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Camden Vicinage v. Centurum

April 20, 2011

CAMDEN VICINAGE
HINA SHAH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CENTURUM, INC., L-3 COMMUNICATIONS, INC.,
GLOBAL LINGUIST SOLUTIONS, LLC
AND JOHN DOES 1-10, SUED INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION (Doc. Nos. 9, 12, 14)

OPINION

This matter arises out of alleged employment discrimination by a defense contractor in Iraq. The Complaint alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J. Stat. Ann. 10:5-1 et seq. Presently before the Court are the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Centurum, Inc. ("Centurum"), L-3 Communications, Inc. ("L-3"), and Global Linguist Solutions, LLC ("Global"). Defendants Centurum and L-3 argue that venue is improper under Title VII's venue provision. *fn1 Plaintiff argues that venue is proper because the events giving rise to her claims occurred in New Jersey, and Defendants administer and maintain her employment records in New Jersey. For the following reasons, the Court finds that venue is improper in the District of New Jersey.

I. BACKGROUND

Hina Shah is a Muslim of South Asian descent. Shah commenced her employment with Centurum and/or L-3 in February 2007. Shah's duties involved screening foreign citizens at the United States military base in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Shortly after Shah commenced her employment, she experienced various forms of racial discrimination by employees of L-3 and/or Centurum. For example, Plaintiff alleges that Darrin Lekie, an L-3 Team Leader, told her that "all Muslims are suspicious because they are terrorists," and stated that Shah was "too suspicious to do [her] job." (Compl. ¶ 13). On another occasion, Lekie told Plaintiff that "colored people are illiterate," and remarked that "Pakistanis get their daughters married to old ass men." (Id. ¶ 13). Donald Davis, an L-3/Centurum Regional Manager, stated that "Mecca should be bombed to 'have millions of Muslims die.'" (Id. ¶ 21). On yet another occasion, when referring to a former employee, Davis said "Thank God we got rid of [him] because he was an Iraqi Muslim asshole." (Id. ¶ 28). Plaintiff does not allege that any employee of L-3, Centurum, or Global verbally harassed her outside of Iraq.

On several occasions, Plaintiff complained about the treatment she received during her employment in Iraq. Initially, Shah described Lekie's harassment to Russell Dobbs, the Deputy Program Manager of L-3, and told Dobbs that she wanted to resign as a result of Lekie's conduct. On September 15, 2007, Shah sent an email to Joseph Strohmier, an Assistant Project Manager and Recruiter at Centurum, informing Strohmier of the discriminatory treatment she received during her employment in Iraq, and the specific remarks made by Davis. In that email, Shah asked Strohmier to refrain from taking remedial action:

I would like to let you know what's going on and I'm also forwarding an e-mail my co-worker wrote so you may see that it's not just me with these issues. Thank you for your help. I would really appreciate if this e-mail and my issue stay between us. I will e-mail you again [i]f things start getting worst then perhaps you can jump in. Right now, I just want you to be aware of the problem. (Def. Centurum's Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A) (emphasis added). Strohmier responded to Shah's email with the following email:

Salam Hina, Try to work it out there through the chain of command. If someone said that, that could be a discriminatory remark and certainly did not have much thought put into it. Moreover, not sure we should have someone out there at a crucial time with that mind-frame working with Iraqi's [sic]. Perhaps the person was blowing off steam or something, and that should be considered.

For sure, the person needs to be talked to and counseled about this statement.

Work it through the chain.

R (Id.). The signature block of Strohmier's email contained the following information:

Joseph Strohmier

Assistant Project Manager and Recruiter Intelligence Support Services, MNF-I Centurum Information Operations -- Tampa 813-417-8588 cell 813-387-0888 work 813-207-5677 fax joseph.strohmier@centurum.com http://www.centurum.com (Id.).

In July 2008, Shah and her co-workers made an anonymous call to the L-3 Ethics Hotline to complain about the work environment in Iraq. Shah alleges that contrary to L-3's stated policy that complaints to the L-3 Ethics Hotline remain anonymous, some of her co-workers and upper management employees at L-3 and/or Centurum knew that she complained of employee discrimination. Thereafter, Plaintiff reported other discriminatory conduct to senior management from Global. Shah alleges that despite her numerous complaints to ...


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