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Cheeseman v. Baxter Healthcare Corp.

May 13, 2009

CHRISTINE CHEESEMAN & MARTA RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BAXTER HEALTHCARE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



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

[relates to Docket Item 9]

OPINION

This matter is before the Court upon the motion [Docket Item 9] of Defendant Baxter Healthcare Corporation ("Baxter") to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiffs Christine Cheeseman and Marta Rodriguez filed this action against Baxter, alleging, inter alia, that Baxter terminated their employment in violation of various provisions of New Jersey law. The principal issues to be decided concern the particularity of pleading required to set forth cognizable claims under the New Jersey laws pertaining to employment discrimination, including hostile working environment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion to dismiss, although, with respect to all but one of Plaintiffs' claims, such dismissal will be without prejudice to Plaintiffs' right to file an Amended Complaint that complies with Rule 8, Fed. R. Civ. P, within ten days of the entry of the Order accompanying this Opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The few facts that may be derived from Plaintiffs' Complaint are as follows. Plaintiffs Cheeseman and Rodriguez are New Jersey residents who were formerly employed by Defendant Baxter to work as label technicians in Baxter's Cherry Hill facility. (Compl., Count I, ¶¶ 1-3.) According to the Complaint, Plaintiffs "performed their jobs in a workmanlike manner from the dates of hire up to and including May 22, 2008, at which time plaintiffs were terminated by the defendant Baxter." (Id. at ¶ 4.) Three days prior to their termination, Plaintiffs were suspended "for not doing their work and/or allegedly sleeping on the job," charges which Plaintiffs deny. (Id. at ¶ 5.)

Plaintiffs allege that they "were also subjected to a hostile work environment, including racial harassment by African American co-workers." (Id. at ¶ 6.) Plaintiffs allegedly complained to their supervisor and to Defendant's Human Resources Department about the "harassment," but no action was taken in response to their complaints. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Plaintiffs allege that they suffered emotional harm as a result of such harassment. (Id. at ¶ 8.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed this action in Camden County Superior Court on August 20, 2008. They allege that Defendant wrongfully terminated them in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq. (Count II); created a hostile work environment in violation of the NJLAD (Count III); engaged in action contrary to public policy in violation of New Jersey common law (Count IV); and intentionally and negligently inflicted emotional distress (Counts V and VI). Plaintiffs also assert a claim for punitive damages (Count VII).*fn1

Defendant timely removed the matter to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) [Docket Item 1],*fn2 and subsequently filed the motion to dismiss presently under consideration, to the merits of which the Court now turns.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted, the Court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)).

While Rule 12(b)(6) does not permit dismissal of a well-pleaded complaint simply because "it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable," the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to ...


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