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Correa v. Working Families United for N.J.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 30, 2017

EDWARD CORREA, Plaintiff,
v.
WORKING FAMILIES UNITED FOR N.J., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Esther Salas, U.S.D.J.

         Defendants Working Families United for N.J., New Jersey State AFL-CIO, New Jersey State AFL-CIO Community Services Agency, and Charles Wowkanech (the “Moving Defendants”) seek partial dismissal of Plaintiff Edward Correa's Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (D.E. No. 24). Defendants Town of Dover and Mayor James P. Dodd (together, the “Dover Defendants, ” and collectively with the Moving Defendants, “Defendants”) joined the present motion. (See D.E. No. 25). The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343, and 1367(a). Having considered the submissions made in support of and in opposition to Defendants' motion, the Court decides this matter without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). As set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss Counts I and III.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         Plaintiff.

         Correa resides in the Town of Dover. (D.E. No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶ 5). As of February 11, 2014, he was the Executive Director of Working Families United for New Jersey (“Working Families United”). (Id. ¶¶ 14, 21). He was also the State Director of the We-Are-One-New-Jersey project (the “One N.J. Project”), a program of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO Community Services Agency. (Id. ¶ 5). On May 13, 2015, Correa was terminated from both positions. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 21).

         Defendants.

         Correa asserts claims against six defendants: Working Families United, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, the New Jersey AFL-CIO Community Services Agency, Charles Wowkanech, Town of Dover, and Mayor Dodd. (See Compl. at 1).

         Working Families United is a New Jersey private entity and Correa's former employer. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6). At all relevant times, Wowkanech was President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO (the parent entity, funder, and Trustee of the Board of Working Families United). (Id. ¶¶ 7, 9). Wowkanech was also President of the New Jersey AFL-CIO Community Services Agency, the fiscal agent and funder of the One N.J. Project. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9). Correa resides in Dover, where Mayor Dodd serves as mayor. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 10).

         Facts.

         On May 12, 2015, Correa spoke during the “public comments portion” of a Dover town hall meeting and criticized Mayor Dodd's relationship with Dover's immigrant community. (Id. ¶ 15). At the time, Correa was serving as the Executive Director of Working Families United and State Director of the One N.J. Project. (Id. ¶ 5). Correa alleges, however, that he spoke as a Dover resident and taxpayer and “not in his official capacity” as either the Executive Director of Working Families United, State Director of the One N.J. Project, or representative of any other organization. (Id. ¶ 15).

         Minutes after Correa's speech, Wowkanech called Correa to inform him that Mayor Dodd had “made a complaint” about what Correa said. (Id. ¶ 16). Wowkanech explained that Mayor Dodd “was not happy” with Correa's “behavior” and that the Mayor “did not want to see him at the . . . Board of Aldermen meetings or stepped [sic] into Town Hall.” (Id. ¶ 17). Wowkanech then asked Correa to resign. (Id. ¶ 18).

         The following day, on May 13, 2015, Wowkanech “stated that [Correa] had a choice of resigning, being terminated, or apologizing” to Mayor Dodd. (Id. ¶ 19). Correa responded in a letter to Wowkanech that “he would not resign or apologize” to the Mayor. (Id. ¶ 20). Wowkanech and the New Jersey State AFL-CIO then terminated Correa from his positions on the same day. (Id. ¶ 21).

         Causes of Action.

         On April 20, 2016, Correa filed a four-count Complaint alleging retaliatory discharge against the Moving Defendants (“Count I”); tortious interference with economic advantage against the Dover Defendants (“Count II”); breach of contract against the Moving Defendants (Count III); and violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through suppression of his First Amendment rights against the Dover Defendants (“Count IV”). (Id. ¶¶ 22-40).

         Procedural History.

         Shortly after Correa initiated this action, the Moving Defendants filed a first motion to dismiss Counts I and III for failure to state a claim. (D.E. No. 5). After the parties briefed the Moving Defendants' motion, Magistrate Judge Dickson entered a Text Order (i) directing the parties to exchange written discovery “on the limited issue of whether Plaintiff had an employment agreement”; and (ii) administratively terminating the Moving ...


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