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Galman v. Sysco Food Services of Metro New York, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 8, 2015

DANIEL GALMAN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
SYSCO FOOD SERVICES OF METRO NEW YORK, LLC; SYSCO CORPORATION RETIREMENT FUND; SHELLY BUDHAR, JOHN DOES 1-10; JANE DOES 1-10; and ABC CORPORATIONS A THROUGH Z, Defendants.

OPINION

KEVIN McNULTY, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Daniel Galman, Jr., participated in his employer's retirement plan. Before he retired, Galman asked the employer's human resources manager to give him an estimate of the lump sum pension benefit he would receive upon his retirement. The employer allegedly failed to provide that estimate. Galman, who is African American, says he later learned that certain Caucasian retirees received higher lump sum pension payments than he did.

Galman filed this action against his employer, his employer's retirement fund, and a human resources manager, alleging breach of fiduciary duties and racial discrimination. The defendants have now filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. Their motion will be granted as to both counts of the Complaint, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint within 30 days.

Background

For purposes of this motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of the complaint are assumed to be true.

Galman worked for 30 years as a warehouseman for Sysco Food Services of Metro New York, LLC ("Sysco"), and its predecessor. (Compl.[1] ¶ 11) He contributed to the Sysco Corporation Retirement Fund (the "Fund"), as well as a predecessor union fund. (Compl. ¶ 31-32). The Fund was controlled by the Sysco Corporation Retirement Plan (the "Plan").

In 2012, Galman "requested information about what his lump sum retirement payment would be." (Compl. ¶ 34). Galman also inquired about a 6% penalty that had been assessed against employee accounts. (Compl. ¶¶ 17, 24, 34). He directed those requests for information primarily to defendant Shelly Budhar, a human resources manager, but he also refers to making requests of "Sysco" generally. (Compl. ¶¶ 21, 24, 34, 35, 38). Budhar and Sysco did not furnish him with the information he requested. (Compl. ¶ 26).

Galman retired on September 24, 2012. (Compl. ¶ 19) He received his lump sum pension check in October 2012 (Compl. ¶ 23) or December 2012 (Compl. ¶ 36).

After he retired, Galman somehow "learned that two Caucasian employees with similar service to Sysco as he had received substantially higher amounts of money in their pension lump sum payments." (Compl. ¶ 26).

Galman's complaint does not state whether he brought his complaints to any federal or state administrative agency, such as the EEOC or the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. He did, however, file suit in this Court. His Complaint names three defendants: Sysco, Budhar, and the Fund. It contains two counts: The First Count alleges that the defendants failed to provide Galman with the information he requested, thereby breaching their fiduciary duties by violating ERISA. The Second Count alleges that the defendants administered their pension plan in a manner that discriminated on the basis of race, in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.[2]

The defendants move to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The defendant, as the moving party, bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Animal Science Products, Inc. v. China Minmetals Corp., 654 F.3d 462, 469 n. 9 (3d Cir. 2011).

From the seminal modern cases of Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), the Third Circuit has extracted a three-step process for reviewing a complaint:

To determine whether a complaint meets the pleading standard, our analysis unfolds in three steps. First, we outline the elements a plaintiff must plead to a state a claim for relief. See [ Iqbal, 556 U.S.] at 675; Argueta, 643 F.3d at 73. Next, we peel away those allegations that are no more than conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; Argueta, 643 F.3d at 73. Finally, we look for well-pled factual allegations, assume their veracity, and then "determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; Argueta, 643 F.3d at 73. This last step is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012). The complaint's allegations must be factual, not conclusory, and they must be sufficient to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above a speculative level, so that a claim is "plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008).

Discussion

The First Count, Galman's claim for breach of fiduciary duty, will be dismissed. The complaint does not allege that Galman's request for information was in writing, a prerequisite to liability under ERISA. See 29 U.S.C. § 1025(a)(1)(A) & (B)(ii). Galman has also failed to allege or establish that the named defendants - Sysco, the Fund, and Budhar - are fiduciaries under ERISA. The Second Count, Galman's claim of discrimination under the NJLAD, will be dismissed because it fails to state a claim.

I. First Count - Breach of fiduciary duty

In Count 1, the underlying grievance is alleged clearly enough: Galman requested important information about his retirement benefits, but the defendants failed to provide it. The cause of action is entitled "Breach of Fiduciary Duty By Violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act."

ERISA is the only basis for this Complaint's being in federal court at all. The claim is most naturally seen as one for breach of the statutory obligation under ERISA to supply certain information to plan participants. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1)(A) & (B), 1025(a). Some of the language in the First Count seems to suggest a more general claim of breach of fiduciary duty. ( See Compl. ¶ 41 ("Sysco breached their fiduciary duty with regard to the management of and information disclosure to Plaintiff with regard to Plaintiff's pension.")). That ...


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