United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MCNULTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Altagracia Gomez ("Ms. Gomez") sues her former
employer, Rent-A-Center, Inc. ("Rent-A-Center").
She alleges that she was harassed and wrongfully terminated
because of her race, national origin, disability, and status
as a single mother-and also for reporting illegal conduct.
Now before the court is Rent-A-Center's motion to dismiss
and compel arbitration.
Altagracia Gomez is a New Jersey resident who began working
for defendant Rent-A-Center in 2002. (Compl. ¶¶ 1,
9). Ms. Gomez worked until 2013, when she was allegedly
forced to resign because she was unable to work assigned
hours and needed to take care of new newborn child. (Compl.
Gomez reapplied to work at Rent-A-Center around April 2016.
(Compl. ¶ 10). She was hired as an assistant manager
around May 2016 in a Jersey City location. (Compl. ¶
10). Rent-A-Center agreed that her work hours would be from
9:00am to 5:30pm. (Compl. ¶ 11). This accommodation was
provided to Ms. Gomez because she was a single mother and has
medical needs related to iron deficiency, anemia, vitamin B12
deficiency, and thrombophilia. (Compl. ¶ 12). Her direct
supervisor, Ms. Maribelle Esteves, was aware of this
accommodation. (Compl. ¶ 12).
2016, Ms. Gomez noticed that money was missing or unaccounted
for from the register. (Compl. ¶ 14). She immediately
reported the issue to Ms. Esteves. (Compl. ¶ 14). Ms.
Esteves did not take corrective action and the issue
continued into July 2016. (Compl. ¶¶ 15-16). Ms.
Gomez reported her concern to the district manager, Mr.
Alberto Ramos. (Compl. ¶ 16). However, Mr. Ramos did not
take corrective action and told Ms. Gomez just to do her job.
(Compl. ¶ 16).
several managers or co-workers made racist comments and jokes
regarding Ms. Gomez's Dominican ethnicity and accent.
(Compl. ¶ 18). Rent-A-Center held a meeting to discuss
this conduct toward Ms. Gomez on or about October 10, 2016.
(Compl. ¶ 18).
November 2016, Ms. Esteves changed Ms. Gomez's hours and
required her to work until 7:00pm on Mondays and Fridays.
(Compl. ¶¶ 19-20). She was required to work those
hours or would lose her job. (Compl. ¶ 20). This change
interfered with Ms. Gomez obtaining care for her medical
needs and her child. (Compl. ¶ 21). Ms. Gomez's
medical conditions worsened; she was diagnosed with major
depressive disorder in November 2016. (Compl. 123).
December 8, 2016, Ms. Gomez allegedly witnessed Ms. Esteves
and her son take two Xbox One video game consoles from
Rent-A-Center without purchasing or renting die equipment.
(Compl. ¶ 24). Ms. Gomez reported this to Mr. Ramos the
same day but Mr. Ramos refused to take any action. (Compl.
December 10, 2016, Rent-A-Center terminated Ms. Gomez.
(Compl. ¶ 25). Ms. Gomez alleges that this was done in
retaliation for reporting Ms.
and as a result of her race, national origin, disability, and
status as a single mother. (Compl. ¶ 26). She seeks
damages for lost front and back pay, emotional distress, lost
employment benefits, and an impaired reputation. (Compl.
¶ 27). Ms. Gomez asserts eight counts:
■ Count 1: Violation of the
Conscientious Employee Protection Act ("CEPA") -
hostile work environment (Compl. ¶¶ 29-34)
■ Count 2: Violation of CEPA - adverse
employment actions (Compl. ¶¶ 35-40)
■ Count 3: Violation of public policy
per Pierce v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp., 417 A.2d
505 (N.J. 1980) (Compl. ¶¶ 41-44)
■ Count 4: Violation of the New Jersey
Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD") - adverse
employment action (Compl. ¶¶ 45-54)
■ Count 5: Violation of NJLAD -
failure to accommodate disability (Compl. ¶¶ 55-62)
■ Count 6: Violation of NJLAD -
harassment (Compl. ...