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Bean v. State, Judiciary Camden Vicinage

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 30, 2014

LISA S. BEAN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY JUDICIARY CAMDEN VICINAGE, et al., Defendants.

F. Michael Daily, Jr., Esquire, F. Michael Daily, Jr., LLC, Westmont, New Jersey, Attorney for Plaintiff Lisa S. Bean.

Kelly A. Samuels, Esquire, State of New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Law Trenton, New Jersey, Attorneys for Defendants State of New Jersey Judiciary, Camden Vicinage, Peter Cupo, and Michael O'Brien.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court by way of a motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 20] by Defendants State of New Jersey Judiciary Camden Vicinage, Peter Cupo, and Michael O'Brien (collectively, "Defendants") seeking to partially dismiss Plaintiff's first amended complaint (hereinafter, the "amended complaint") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff opposes the motion to the extent Defendants seek to dismiss several of Plaintiff's Title VII claims but generally concedes that her equal protection claims should be dismissed. The Court has considered the parties' submissions and decides this matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

For reasons expressed below, Defendants motion for partial dismissal will be granted.

I. JURISDICTION

In the amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims for discrimination and retaliation pursuant to: (1) 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2, 2000e-3 in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and (2) 42 U.S.C. 1983 for deprivations of her equal protection rights afforded under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court exercises jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is an African American female who has been employed by Defendant State of New Jersey Judiciary Camden Vicinage since July of 1998. (Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 15] ¶¶ 1, 8). Plaintiff's amended complaint names two other Defendants in this action: Peter Cupo and Michael O'Brien. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-4.) Defendants Cupo and O'Brien are being sued in their individual capacities. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.)

In this matter, Plaintiff generally claims that her prior participation as a witness in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") investigation into claims against Defendants Cupo and O'Brien for racial discrimination made by another Judiciary employee ultimately lead to her being discriminated against and retaliated against by these same individuals. Specifically, Plaintiff represents that beginning in 2003 and ending in September of 2008, Plaintiff "offered information and testimony in support a racial discrimination claim by a coworker" which eventually culminated in a law suit filed in this District. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff asserts that she spoke with an investigator in 2003 and subsequently authored an affidavit and gave deposition testimony in that matter in June and September of 2008, respectively. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that the affidavit she authored in the prior matter "detailed various hostile actions against African American females by... Defendant Cupo." (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Cupo and O'Brien were both named as defendants in the discrimination law suit filed by her co-worker and "therefore [they] had actual knowledge that [Plaintiff] had supported the claims" of her co-worker in the prior suit. (Id. ¶ 14.) Based on Plaintiff's affidavit in that matter, Plaintiff contends that both Defendant Cupo, and his supervisor, Defendant O'Brien "would have been aware that [Plaintiff] claimed that... Cupo had a propensity to mistreat African American females." (Id. ¶ 15.)

According to Plaintiff, despite her "many years of service she has never received a promotion" from her employer. (Id. ¶ 9.) In November of 2008, Plaintiff attempted to seek a promotion by requesting to be reclassified from her position of Judiciary Clerk II to the position of Judiciary Clerk IV. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19). Plaintiff decided to seek this promotion after Denise Gonzalez, a co-worker of hers, who possessed "a lower educational level than Plaintiff[, ]" was solicited by Defendant Cupo for the same reclassification approximately five months earlier. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16.) Gonzalez successfully obtained her reclassification on October 31, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

Plaintiff alleges that compared to Gonzalez, Plaintiff was the "lead worker' when the supervisor was absent" and that Plaintiff regularly "perform[ed] Gonzalez's duties during her frequent medical absences." (Id. at ¶ 16.) Moreover, during her employment, Plaintiff represents that she met or exceeded her employer's reasonable expectations by consistently earning "satisfactory performance evaluations and maintaining an unblemished disciplinary record." (Id. at ¶ 10.) Yet, despite "being similarly situation to... Gonzalez and being better qualified than her[, ]" Plaintiff was later denied the reclassification she sought - the same reclassification Gonzalez sought at Defendant Cupo's urging. (Id. at ¶ 16.) The denial of Plaintiff's reclassification was subsequently affirmed on administrative appeal. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

Plaintiff alleges that the decision to grant or deny her the reclassification (i.e., promote her) rested on the evaluations of Plaintiff's immediate supervisor, Ms. Rosario, and Defendant Cupo. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-22.) After Plaintiff's reclassification was denied, Plaintiff claims that Rosario told Plaintiff that she was "very surprised" that Plaintiff did not receive the promotion. (Id. at ¶ 20.) Plaintiff represents that Rosario "thought that if Ms. Gonzalez was reclassified there should have been no problem with Plaintiff being reclassified." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that had she been reclassified, she would have received "a 5% salary increase and therefore... Plaintiff sustained a tangible adverse employment action as a result of her reclassification request" being denied. (Id. at ¶ 24.)

Based on these events, Plaintiff asserts that "the only explanation for the rejection [of her reclassification request] would have been negative input from Cupo with the concurrence of O'Brien" given that she was "better qualified for reclassification than Gonzalez and [Plaintiff's] immediate supervisory supported the reclassification[.]" (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff further claims that Defendants Cupo and O'Brien did not have a legitimate nondiscriminatory ...


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