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Illas v. Gloucester County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 24, 2015

SHARON ILLAS, Plaintiff,
v.
GLOUCESTER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT and COUNTY OF GLOUCESTER, Defendants.

DANIEL M. KURKOWSKI, KURKOWSKI LAW, LLC, CAPE MAY, NJ, On behalf of plaintiff.

CHRISTINE P. O'HEARN, BROWN & CONNERY, LLP, WESTMONT, NJ, On behalf of defendants.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is the motion of defendants to dismiss three counts of plaintiff's four-count complaint, which alleges discrimination, hostile work environment, and violations of her due process and equal protection rights, because those counts are time-barred. For the reasons expressed below, defendants' motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Sharon Illas, was hired as a sheriff's officer with defendant Gloucester County Sheriff's Department in March 2005. In May 2009, plaintiff attended an after-work function with her coworkers. Plaintiff claims that she had too much to drink, and she accepted a ride to her sister's home from Sergeant Donald Gentile, who is a relative of the Gloucester County Sheriff. Plaintiff claims that she was sexually assaulted by Gentile in his car in her sister's driveway. From that moment until she was forced to resign on November 1, 2012, plaintiff claims that she suffered pervasive harassment in her workplace, including unwarranted reassignments, disciplinary write-ups, the failure to investigate her complaints, the failure to accommodate her physical condition, and her coworkers' and superiors' demeaning, embarrassing, and "nitpicking" treatment of her.

Plaintiff has filed a four-count complaint against Gloucester County and the Sheriff's Department[1] for violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq., and for due process and equal protection violations of the federal and state constitutions. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for claims that arise under the NJLAD prior to May 22, 2012 because plaintiff's claims are time-barred under the two-year statute of limitations. Plaintiff has opposed defendants' motion, arguing that her claims are not barred under the continuing violation doctrine.

DISCUSSION

A. Subject matter jurisdiction

Plaintiff has brought her claims for violations of the federal and New Jersey constitutions, as well as under New Jersey state law. This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

B. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Baldwin Cnty. Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).

A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks "not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.'" Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for all civil actions'...."); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) ("Iqbal... provides the final nail-in-the-coffin for the no set of facts' standard that applied to federal complaints before Twombly."). Following the Twombly/Iqbal standard, the Third Circuit has instructed a two-part analysis in reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; a district court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). Second, a district court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief.'" Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). A complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. Id.; see also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating that the "Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: stating... a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element").

A court need not credit either "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. ...


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