United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MCNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Iztok Vodopivec sues his former employers, Anthony's LLC,
Zvi Guitman, Marc Guitman, and Robert Geller. He claims the
defendants harassed him on the basis of his Slovenian
ethnicity and also engaged in a stamp-forgery scheme. Now
before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss.
Defendants argue that plaintiffs 42 U.S.C. § 1981 action
fails to state a claim and therefore this court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs two state-law claims. For
the reasons stated below, defendants' motion to dismiss
Iztok Vodopivec is a resident of New Jersey and a former
employee of defendant Anthony's LLC, a coin and stamp
collecting business based in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
(Compl. ¶¶ 3-4, 8, 20). Defendants Zvi Guitman
(a/k/a Howard), Marc Guitman, and Robert Geller are all
members of Anthony's LLC and residents of New Jersey.
(Compl. ¶¶ 4-7). Iztok Vodopivec, who was born in
Slovenia, alleges defendants forced him to "act
Jewish" and change his name, harassed him because of his
Slovenian background, and terminated him when he disagreed
with fraudulent business practices and insisted on using his
actual name of Iztok. (Compl. ¶ 8).
Ethnic Stereotyping Allegations
LLC hired Iztok Vodopivec around September 2009 to perform
clerical work. (Compl. ¶¶ 10, 20, 24). Zvi Guitman
immediately demanded Iztok Vodopivec "act Jewish"
and use the name "Isaac" when interacting with
customers. (Compl. ¶¶ 20-25, 29). Zvi Guitman told
Iztok Vodopivec that he must "act Jewish" or he
would be discharged. (Compl. ¶ 26). Zvi allegedly stated
that individuals respected Jewish people as knowledgeable
collectors, that Slovenians were "low life," and
that Slovenians were not respected in this business. (Compl.
¶¶ 26, 28). He also allegedly stated that Jewish
people were "discriminated [against] for so long [so] we
now rip everyone off." (Compl. ¶ 26). Robert Geller
and Marc Guitman would laugh and reaffirm that Iztok
Vodopivec needed to present himself as "more
Jewish." (Compl. ¶ 28). Defendants told Iztok
Vodopivec he was employed by Anthony's LLC only because
he was married to Zvi Guitman's daughter-in-law. (Compl.
Immigration and Tax Fraud Allegations
Vodopivec claims that Anthony's LLC did not comply with
immigration and tax laws. Anthony's LLC did not initially
request Iztok Vodopivec's 1-9 application. (Vodopivec
states that he is a permanent resident and is entitled to
employment authorization.) (Compl. ¶¶ 25, 32, 34).
Anthony's LLC allegedly had several employees who did not
submit 1-9 applications. (Compl. ¶ 32). Robert Geller
threatened Iztok Vodopivec, saying that Anthony's LLC
paid his immigration bond and could take it away. (Compl.
¶ 19). Additionally, Zvi Guitman would give Iztok
Vodopivec cash raises to avoid paying additional taxes.
(Compl. ¶ 25).
Fraudulent Business Allegations
defendants allegedly forged and altered stamps to make them
appear unique and then sell diem for thousands of dollars.
(Compl. ¶ 12). Defendants routinely sold
"worthless" stamps for hundreds or thousands of
dollars. (Compl. ¶ 13). For example, Iztok Vodopivec
alleges that in August 2017, Robert Geller trimmed the
perforation of a stamp, sanded the stamp with a nail file,
and put glue on the side to make the stamp appear to be a
vintage item. (Compl. ¶ 13).
August 2017, Iztok Vodopivec told Zvi Guitman and Robert
Geller that they should not engage in stamp forgery. (Compl.
¶ 15). They told Iztok Vodopivec to "keep his mouth
shut" because this was how they ran their business.
(Compl. ¶ 15). In September 2017, Iztok Vodopivec saw
Robert Geller deplete a stamp of its color by applying gum,
taking the gum off one stamp, and transferring it onto an old
stamp. (Compl. ¶ 14).
time, a web-based discussion of collectors was created to
discuss alleged forgeries by Anthony's LLC. (Compl.
¶ 16). Iztok Vodopivec was concerned and advised Zvi
Guitman and Robert Geller that there were serious allegations
against the business. (Compl. ¶ 16). One allegation was
that defendants would purchase coins from unsophisticated
customers for less than their value, exchange the coins for
cash, and then split the sums between the individual
defendants rather than deposit it in Anthony's LLC.
(Compl. ¶ 36).
Vodopivec warned Zvi Guitman that Marc Guitman, Zvi
Guitman's son, was presenting items on eBay as
one-of-a-kind items even though these items were duplicates.
(Compl. ¶ 17). Iztok Vodopivec claims that defendants
defrauded customers of millions of dollars. (Compl. ¶
18). In November 2017, Iztok Vodopivec told Robert Geller
again that the stamp forgery must end and that they could be
subject to criminal prosecution. (Compl. ¶ 18). Robert
Geller, apparently speaking for Zvi Guitman and Marc Guitman
as well, told Iztok Vodopivec to keep the stamp forgery a
secret if he wanted to keep his job. (Compl. ¶¶
19-20). Robert Geller told Iztok Vodopivec that Anthony's
LLC paid for his immigration bond and could revoke it.
(Compl. * 19).
Vodopivec feared losing his job because he needed medical
insurance for his wife, who has a disability, and his two
young daughters. (Compl. ¶ 30). Iztok Vodopivec alleges
that defendants harassed him and discriminated against him so
he would not report their forgery business. (Compl. ¶
October 2017, Iztok Vodopivec told Zvi Guitman that he would
no longer go by the name "Isaac." (Compl. ¶
37). Zvi Guitman told Iztok Vodopivec that this was
unacceptable and that Iztok Vodopivec had to "fix Mr.
Guitman's marriage." (Compl. ¶ 39).
November 2017, Iztok Vodopivec told defendants he would not
be intimidated by their threats and discriminatory
statements. (Compl. ¶ 32). At this time, defendants
asked Iztok Vodopivec to produce an 1-9 form, which they had
never previously required. (Compl. ¶ 32). Defendants