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Brown v. Joel Tanis & Sons, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 13, 2014

JOEL TANIS & SONS, INC., et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM J. MARTINI, District Judge.

Plaintiff Anthony Brown filed this employment discrimination case against his employer, Joel Tanis & Sons, Inc. and seven of his coworkers (together, "Defendants"). Six of the seven coworker Defendants - Todd Dages, Daniel Evers, John Johnson, John Mernick, Marlon Orellana, and Raymond Hazelgreen (together, "Moving Defendants") - move to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons explained below, Moving Defendants' motion to dismiss is partially GRANTED and partially DENIED.


Plaintiff, an African-American, is a supply driver for Defendant Joel Tanis & Sons. Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") ¶¶ 1, 57, ECF No. 29. Defendant Tony Dell is the owner of Joel Tanis & Sons. SAC ¶ 40. Neither Defendant Joel Tanis & Sons nor Defendant Dell have joined in the instant motion. Moving Defendant Todd Dages is allegedly Plaintiff's supervisor. SAC ¶ 27. Moving Defendants Evers, Johnson, Mernick, Orellana, and Hazelgreen (together, the "Coworker Defendants") are Plaintiff's coworkers. SAC ¶¶ 11-15.

Plaintiff alleges that, since September 2005, Moving Defendants have repeatedly called him derogatory racial slurs, such as "nigger" and "black mother fucker, " and harassed him because of his race. SAC ¶¶ 21, 24. The Complaint also alleges that Dages was aware of, and participated in, the harassment. SAC ¶ 55. Plaintiff alleges that, after he reported the abuse, he received even worse treatment. SAC ¶ 32. Specifically, Moving Defendants "began to overly criticize Plaintiff, and even "tried to kill Plaintiff by cutting his brakes on his car in retaliation for his complaints." SAC ¶ 31. The Complaint also alleges that Dages threatened to pack his cement mixing paddles with cement and began taking "pictures of Plaintiff at work in order to harass and intimidate him." SAC ¶ 56.

Plaintiff filed charges with the EEOC and obtained a Right to Sue letter. Plaintiff then filed this action, asserting claims for hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (the "NJLAD"), as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).

Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitlement 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). Thus, the factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above a speculative level, such that it is "plausible on its face." See id. at 570; see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). A claim has "facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement'... it asks for more than a sheer possibility." Id.


Moving Defendants move to dismiss Count 1 (Hostile Work Environment under 42 U.S.C. § 1981), Count 4 (Hostile Work Environment under the NJLAD), Count 5 (Retaliation under the NJLAD), Count 6 (Aiding and Abetting under the NJLAD), and Count 7 (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress) of the Second Amended Complaint.

A. Hostile Work Environment under Section 1981 (Count 1)

Plaintiff alleges that the harassment began in September 2005, and was still occurring at the time he filed the Second Amended Complaint. Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") ¶¶ 20-21, 57. Moving Defendants argue that allegations prior to May 8, 2009 are time-barred, and should be stricken from the Second Amended Complaint. Moving Defendants further contend that the incidents that occurred after that date are insufficient to state a hostile work environment claim. The Court finds that the continuing violations doctrine saves the allegations that occurred outside of the statutory time period, and will deny Moving Defendants' motion to dismiss Count 1.

The statute of limitations for a hostile work environment claim under Section 1981 is four years. Verdin v. Weeks Marine Inc., 124 F.Appx. 92, 96 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Jones v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 541 U.S. 369, (2004). The continuing violations doctrine provides "an equitable exception to the timely filing requirement." West v. Philadelphia Elec. Co., 45 F.3d 744, 754 (3d Cir. 1995). Under this doctrine, "when a defendant's conduct is part of a continuing practice, an action is timely if the last act evidencing the continuing practice falls within the limitations period." Cowell v. Palmer Twp., 263 F.3d 286, 292 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Brenner v. Local 514, United Bd. of Carpenters ...

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