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Moya v. United Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 29, 2019

GUSTAVO A. MOYA, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

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

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants United Airlines, Inc.'s and Charlean Gmunder's Motion to Dismiss Count Four and Strike Certain Allegations from the First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 5, and Plaintiff Gustavo A. Moya, Jr.'s Cross Motion to Amend/Correct the First Amended Complaint and to Consolidate the Matter with Lee v. United Airlines, ECF No. 8. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are both GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         Defendant United Airlines, Inc. (“United”) hired Plaintiff Gustavo A. Moya, Jr. (“Plaintiff”) as a Training Manager in the Food Services Department in June 2014. 1st Amend. & Corrected Compl. ¶¶ 14-15 (“AC”), ECF No. 1-1. United promoted Plaintiff to Food Safety Manager responsible for preventative controls. AC ¶ 52. His responsibilities included reporting on food safety compliance for United's Newark, New Jersey, catering facilities. AC ¶ 53.

         Between October 2016 and August 2018, Plaintiff “perceived and uncovered numerous critical food safety and life safety issues” and “repeatedly reported those matters to United.” AC ¶¶ 56, 58. On or about July 23, 2018, after United failed to remedy the unsafe food conditions, Plaintiff reported the conditions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA Report”). AC ¶ 112. Plaintiff alleges that because of his reports (both internal and to the FDA) and sexual orientation, United and its employees retaliated and discriminated against him. For example, after Plaintiff filed the FDA Report, he was placed on a forty-five-day action plan, stripped of his duties, and blocked from participating in work-related functions. AC ¶ 116. United also forced Plaintiff to work nights and weekends seven days per week, without breaks, and sometimes in shifts up to twenty-four hours. AC ¶¶ 117-119, 122. On August 27, 2018, Defendants Alisa Atwater (Director of Regulatory Compliance, Food Safety) and Charlene Gmunder (Vice President, Catering Operations) told Plaintiff that he was being transferred to United's headquarters in Chicago, and must relocate within a week. AC ¶¶ 123-28.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff brought suit in New Jersey state court for violations of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”), the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), and material contract breach. AC ¶ 1. Two other United employees, Marcia Lee and Eliot Mosby (together with Moya, “Three Plaintiffs”), filed separate suits relating to United's catering services. AC ¶¶ 39-40. United removed Lee's suit to the District of New Jersey on October 9, 2018. See Lee v. United Airlines, 2:18-cv-14772 (D.N.J.) (hereinafter, “Lee Action”) (pending before Judge Madeline Cox Arleo). The next day, United removed this matter. See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. Mosby's action remains in state court.

         United then moved to dismiss the breach of contract claim and strike various allegations from the Amended Complaint in this matter. See Def. Br. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 5 (“Motion”). In Lee's suit, United moved to dismiss the entire complaint. Lee Action, Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 4. In both cases, Plaintiff opposed the motions to dismiss and cross moved to file a Proposed Second Amended and Corrected Complaint (“PSAC”) and to consolidate the two matters. See Pl. Opp. and Cross-Motion, ECF No. 8 (“Opposition”); Lee Action, Opp. and Cross Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 7. In reply, United and Gmunder[2] argued Plaintiff's proposed amendments are futile. Def. Reply Br., ECF No. 12 (“Reply”).

         III. BREACH OF CONTRACT CLAIM

         A. Motion to Dismiss Legal Standard

         FRCP 12(b)(6) provides for the 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 is not required to accept as true “legal conclusions, ” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id.

         B. Breach of Contract Claim as Alleged in the Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that he “and United were parties to a binding employment agreement, supported by good and valuable consideration.” AC ¶ 162. The alleged “[a]greement included an obligation that United render its contractual performance in good faith, and in a manner that would neither interfere, hamper, nor deny Plaintiff the performances he bargained to receive.” AC ¶ 163. United allegedly breached their agreement by (a) forcing “Plaintiff to involuntarily resign” and (b) “harass[ing], retaliate[ing] against, and discriminat[ing] against Plaintiff for purposes of interfering with, hampering, and/or denying Plaintiff the performances he bargained to receive.” AC ¶ 165. In arguing for dismissal, Defendants note “the Complaint fails to identify any actual contract or employment agreement that United could have violated.” Mot. at 14-17.

         Breach of contract complaints must establish four elements to survive a motion to dismiss: (1) the parties entered into a contract; (2) the plaintiff performed under the contract; (3) the defendant breached the contract; and (4) the breach caused an alleged loss. Globe Motor Co. v. Igdalev, 139 A.3d 57, 64 (N.J. 2016) (quoting Model Jury Charge (Civil), § 4.10A “The Contract Claim-Generally” (1998)). As to the third element, a complaint must allege which provision of a contract the defendant breached. See GKE Enterprises, LLC v. Ford Motor Credit Co. LLC USA, 09-cv-4656, 2010 WL 2179094, at *3 (D.N.J. May 26, 2010).

         Here, Plaintiff fails to plead the first and third elements. As to the first element, Plaintiff pleads only the legal conclusion that the parties entered a binding agreement. See AC ¶¶ 4 (“Moya is party to a binding and enforceable employment contract with United”), 162 (“Plaintiff and United were parties to a binding employment agreement.”). But he pleads no facts from which the Court could reasonably infer an employment contract existed. See Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (requiring factual content for the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable).

         Plaintiff never alleges which provision of the unidentified “employment agreement” United breached either. See GKE Enterprises, LLC, 2010 WL 2179094, at *3. Plaintiff does assert their agreement “included an obligation that United render its contractual performance in good faith, and in a manner that would neither interfere, hamper, nor deny Plaintiff the performances he bargained to receive.” AC ¶ 163. But that obligation is not alleged to be a term of an actual contract. It is the legal obligation their agreement allegedly triggered, not a fact.[3] Plaintiff fails to set forth any term of any actual contract Defendants allegedly breached. Therefore, the breach of contract claim is DISMISSED.

         C. Proposed ...


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