United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Freda L. Wolfson United States District Judge
instant action arises out of an employment relationship
between Plaintiff Heidi Dalton (“Plaintiff”) and
the New Jersey State Police (the “State Police”).
Following the termination of her employment with the State
Police, Plaintiff asserted various state and federal civil
rights claims, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2, et seq., section
1983 of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. §
10:5-1, et seq. (“NJLAD”), against the
State of New Jersey, the State Police, the New Jersey Office
of the Attorney General (the “OAG”), and
Lieutenant Ilias Andrinopoulos (collectively,
“Defendants”). Presently before the Court are:
(1) Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint; and (2) Plaintiff's Cross Motion for Leave to
File an Amended Complaint. For the reasons that follow,
Defendants' Motion is granted, and Plaintiff's Cross
Motion is denied.
February 7, 2001, Plaintiff began her employment as a
civilian employee of the State Police. Proposed Amended
Complaint (“Am. Compl.”), ¶ 1. From 2005 to
2014, Plaintiff worked in the Missing Persons unit of the
State Police, where her primary job function was to activate
Amber alerts. Id. at ¶¶ 2-5, 8.
2009, Lieutenant Andrinopoulos joined the Missing Persons
unit as a Detective Sergeant. Id. at ¶ 10.
Plaintiff alleges that, during that time, Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos expressed his dissatisfaction with his
placement in the Missing Persons unit, conveying a preference
for placement within the Major Crimes unit. Id. at
¶¶ 13. Plaintiff further alleges that while
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos was in the Missing Persons unit, he
“told Trooper Enrique Brian that he was going to target
. . . Plaintiff.” Id. at ¶ 14.
two years after his placement in the Missing Persons unit,
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos was transferred to the Essex County
Task Force of Major Crimes (“Major Crimes”).
Id. at ¶ 12. Nonetheless, shortly after his
assignment to Major Crimes, Lieutenant Andrinopoulos was
reassigned to the Missing Persons unit. Id. at
¶ 15. Plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos' reassignment was the result of his
“inability to supervise subordinates and to render
their workplace as hostile.” Id. at ¶ 15.
Plaintiff also avers that, prior to Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos' reassignment to the Missing Persons unit,
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos had a “substantiated domestic
violence internal” investigation. Id. at
alleges that, following Lieutenant Andrinopoulos'
reassignment to the Missing Persons unit, Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos “made known that he harbored
dislike” for both Plaintiff and State Trooper Brian
Kearns (“Trooper Kearns”). Id. at ¶
19. Specifically, Plaintiff avers that Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos manipulated State Police reports to create the
impression that Trooper Kearns was failing to adequately
perform his job responsibilities within the Missing Persons
unit. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff further alleges
that, in response to Lieutenant Andrinopoulos' conduct
with respect to Trooper Kearns, Plaintiff submitted various
documents to Captain Gordon SanMartino, with the purpose of
demonstrating that Trooper Kearns was being unfairly
evaluated. Id. at ¶ 21.
next alleges that, in early 2013, Lieutenant Andrinopoulos
“turned [Plaintiff's supervisor, ] Lieutenant
Tansey[, ] against . . . Plaintiff” while Plaintiff was
out of work for two days on personal leave. Id. at
¶¶ 23-24. Plaintiff avers, without further
elaboration, that Lieutenant Andrinopoulos' actions in
this regard created a hostile work environment for Plaintiff
upon her return to work. Id. at ¶ 24. Plaintiff
alleges further that Lieutenant Andrinopoulos also turned
Lieutenant Paul Valles against Plaintiff, despite the fact
that Plaintiff and Lieutenant Valles had a good working
relationship prior to the involvement of Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos. Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff also
alleges, without explanation, that in December of 2013,
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos “engineered a plot to remove
the Plaintiff and was found out.” Id. at
remainder of the Proposed Amended Complaint, Plaintiff
recounts a laundry list of interactions between herself and
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos, alleging that these interactions
occurred within the scope of Lieutenant Andrinopoulos'
employment, and amount to gender discrimination:
• Plaintiff alleges that, in early 2014, during the
course of a meeting regarding an upcoming snow day,
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos criticized Plaintiff in front of
other attendees, and stated, “When I become your boss,
things are going to be fucking different.” Am. Compl.
¶¶ 26-32. Plaintiff further alleges that, when she
asked Lieutenant Andrinopoulos “what his problem was
with her, ” Lieutenant Andrinopoulos explained that it
related to Plaintiffs defense of Trooper Kearns. Id.
at ¶ 33.
