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Goldman v. Nexus Consortium, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 30, 2015

MACON GOLDMAN Plaintiff,
v.
NEXUS CONSORTIUM, INC., et al. Defendant.

OPINION

JOEL A. PISANO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Macon Goldman ("Plaintiff") brings this action against defendants Nexus Consortium, Inc. ("Nexus") and George Riesco (together with Nexus, "Defendants") alleging that Defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. ("FLSA"), the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law N.J.S.A. § 34:11-56a4 ("NJWHL"), and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. §§ 10:5-1, et seq., ("LAD"). Presently before the Court is a motion by Defendants to dismiss the second and third counts of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons below, the motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts herein are taken from Plaintiff's complaint unless otherwise specified and are presumed to be true for the purposes of this motion:

Nexus is a business located in Neptune, New Jersey that provides technological services to data center operations. Defendant Riesco is the Chief Executive Officer and owner of Nexus. From July 28, 2007, to November 15, 2013, Plaintiff was employed by Nexus as an executive administrative assistant and then as a project manager. In these positions her duties "included filling out forms, preparing routine reports, answering telephones, making travel arrangements, and responding to customer requests." Compl. ¶ 42. According to Plaintiff, she did not supervise anyone, and she did not "have the authority to make decisions without explicit direction" from Defendant Riesco. Plaintiff alleges that during the course of her employment she routinely worked in excess of 40 hours per week and, in fact, routinely worked at least 50 hours per week.

In or about the summer of 2013, Defendant Riesco gave Plaintiff and another employee access to his private Gmail account to enable them to sync his personal contacts with his business contacts. While logged in Riesco's private Gmail account, Plaintiff was "exposed to private chats between Riesco and an unknown person that were of a sexual nature." Compl. ¶ 46. Plaintiff found the "sexual banter" to be offensive. Compl. ¶ 48.

Riesco terminated Plaintiff's employment several months later on November 15, 2013. According to Plaintiff, when she applied for unemployment, Riesco challenged her application and advise the New Jersey Department of Labor that Plaintiff had been terminated for misconduct. However, Plaintiff alleges that Riesco had provided her "with a contrary reason for her termination, " but Plaintiff does not specify the "contrary reason." Compl. ¶ 56.

Plaintiff's complaint contains three counts. The first count alleges Defendants failed to pay Plaintiff one and one half times her hourly rate for hours worked in excess of forty in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The second count alleges Defendants failed to pay Plaintiff for hours worked in excess of forty in violation of New Jersey's Wage and Hour Law. The third count alleges that Plaintiff was subjected to sexual harassment in violation to New Jersey's LAD.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard

Defendants move to dismiss the second and third counts pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), which provides for the dismissal if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." This pleading standard does not require "detailed factual allegations, " but it does require "more than labels and conclusions"; a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" will not suffice. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Therefore, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

The plausibility standard is satisfied "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The plausibility standard is not a "probability requirement, " but "it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. To decide if a complaint meets this plausibility standard and therefore, survives a motion to dismiss, the Third Circuit has required a three step analysis: (1) the Court must "outline the elements a plaintiff must plead to... state a claim for relief"; (2) the Court must identify "those allegations that are no more than conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth"; and (3) "where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the Court] should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief." Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012); Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010).

B. LAD Claim

"Claims of sexual harassment under the LAD normally fall into two categories: 1) quid pro quo, ' involving express or implied threats by the employer that the employee will suffer adverse employment consequences if he or she refuses to submit to the employer's sexual demands; or 2) hostile work environment, in which the employer or other employees harass an employee because of his or her gender to such an extent that the workplace becomes hostile." Entrot v. BASF Corp., 359 N.J.Super. 162, 171, (App. Div. 2003) (citing Lehmann v. Toys R' Us, Inc., 132 N.J. 587, 601 (1993)). This case involves the latter. In order to state a claim under the LAD for hostile work environment sexual harassment (which, as noted, occurs when an employee is harassed because of his or her sex to the point where the working environment becomes hostile), plaintiff must allege that the complained-of conduct "(1) would not have occurred but for [her] gender; and it was (2) severe or pervasive enough to make a (3) reasonable woman believe that (4) the conditions of employment are altered and the working environment is ...


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