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Anyawu v. BJ's Wholesale Club

August 10, 2009

LOVEDAY ANYAWU, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BJ'S WHOLESALE CLUB, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

OPINION

This matter has come before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's wrongful termination and retaliation claims. For the reasons expressed below, defendant's motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Loveday Anyawu, who describes himself as a "Nigerian individual," worked as a Lead Security Officer for defendant BJ's Wholesale Club from June 23, 1997, until November 7, 2006, when defendant terminated his employment. Plaintiff filed a two-count complaint in state court on November 17, 2008. In the first count of the complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(a) ("NJLAD") by terminating plaintiff's employment because of his Nigerian national origin. In the second count of the complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant violated the NJLAD, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(d), by retaliating against plaintiff for his participation in an earlier investigation of the defendant's employment practices.

On December 23, 2008, defendant removed the case to this Court and subsequently filed the instant motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Defendant argues that plaintiff's claims are barred by the NJLAD two-year statute of limitations because the claims accrued when defendant fired plaintiff -- more than two years before plaintiff filed this claim. In response to the motion to dismiss,*fn1 plaintiff filed an amended complaint, adding a factual allegation postdating the date of plaintiff's termination. More specifically, the amended complaint alleges:

20. On January 11, 2007, the New Jersey Department of Law and Workforce Development ("NJLWD") issued Plaintiff Anyawu a written Notice of Determination advising him that his disqualification for unemployment benefits had resulted from being discharged by defendant for alleged misconduct; to wit, leaving company premises without permission. (Compl. ¶ 20).

Plaintiff now argues that the denial of his unemployment benefits constituted the final act in a pattern of workplace discrimination and therefore, both counts of the complaint are subject to the continuing violation exception to the two-year statute of limitations.*fn2 Specifically, plaintiff argues that the violation of the NJLAD continued for two months after his termination until plaintiff received notice from the New Jersey Department of Law and Workforce Development ("NJLWD") that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits. Accordingly, plaintiff argues both counts of his amended complaint are timely filed and should not be dismissed.

In reply, defendant argues that plaintiff's claims are based on discrete acts of discrimination that cannot be aggregated to establish a continuing violation. Therefore, defendant contends, plaintiff's claims are still time-barred and the complaint should be dismissed.

DISCUSSION

A. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

B. Standard for Motion to Dismiss For Limitations Defense

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).

A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks "'not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.'" Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1969 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . ."); Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating that the "Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: 'stating ... a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element"). A court need not credit either "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. ...


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