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Long v. Leggett & Platt, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 27, 2017

RANDAL LONG, Plaintiff,
v.
LEGGETT & PLATT, INCORPORATED; JOHN; XYZ ENTITIES 1-100, fictitious unknown business entities; and J. DOES 1-100, fictitious unknown individuals, Defendants.

          ROBERT J. HAGERTY HAGERTY & BLAND-TULL LAW LLC MOORESTOWN TIMES SQUARE On behalf of Plaintiff

          MICHAEL R. MILLER MARGOLIS EDELSTEIN On behalf of Defendants

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This case concerns Defendants' alleged violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and Plaintiff's Cross-Motion to Amend the Complaint. For the reasons expressed below, Defendant's motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's motion will be granted.

         I.

         We take our brief recitation of the facts from Plaintiff's initial complaint. Plaintiff was hired by Defendant Leggett & Platt, Inc. (“L&P”) in 1982, where he remained until 1989. He resumed employment with L&P in 1994, eventually rising to Director of Sales in 2009 and Senior Vice President of Sales in 2013. In April 2014, Defendant John Case was hired as President.

         On December 21, 2015, Plaintiff informed Robert Newcombe, the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, that Bobby Keen, an employee at L&P, was sexually harassing a female employee. No action was taken by Newcombe or Case following Plaintiff's allegations.

         In January 2016, Plaintiff was informed that his employment was being terminated and he was given a severance package on January 15, 2016. Plaintiff claims he was terminated “in retaliation for his reporting the sexually harassing conduct of Keen, in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.” Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant on May 23, 2016. The complaint alleges retaliation and aiding and abetting under the NJLAD. It also alleges Defendants are liable for punitive damages. The matter was removed to this Court on August 11, 2016 based on diversity jurisdiction. Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on February 10, 2017. Plaintiff filed a Cross-Motion to Amend the Complaint on March 6, 2017.

         II.

         A Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings may be filed after the pleadings are closed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c); Turbe v. Gov't of V.I., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). In analyzing a Rule 12(c) motion, a court applies the same legal standards as applicable to a motion filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Turbe, 938 F.2d at 428. Thus, 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).

         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 Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 583 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating 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. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).

         “[O]n a motion for judgment on the pleadings, ” the court “reviews not only the complaint but also the answer and any written instruments and exhibits attached to the pleadings.” Perelman v. Perelman, 919 F.Supp.2d 512, 520 n.2 (E.D. Pa. 2013).

         III.

         “To establish a prima facie case of discriminatory retaliation, plaintiffs must demonstrate that: (1) they engaged in a protected activity known by the employer; (2) thereafter their employer unlawfully retaliated against them; and (3) their participation in the protected activity caused the retaliation.” Craig v. Suburban Cablevision, 660 A.2d 505, 508 (N.J. 1995); ...


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