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Allia v. Target Corp.

April 10, 2008

PANDA ALLIA AND STEVEN ALLIA, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TARGET CORPORATION, CRAIG SNYDERMAN, ARIEL ACUNA, JULES GINALDI, AND JOHN DOE DECISION MAKERS (PLURAL 1-10) JOINTLY, SEVERALLY, AND IN THE ALTERNATIVE, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

This matter has come before the Court on defendant Target Corporation's motion to dismiss certain counts in plaintiff's complaint, and the individual defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint in its entirety. Target has also moved to strike plaintiff's references to privileged communications and to obtain a protective order to prevent plaintiff from further disclosing privileged information. Also before the Court is plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint. For the reasons expressed below, Target's motion will be granted in part and denied in part, the individual defendants' motion will be granted, and plaintiff's motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Panda Allia, a Caucasian female, was a human resources executive at defendant, Target Corporation, for five years. According to plaintiff, she was fired on January 25, 2007 in order to appease Target's African-American employees, who had filed a racial discrimination complaint with the EEOC. Plaintiff claims that she was fired because Target claimed that she was insensitive to minorities, and because she could not identify the rap music star "Big-E-Smalls (a.k.a. Big Poppa)" on a poster. Plaintiff also claims that she was "scapegoated" by Target and its attorneys because during the EEOC investigation she refused to spoil evidence or otherwise succumb to the pressures of Target's attorneys.

Plaintiff, along with her husband, Steven Allia, filed a twelve-count complaint against Target and three of her co-workers. Target filed a motion to dismiss several of plaintiff's claims, and the individual defendants moved to dismiss all of her claims. Plaintiff then moved to amend her complaint, which defendants opposed. Over the course of the briefing with regard to the motions to dismiss and amend, and as a result of a case management conference before Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio, plaintiff conceded that several of her claims should be dismissed.*fn1 To reflect the claims that she agrees should be dismissed, plaintiff submitted a "cleaned up" version of her proposed amended complaint. Her proposed amended complaint, however, still retains claims that Target and the individual defendants have moved to dismiss, and it adds claims that all defendants object to. It also adds as new defendants the law firm and attorneys Target engaged for the EEOC investigation, as well as another Target co-worker.

Based on plaintiff's concessions and submissions, plaintiff's current and proposed claims include: 1. Count One (current claim) - discrimination and retaliation against plaintiff based on her race and psychological disabilities in violation of New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). This claim was originally brought against Target and the individual defendants. Plaintiff's proposed amendment makes this claim as against "all Defendants," which would include the law firm and attorneys Target engaged for the EEOC investigation.

2. Count Two (current claim) - interference with plaintiff's Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights, and retaliation for her exercising her FMLA rights when she went out on stress leave. This claim was originally brought against Target and the individual defendants. Plaintiff's proposed amendment makes this claim as against "all Defendants," which would include the law firm and attorneys Target engaged for the EEOC investigation.

3. Count Three (current claim) - violation of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) for retaliating against plaintiff for her failing to conceal facts adverse to Target's interests during the EEOC investigation. This claim was originally brought against Target and the individual defendants. Plaintiff's proposed amendment makes this claim as against "all Defendants," which would include the law firm and attorneys Target engaged for the EEOC investigation.

4. Count Five (current claim) - defamation because Target's employee, Andrea Green, referred to plaintiff as a "psycho bitch" when she attempted to seek medical help for her psychological condition, and because defendants have painted her as unstable, psychotic and racist. This claim was originally brought against Target and the individual defendants. Plaintiff's proposed amendment makes this claim as against "all Defendants," which would include the law firm and attorneys Target engaged for the EEOC investigation.

5. Count Six (current claim) - a claim against Target based on the theory of respondeat superior.

6. Count Seven (current claim) - a claim for "spoliation of evidence as regards said EEOC litigation and the admissions made therein that Plaintiff and her staff's conduct in HR was appropriate." This claim was originally brought against Target and the individual defendants. Plaintiff's proposed amendment makes this claim as against "all Defendants," which would include the law firm and attorneys Target engaged for the EEOC investigation.

7. Count Twelve (current claim) - assault and battery when a store supervisor, Jujuan Robinson (an African-American female) struck plaintiff in the chest causing marks.*fn2 This claim was originally brought against Target and the individual defendants. Plaintiff's proposed amendment makes this claim as against "all Defendants," which would include the law firm and attorneys Target engaged for the EEOC investigation.

8. Count Thirteen (proposed new claim) - claim against all defendants alleging that the law firm and attorneys Target engaged for the EEOC investigation "scapegoated" her and pressured her to go along with a false investigation and to spoil evidence. In this claim, plaintiff alleges that the law firm and attorneys aided and abetted Target in violating the NJLAD, as well as "entering into conduct designed to cover up discriminatory behavior." She also alleges that the law firm had an ethical duty to act in an ethical fashion in representing Target employees. She also alleges that the law firm and its attorneys interfered with plaintiff's employment, retaliated against plaintiff, and violated the Rules of Ethical Conduct.

In addition to moving to dismiss the claims that plaintiff has now agreed should be dismissed, Target has moved to dismiss plaintiff's defamation claim (Count Four), respondeat superior claim (Count Five), spoliation of evidence claim (Count Six), and assault and battery claim (Count Twelve). The individual defendants have moved to dismiss all remaining claims against them. Target and the individual defendants have also opposed the addition of plaintiffs' proposed additional count--Count Thirteen. Plaintiff has opposed defendants' motions to dismiss, and stands by the propriety of her proposed amended complaint.

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state ...


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