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Allison Maclean v. Stuart Weitzman Shoes

March 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez


This matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Stuart Weitzman Retail Stores, LLC (apparently improperly plead as "Stuart Weitzman Shoes, n/a Stuart Weitzman"). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.


Plaintiff Allison Maclean originally filed the Complaint in this matter on August 21, 2009 in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County. She sued her former employer for discriminatory demotion (Count I) and discriminatory discharge (Count II) in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"). Essentially, Plaintiff alleged that she had been employed by Defendant in its Atlantic City store since March 13, 2007, but her hours were cut down, rendering her a part-time employee, in March of 2009. Plaintiff's manager, Georgina Rendon-Perez ("Rendon"), who made the decision of whose hours to reduce, was Hispanic, as was the only other full-time clerk working at the store, Martha Ramos ("Ramos"). At that time, Rendon allegedly told Plaintiff that because Plaintiff's parents were white, and she was American born and middle class, she would be able to better handle the loss of hours and benefits than would Ramos, who was not born in America and who Rendon said "needed the benefits more." (Compl., ¶ 12.) Ramos remained full-time.

On or about June 17, 2009, Plaintiff requested the July 4th holiday off because her boyfriend would be spending his first Fourth of July home from Iraq, where he spent all of 2008. Rendon denied Plaintiff's request, saying "I don't care if he just got off the toilet." (Compl., ¶ 18.) Although she was full-time, Ramos was given the time off.

When Plaintiff told her boyfriend about the conversation, he immediately called corporate headquarters to convey the insulting remark.*fn1 An individual believed to be a regional manager, Philippa Wilkes ("Wilkes"), contacted Rendon to discuss the call. Immediately afterwards, Rendon "emerged from her office, screaming in vitriolic and violent fashion at the Plaintiff, in the presence of customers, calling the Plaintiff a 'whore' and a 'slut' and other similar language." (Compl., ¶ 25.)

Plaintiff left the store to call Wilkes on her cell phone. She conveyed to Wilkes the names Rendon had called her. Wilkes allegedly told Plaintiff that Rendon would never have said those words, and asked Plaintiff to repeat them. (Compl., ¶ 27-29.) When Plaintiff repeated the words Rendon used, Wilkes told Plaintiff she was being "disrespectful" by using such language. (Compl., ¶ 30.) Wilkes then accused Plaintiff of abandoning her job by leaving the store to call her, despite that Rendon had given Plaintiff permission to do so. (Compl., ¶ 31.) The next day, Plaintiff was terminated.

Plaintiff's Complaint attributed the termination to discrimination based on her ethnicity, national origin, and/or race, the fact that she complained about "sexual misconduct" (the names she was called by Rendon), the fact that she had complained about being discriminated against in awarding holiday time off, and the fact that she complained about dissatisfaction with her original demotion, which she believes was based on ethnicity, national origin, and/or race in violation of the NJLAD. (Compl., ¶ 36, 13.)

Defendant removed the matter to this Court on October 28, 2009, citing diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. It has now moved for summary judgment on the entirety of Plaintiff's Complaint.

Summary Judgment Standard "Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, (1986)); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The Court will enter summary judgment in favor of a movant who shows that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and supports the showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) (1)(A).

An issue is "genuine" if supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.

Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Maidenbaum v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., 870 F. Supp. 1254, 1258 (D.N.J. 1994). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256--57. "A nonmoving party may not 'rest upon mere allegations, general denials or . . . vague statements . . . .'" Trap Rock Indus., Inc. v. Local 825, Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs, 982 F.2d 884, 890 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Quiroga v. Hasbro, Inc., 934 F.2d 497, 500 (3d Cir. 1991)). Indeed, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. That is, the movant can support the assertion that a fact cannot be genuinely disputed by showing that "an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the [alleged dispute of] fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. ...

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