United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
William Malia files suit against Amazon.com, Inc.
(“Amazon”) and his former employer All Points
Trucking and Courier Service, All Points Courier Service,
Inc. d/b/a Thruway Direct, Kevin Meyer (“Meyer”),
Leigh Hodge, Office Staff Consulting Inc. (collectively,
“Thruway”), and other unnamed individuals and
entities, alleging Amazon and Thruway violated the New Jersey
Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”)
when they terminated him in retaliation for his
whistleblowing activity. The matter comes before the Court on
Amazon and Thruway's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule
12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. No oral argument was held.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons below, the motions to
dismiss are GRANTED.
president and owner of Thruway-a contracted company providing
delivery and courier services to customers, including
Amazon-Meyer hired Malia as its Regional Director of
Operations. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 14-15, ECF No. 11-4.
In offering, hiring, and then terminating Malia's
position with Thruway, Meyer set the terms and conditions of
Malia's employment. Id. ¶¶ 15, 49.
at Thruway, Malia's responsibilities included overseeing,
managing, and directing packing and courier services in the
New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania markets and handling
personnel issues. Id. ¶ 18. Part of these
responsibilities included interacting with Amazon management
to address transportation and logistics matters. Id.
¶ 20. As a supplier, Amazon would conduct audits of
contracted companies like Thruway to ensure compliance with
its Supplier Code of Conduct. Id. ¶ 28. In
overseeing Thruway's delivery operations, Malia avers
Amazon and Thruway acted as joint employers. Id.
received complaints from Thruway's New Jersey-based
drivers that Thruway withheld “Pennsylvania, rather
than New Jersey, workers' compensation deductions from
their paychecks while living and delivering Amazon products
in New Jersey.” Id. ¶ 37. Months later,
unsure if they would receive coverage in a work-related
accident, Thruway's drivers complained to Malia again
about the workers' compensation deduction issue.
Id. ¶¶ 41, 45. Malia reasonably believed
the deductions were unlawful and complained to Meyer about
this perceived unlawful practice because Thruway
“exposed the drivers to medical and financial ruin in
the event of a work related [sic] accident.”
Id. ¶¶ 38-39, 42, 44-45.
this time, Amazon knew about Thruway's workers'
compensation practices through its oversight and audits of
Thruway's business records. Id. ¶ 47. For
instance, while on a conference call with an Amazon auditor,
Malia and Thruway representatives discussed Thruway's
deliveries and payroll of its drivers. Id. Months
later, Meyer terminated Malia's employment. Id.
¶ 49. Malia then filed suit in state court and Amazon
timely removed. See ECF No. 1.
and Thruway now move to dismiss the CEPA claims. Amazon
argues it never employed Malia and thus he cannot be
considered its “employee” under CEPA.
See Amazon's Reply Br. 7, ECF No. 14. Also fatal
to the CEPA claim, Amazon argues it had no part in
Thruway's decision (through its owner, Meyer) to
terminate Malia's employment. Id. at 9. Now
Thruway contends Malia has failed to establish a prima facie
CEPA case because he lacked an objectively reasonable belief
as to its workers' compensation practice violating any
law or policy and also there lacks a substantial nexus
between the whistle-blowing activity and the retaliatory
employment action. See Thruway's Reply 5, 7, ECF
Amazon and Thruway take issue with Malia's wholesale
revision of the allegations and the basis for submitting the
Amended Complaint. After filing its motions to dismiss, Malia
changed the facts that formed the basis for the retaliatory
discharge and chalked up filing the Amended Complaint as to
having “inadvertently filed an unapproved draft of the
complaint rather than the finalized and approved
version.” Pl.'s Opp'n 2, ECF No. 11.
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, 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); Leamer v.
Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 535 (3d Cir. 2002).
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. Servs., 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
contends it never directly employed Malia, it cannot be
considered a joint employer with Thruway, and it had no part
in the adverse employment action required to sustain a CEPA
retaliation claim. Malia insists he formed an ...