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Johnson v. Fedex Freight, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 10, 2016

DAVID JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDEX FREIGHT, INC., and (all individually and in their official capacities ROBERT DOES heretofore unidentified individuals, and ABC Corps. heretofore unidentified corporations, partnerships and/or other business entities), Defendants.

          OPINION

          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff David Johnson brings this action against FedEx Freight, Inc. (“FedEx”) and unidentified individuals and corporations, alleging violations of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169, in connection with the purportedly wrongful and retaliatory termination of his employment. This matter comes before the Court on FedEx's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and its motion for sanctions under Rule 11(c). There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, FedEx's motion to dismiss is GRANTED and its motion for sanctions is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a citizen of New Jersey and a former employee of FedEx. FedEx is a shipping company incorporated in Delaware, with its principal place of business in Memphis, Tennessee. On May 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint (the “Complaint”), alleging that FedEx wrongfully terminated his employment due to his involvement in attempting to unionize a local branch of FedEx's business.

         Plaintiff was hired as a truck driver by FedEx on March 5, 2012. Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff maintains that he was “an exemplary employee” during his employment and that he was “never demoted, suspended nor reprimanded throughout and until he was unexpectedly terminated on August 13, 2015.” Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiff was a well-known union supporter and engaged in numerous efforts to organize his local branch in Newark, New Jersey. Id. at ¶ 7.

         On November 11, 2014, Plaintiff was purportedly approached by the CEO of FedEx during a training class and was told to “say no to the union.” Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiff asserts that he felt threatened by the CEO's mandate, but he nevertheless continued his support of the effort to organize. As a result, Plaintiff “was harassed and threatened with physical violence by some other employees.” Id. at ¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiff also alleges that he was falsely accused of severe misconduct in his employment, which was the reason given for his termination, but that he was never told which of his actions consisted of the misconduct. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiff submits that the New Jersey Department of Labor Unemployment Board determined that he never committed any misconduct. Id. at ¶ 13.

         Plaintiff alleges two counts against Defendants: retaliation (Count I) and wrongful termination (Count II). Id. at ¶¶ 16-23. Plaintiff brings both counts as violations of “federal statute and state law.” See id. at ¶¶ 19, 23. Plaintiff claims that jurisdiction is proper in this Court pursuant to the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169. See id. at ¶¶ 1-4. Plaintiff does not assert diversity jurisdiction nor does he specify which, if any, state or common laws were violated by FedEx's conduct.

         FedEx now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice. FedEx first argues that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims because the National Labor Review Board (“NLRB”) has exclusive jurisdiction to hear all claims alleging violations of an employee's rights under sections 7 or 8 of the NLRA. See Mem. of Law of Def. FedEx in Supp. of Its Mot. to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mot.”) 3-4, ECF No. 10-1. FedEx next argues that, to the extent that Plaintiff brings any state law claims, those claims are preempted by the NLRA. See id. at 4-6. Finally, FedEx argues arguendo that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the NLRA's statute of limitations. See id. at 6-7.

         Concurrently, FedEx moves this Court to impose sanctions on Plaintiff pursuant to Rule 11(c)(2). FedEx argues that sanctions are warranted because both of Plaintiff's claims are frivolous. See Mem. of Law of Def. FedEx in Supp. of Mot. for Rule 11 Sanctions (“Sanctions Mot.”) 2-4, ECF No.11-1. FedEx submits that it complied procedurally with Rule 11 by sending a letter and copy of its motion to dismiss to Plaintiff's counsel, asking Plaintiff to withdraw the Complaint. See Sanctions Mot. at 2; Decl. of Mai Tran (“Tran Decl.”), Ex. A. According to FedEx, Plaintiff's counsel received FedEx's correspondence on September 13, 2016, but refused to withdraw the Complaint. See Sanctions Mot. at 2; Tran Decl., Ex. B.

         For reasons unknown to the Court, Plaintiff has not filed an opposition or otherwise responded to either of FedEx's motions. Nonetheless, Plaintiff's Complaint remains pending before this Court and the Court will consider each motion in kind.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         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.

         III. ...


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