• Plaintiff alleges that her supervisors, including
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos, “deprived her of PARS
evaluations even though she filed two
grievances.” Id. at ¶ 34.
• Plaintiff alleges generally that Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos “created a hostile work environment and
did yell and scream at the Plaintiff every chance he
got.” Id. at ¶ 36.
• Plaintiff alleges that, on one occasion, where she was
late to work due to a truck blocking her entry to the office,
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos called her and asked, “Where
the fuck are you?” Id. at ¶ 37.
• Plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant Andrinopoulos
refused to call on Plaintiff to speak in meetings, and
removed various work responsibilities from Plaintiff,
including taking away Plaintiffs Amber alert notifications
and her oversight of ordering supplies. Id. at
¶¶ 39-43, 55-59.
• Plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant Andrinopoulos put in
a request for Plaintiff to be transferred to another unit.
Id. at ¶ 41.
• Plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant Andrinopoulos once
sent a Trooper to her house when Plaintiff was out on sick
leave. Id. at ¶ 44.
• Plaintiff alleges that, on one occasion, Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos threatened to send a Trooper to her house to
retrieve Plaintiffs equipment, laptop, and cell phone, but
instead sent a union representative to retrieve these items.
Id. at ¶ 45.
• Plaintiff alleges that, in March of 2014, she was
required to train Kim Smith, a personal friend of Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos, on how to handle Amber alerts in the Missing
Persons unit. Id. at ¶¶ 49-50. Plaintiff
further alleges that Lieutenant Andrinopoulos transferred
Plaintiffs Amber alert job responsibilities to Ms. Smith in
May of 2014. Id. at ¶ 61. Additionally,
Plaintiff avers that, despite the fact that Ms. Smith had
already assumed responsibility for activating Amber alerts,
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos criticized Plaintiff for the way
that an Amber alert was handled in May 2014. Id. at
Proposed Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, in
February 2014 and March 2014, she filed complaints against
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos with the United States Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”).
Id. at ¶¶ 35, 39. Subsequently, the EEOC
found that Plaintiffs allegations against Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos were unsubstantiated. Id. at ¶
approximately May of 2014, Plaintiff took a leave of absence
from work due to “stress, ” and remained out of
work until December of 2014. Id. at ¶ 63.
Ultimately, Plaintiff was terminated from her employment with
the State Police on May 5, 2016. Id. at ¶ 64.
10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants in
the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County, Law
Division, alleging that Defendants' actions amounted to
discrimination, in violation of Plaintiff s constitutional
rights under § 1983 and the NJLAD. On June 7, 2017,
Defendants removed the Complaint to this Court, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1443, based on the
Court's federal question jurisdiction over Plaintiff s
§ 1983 claim. ECF No. 1. Defendants filed the instant
Motion to Dismiss on July 19, 2017. ECF No. 8. Plaintiff
filed her Opposition to that Motion on September 5, 2017, and
cross moved to amend the Complaint. ECF No. 14. Defendants
filed their Reply on September 25, 2017. ECF No. 17.
Proposed Amended Complaint asserts four counts against
Defendants. In Count One, Plaintiff alleges that the actions
of Defendants amounted to gender discrimination against
Plaintiff, in violation of her “constitutional
rights.” Am. Compl. at 8. In Count Two, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants created a hostile work environment,
which “caused the Plaintiff to go on sick leave and
eventually, to be terminated.” Id. In that
connection, in Count Two, Plaintiff alleges that the State
Police and the OAG had knowledge, as a result of Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos' “history of creating hostile work
environments, ” that Lieutenant Andrinopoulos created a
hostile work environment for Plaintiff due to her gender, yet
“took no action to correct the same.”
Id. In Count Three, Plaintiff asserts a claim for
constructive discharge, alleging that Lieutenant
Andrinopoulos created a hostile work environment for
Plaintiff, in order to terminate Plaintiff from her position
and to replace her with his personal friend, Ms. Smith.
Id. Finally, in Count Four, Plaintiff alleges that
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos created “a false employment
investigation” against Trooper Kearns, and that, after
Plaintiff submitted evidence supporting Trooper Kearns,
Lieutenant Andrinopoulos retaliated by creating a hostile
work environment for Plaintiff, which led to Plaintiff
becoming ill, and eventually, to Plaintiff's termination.
Id. at 9.