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Michael Murphy v. Shoprite and United Food and Commercial Workers

December 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Dennis M. Cavanaugh




This matter comes before the Court upon motion by United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1262 ("Defendant") to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78, no oral argument was heard. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's motion to dismiss is denied.


Michael Murphy ("Plaintiff") has brought this action against two distinct entities. The first Defendant is his employer, Shoprite. The second Defendant is United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1262, the union of which, as a Shoprite employee, Plaintiff is a member. The instant motion to dismiss was brought only by Local 1262 ("Defendant").

Plaintiff has been employed by Shoprite Supermarkets since January 5, 1988. Plaintiff, who is deaf, alleges that in the 21 years of his employment, he has never been provided with interpreters by Shoprite for meetings, trainings and warnings, that he has been denied a promotion directly due to his disability, that he has been denied overtime, has had his schedule changed without notice, has been denied his requested days off, and has lost break time and lunch hours because he is unable to hear whenever store managers announce that it is time to break. He maintains that he suffered these things despite his seniority over non-disabled employees, and that Shoprite acted with discriminatory animus. Moreover, he avers that he has had to endure discriminatory and derogatory remarks made to him by co-workers and managers about his deafness.

The Plaintiff's allegations as to the Union are that they "failed to represent Plaintiff and to advocate on his behalf, and never provided interpreters for any union meetings." (See ECF Doc. 1-1, page ID 13, Complaint). He also avers that the union "did nothing to end the discriminatory treatment Plaintiff has endured." (Id). It appears that during his employment Plaintiff filed only one grievance against Shoprite through Local 1262. Subsequent to the filing of the grievance on August 14, 2008, and Plaintiff's complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prior to that, a hearing was held with representatives of both Shoprite and Local 1262 at which an interpreter certified in American Sign Language was provided by Local 1262. Nonetheless, Plaintiff avers that this was the first and only time that Local 1262 provided him with this accommodation.

Plaintiff's prayer for relief includes a request that the Court enter a declaratory judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 57 stating that Defendant's have subjected Plaintiff to discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("LAD") and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Plaintiff also requests a permanent injunction ordering Defendant's to cease discrimination against deaf and hearing-impaired employees and union members, and ordering them to provide sign language interpreters, closed captioning for videos, and other communication devices as appropriate to ensure effective communication for deaf and hearing-impaired employees and union members. Plaintiff also requests a promotion to a managerial position within Shoprite, as well as compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable costs and attorney's fees.

Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to distinguish between the distinct roles played by Shoprite on the one hand, and the union on the other. As Defendant points out, "Local 1262 is Plaintiff's collective bargaining representative, not his employer."(See ECF Doc. 13-1, page ID # 60, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss). Defendant argues that Plaintiff misconstrues the responsibilities of the union, and that particularly as it relates to employee promotion, this is exclusively within the purview of Shoprite. Defendant argues that because it is not Plaintiff's employer, it is "not the party responsible to make accommodations for him in the workplace."(Id at Page ID #63). Moreover, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims are preempted by the Federal Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, and as such, are time-barred.


Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)

"The [d]istrict [c]court, in deciding a motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), [is] required to accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in the facts alleged in the light most favorable to the [Plaintiff]." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, [ ] a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "[A court is] not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above a speculative level, [ ] on the assumption that all factual allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell at 555-56. The Complaint must set forth direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some ...

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