiff was punished for refusing to inflate sales revenue results, that white employees were given salary increases while plaintiff was not, and that he was otherwise treated unfairly while employed at AT&T.
Count Two alleged that the facts recited in Count One also breached "the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing." Count Three alleged that those facts also constituted "the tort of intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress" and "violation of plaintiffs' New Jersey Constitutional rights."*fn1
Notably, none of the counts in the amended complaint alleged that plaintiff's termination was unlawful. Rather, plaintiff contended that he was treated in an unfair, discriminatory and retaliatory manner while he was employed at AT&T.
Defendants moved for summary judgment on January 25, 2005. In a written opinion issued March 11, 2005, the trial judge considered defendants' contentions that plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of discrimination because "he was not performing his job in a manner that met his employer's legitimate expectations," that defendants "had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for each employment action taken with respect to plaintiff," and that "[p]laintiff cannot demonstrate pretext." Although it was ...