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Saalim v. Dycom Industries

July 31, 2008

CAMDEN VICINAGE JAMAR SAALIM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DYCOM INDUSTRIES, INC., UTILIQUEST, LLC, STS, LLC, MIKE BELL, STEVEN CONNOLLY, JOHN DOES 1-10, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bumb, United States District Judge

[Docket No. 21]

OPINION

INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court upon a motion for summary judgment*fn1 filed by Defendant Dycom Industries, Inc. ("Dycom"). Plaintiff formerly worked for Defendant Utiliquest, LLC ("Utiliquest"), a subsidiary of Dycom. Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Dycom, Utiliquest, STS, LLC ("STS"), Mike Bell and Steven Connelly (collectively, "Defendants"), asserting two claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J. Stat. Ann. 10:5-1 et seq. ("NJLAD"). Dycom now argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because it was not Plaintiff's employer. For the reasons discussed below, this Court agrees.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Dycom is a leading provider of specialty contracting services with headquarters located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Pl. SOF ¶ 1). Utiliquest is a subsidiary of Dycom based in Atlanta, Georgia, with a facility in Hammonton, New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 2). Utiliquest provides underground facility-locating services to over 200 utility companies and divisions across the country. (Id.). STS is also an Atlanta-based subsidiary of Dycom providing technical services to the utility industry and has a facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 3). Defendant Mike Bell was the Vice President of Utiliquest, as well as the Vice President of STS, and resided in Baltimore, Maryland. (Compl. ¶ 4). Defendant Steven Connolly was the General Manager of Utiliquest in New Jersey and resided in New Jersey. (Compl. ¶ 5).

Plaintiff, an African-American, was employed as a technician (also known as a "locator") at the Utiliquest Hammonton facility, from April 2001 until his termination on December 21, 2005. (Pl. SOF ¶ 6). His job duties included locating and marking underground utility lines. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that during his employment with Defendants, he was subjected to differential and adverse treatment based upon his race. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-12). He further alleges that he was terminated in retaliation for his complaints of race discrimination, even though Defendants claimed it was due to his involvement in a traffic accident. (Id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff claims that other African-American employees of Defendants have also been terminated for being in traffic accidents, while similarly situated Caucasian employees would often only receive a suspension or no discipline at all. (Id.). Based on these allegations, Plaintiff brings two claims under the NJLAD: Count I alleges race discrimination and Count II alleges unlawful retaliation for Plaintiff's complaints of race discrimination.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in New Jersey state court on May 4, 2007 and Defendants removed the matter to this Court on June 18, 2007. (Compl.; Notice of Removal [Dkt. No. 1]). On June 25, 2007, Dycom filed a motion to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Def. SOF ¶ 8). Plaintiff opposed this motion, arguing that discovery was necessary before resolution of the motion. (Id.). On September 18, 2007, this Court denied Dycom's motion without prejudice and granted a period of discovery limited to the issue of whether Dycom was Plaintiff's employer. (Id.). The Court also granted Dycom permission to file another motion at the conclusion of such discovery period. (Id. at ¶ 9).

The parties completed the limited discovery on May 2, 2008. Dycom submitted the present motion for summary judgment on May 16, 2008.

FACTS REGARDING CORPORATE STRUCTURE

Plaintiff asserts the following facts concerning the relationship between Dycom, as parent, and Utiliquest and STS, as subsidiaries:

Dycom's oversight of its subsidiaries

* The Presidents of Utiliquest and STS report to Dycom's Chief Operating Officer/Executive Vice President (Pl. SOF ¶ 14)

* Dycom officials meet quarterly with their insurance carrier to review claims against Dycom's subsidiaries (Id. ¶ 17)

* Dycom hires or takes part in hiring the presidents, vice presidents and other officers of its subsidiaries; Dycom engaged and paid an outside agency to help in finding the Utiliquest CFO and extended an offer of employment to Dennis Tarosky "on behalf of Dycom Industries, Inc." (Id. ¶¶ 23-27; 31-33)

* Dycom oversees subsidiaries' employee salaries/bonuses and changes in operational structure; subsidiaries provide Dycom with reports concerning payroll, operational activities, and employee disciplinary actions (Id. ¶¶ 40-44)

* Dycom requires its subsidiaries to adopt harassment and electronic communications policies and even provides form policies for its subsidiaries to use (Id. ¶¶ 34-37)

* Dycom requires all subsidiary employees to sign and abide by its Business Code of Conduct and Ethics; it also oversees enforcement of this policy (Id. ¶¶ 38-39)

* Dycom and its subsidiaries have the same insurance plans ...


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