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Perrotto v. Morgan Advanced Materials, PLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 15, 2019



          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.

         In an employment discrimination action, this matter comes before the Court on Morgan Advanced Materials, PLC; Morgan Advanced Ceramics, Inc., a/k/a Morgan Technical Ceramics; and Gerard T. McConvery's (together, “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss Counts I and II of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332(a), and 1367(c), and decides the matter without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On or about June 24, 2013, until her termination on April 5, 2018, Plaintiff Darla Perrotto worked “in the capacity of Controller/Human Resources” at Morgan Advanced Materials, PLC and Morgan Advanced Ceramics, Inc.'s (“Morgan”) Fairfield, New Jersey, office. Notice of Removal, Ex. B, Second Am. Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 1-2 (“SAC”). On April 24, 2018, New Jersey's governor signed into law the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (“NJEPA”) which amended the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) to require pay equality across all protected classes. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 34:11-56:13. While enacted on April 24, 2018, NJEPA took effect on July 1, 2018. 2018 N.J. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 9 (West) (“This act shall take effect on July 1, 2018.”).

         Defendants terminated Plaintiff's employment before NJEPA became law. SAC ¶¶ 10, 151-54. On July 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed suit in state court alleging employment (gender) discrimination and retaliation against Defendants and other fictitious parties. Defendants timely removed. Defendants now seek to dismiss NJEPA gender pay disparity and retaliation claims (Counts I and II) under FRCP 12(b)(6), ECF No. 5 (“Defs.' Br.”), Plaintiff opposed, ECF No. 9 (“Pl.'s Opp'n”), and Defendants replied, ECF No. 10.


         Rule 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a complaint if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The movant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). “[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 cannot accept as true “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).


         Plaintiff alleges Defendants engaged in gender-based discrimination and retaliatory compensation practices under NJEPA. SAC ¶¶ 167-76 (Counts I and II). Specifically, while employed from June 24, 2013, to April 5, 2018, Defendants “pa[id] a rate of compensation, including benefits, to male employees which is [more] than the rate paid to female employees for substantially similar work, ” id. ¶ 168, [1] and retaliated against her for engaging in NJEPA protected activities, id. ¶ 174. Plaintiff's complained-of conduct occurred prior to NJEPA's effective date of July 1, 2018. Id. ¶ 165. Thus, the question here is whether the statute should apply retroactively to Plaintiff's NJEPA claims.

         Plaintiff contends the Legislature intended NJEPA to operate retroactively and such application would neither impair a party's constitutional rights nor cause manifest injustice. Pl.'s Opp'n at 15-30. Unsurprisingly, Defendants respond there is no basis to indicate retroactivity. First, there lacks express or implied legislative intent. Second, NJEPA is not curative, since it represents an entirely new statutory scheme affording pay equality protections for protected classes such as gender. Third, the parties' expectations fail to warrant retroactive application. Defs.' Br. at 5-9. The Court agrees with Defendants. allege

         A. The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act is Not Retroactively Applicable to Conduct Occurring Prior to its Effective Date

         “Settled rules of statutory construction favor prospective rather than retroactive application of new legislation.” James v. N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Co., 83 A.3d 70, 77 (N.J. 2014) (citations omitted). The traditional prospective preference rests on “long-held notions of fairness and due process.” Id. (quotations marks and citation omitted). A party overcomes the strong presumption against retroactivity through showing (1) the Legislature intended the statute to apply retroactively and (2) that such application would neither unconstitutionally hinder a party's vested rights or cause manifest injustice. Johnson v. Roselle EZ Quick LLC, 143 A.3d 254 (N.J. 2016) (citations omitted). There are three circumstances that support applying a statute retroactively: ‘“(1) when the Legislature expresses its intent that the law apply retroactively, either expressly or implicitly; (2) when an amendment is curative; or (3) when the expectations of the parties so warrant.”' Id. (quoting James, 83 A.3d at 77). The Court finds no exception applies here.

         1. There Lacks an Express or Implied Indication the Legislature Intended the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act be Applied Retroactively

         The Court need only look to the statute's plain language to discern legislative intent here. The Legislature passed NJEPA on April 25, 2018, but it specifically postponed the effective date until July 1, 2018. This delayed enactment shows the Legislature intended NJEPA to have prospective application only. See Twiss v. State,591 A.2d 913, 916 (N.J. 1991) (postponing a statute's effective date indicates prospective legislative intent only); Sarasota-Coolidge Equities II, L.L.C. v. S Rotondi & Sons, Inc., 770 A.2d ...

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