United States District Court, D. New Jersey
the Court is Defendants Working Families United for New
Jersey (“Working Families”), New Jersey State
AFL-CIO (“NJ AFL-CIO”), New Jersey State AFL-CIO
Community Services Agency (“NJ AFL-CIO Community
Services Agency”), and Charles Wowkanech's
(collectively, the “Moving Defendants”) motion to
dismiss Counts I and III of Plaintiff Edward Correa's
Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). (D.E. No. 41). 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 the Moving Defendants' motion, the Court
decides the matter without oral argument. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 78(b). As set forth below, the Court GRANTS the
Moving Defendants' motion to dismiss. Counts I and III
are dismissed with prejudice.
is a Hispanic resident of Dover, New Jersey. (D.E. No. 37
(“Am. Compl.”) ¶ 4). On February 11, 2014,
he became the Executive Director of Working Families.
(Id. ¶ 13). He was also the State Director of
the We Are One New Jersey project (the “One N.J.
Project”), a program of the N.J. AFL-CIO Community
Services Agency. (Id. ¶ 4).
asserts claims against six defendants: Working Families, the
N.J. AFL-CIO, the N.J. AFL-CIO Community Services Agency,
Charles Wowkanech, the Town of Dover, and Dover's Mayor,
James P. Dodd. (See Id. at 1). Working Families
is a New Jersey private entity and Correa's former
employer. (Id. ¶ 5). At all relevant times,
Wowkanech was President of the N.J. AFL-CIO (the parent
entity, funder, and Trustee of the Board of Working
Families). (Id. ¶ 8). Wowkanech was also
President of the Board of Trustees of the N.J. AFL-CIO
Community Services Agency, the fiscal agent and funder of the
One N.J. Project. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8).
12, 2015, Correa spoke during the “public comments
portion” of a Dover town hall meeting and criticized
Mayor Dodd's relationship with Dover's Hispanic
immigrant community. (Id. ¶ 14). Correa was
then serving as the Executive Director of Working Families
and State Director of the One N.J. Project. (Id.
¶ 4). 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, State Director of the One N.J. Project, or
representative of any other organization. (Id.
after Correa's speech, Wowkanech called Correa to inform
him that Mayor Dodd had “made a complaint” about
what Correa said. (Id. ¶ 15). 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. ¶ 16). Wowkanech then asked Correa to
resign. (Id. ¶ 17).
next day, Wowkanech “stated that [Correa] had a choice
of resigning, being terminated, or apologizing” to
Mayor Dodd. (Id. ¶ 18). Correa responded in a
letter to Wowkanech that “he would not resign or
apologize” to the Mayor. (Id. ¶ 19).
Wowkanech and the N.J. AFL-CIO then terminated Correa from
his positions as the Executive Director of Working Families
and State Director of the One N.J. Project. (Id.
filed an initial Complaint on April 20, 2016. (D.E. No. 1).
Following dispositive motion practice, the Court (i)
dismissed with prejudice Count I (Retaliatory
Discharge) to the extent the claim was based on
constitutional free-speech protections; and (ii) dismissed
without prejudice Count III (Breach of Contract)
because Correa did not reference or attach the employment
manual on which his claim was based. (See D.E. Nos.
32 & 33).
January 8, 2018, Correa filed an Amended Complaint alleging
retaliatory discharge because he “was discharged from
his position based on his affiliation with the Hispanic
immigrant community which was revealed in his speech, and he
was terminated due to that affiliation and his race which was
Hispanic.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 22). Correa renewed
Counts II, III, and IV. (See Id. ¶¶
Working Families, N.J. AFL-CIO, N.J. AFL-CIO Community
Services Agency, and Wowkanech moved to dismiss Correa's
Amended Complaint on February 8, 2018. (D.E. No. 41-4
(“Defs. Mov. Br.”)). Correa opposed the Moving
Defendants' motion on March 6, 2018. (D.E. No. 43
(“Pl. Opp. Br.”)). The Moving Defendants replied
in further support of their motion on March 14, 2018. (D.E.
No. 46 (“Defs. Reply”)). The motion is now ripe
withstand a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “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.”
Id. “The plausibility standard is not akin to
a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
reviewing a motion to dismiss, [a]ll allegations in the
complaint must be accepted as true, and the plaintiff must be
given the benefit of every favorable inference to be drawn
therefrom.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560,
563 (3d Cir. 2011). But the court is not required to accept
as true “legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. And “[t]hreadbare ...