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Andre v. Trinity Health Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

March 14, 2019

MARIE ANDRE, Plaintiff,
v.
TRINITY HEALTH CORPORATION, LOURDES CARDIOLOGY SERVICES, HEALTH MANAGEMENT SERVICES ORGANIZATION, INC., MERCEDES FUSCELLARO individually, JENNIFER GARRON individually, GAYLE WEXLER individually, BARBARA HOELFNER individually, and JILLIAN “JILL” M. KOERNER individually, Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Motion of Trinity Health Corporation (“Defendant THC”), Lourdes Cardiology Services (“Defendant LCS”), Health Management Services Organization, Inc. (“Defendant HMS”) (collectively “Corporate Defendants”), Mercedes Fuscellaro, Jennifer Garron, Gayle Wexler, Barbara Hoelfner, and Jillian Koerner (collectively “Individual Defendants”) (Corporate Defendants and Individual Defendants are collectively “Defendants”) to dismiss Plaintiff Marie Andre's aiding and abetting claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) against the Corporate Defendants, each of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant THC, and Plaintiff's wage and hour claims under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (“NJWHL”) and Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) against the Individual Defendants. (Doc. 6). For the reasons articulated in the Opinion, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         This case arises from alleged unlawful employment discrimination and wage issues. Plaintiff is a woman of Black and Haitian descent who was employed at Defendant Lourdes Cardiology Services (“Defendant LCS”). Amended Complaint (Am. Compl.) [Doc. No. 5] at ¶ 24. In May 2015, Plaintiff applied for the position of Registered Medical Assistant with Defendant LCS. Id. at ¶ 25. Daniele Dobbins and Defendant Mercedes Fuscellaro each interviewed Plaintiff for the position. Following her interview with Defendant Fuscellaro, Plaintiff was informed she was hired for the position. Id. at ¶ 27. About one month into her employment, Defendant Fuscellaro and her co-workers started discriminating against Plaintiff because of her Haitian accent. Id. at ¶ 30. Soon after, Plaintiff complained to Defendant Fuscellaro about one instance when one of Plaintiff's co-workers “hit [her] in the back with objects.” Id. at ¶ 31. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Fuscellaro never investigated her report or took corrective action, and as a result, she continued to experience discrimination at the hands of her co-workers and Defendant Fuscellaro. Id. at ¶ 35.

         Plaintiff further claims that Defendant Fuscellaro also made her work additional hours before clocking in and after clocking out. Id. at ¶ 44. Plaintiff states that these unpaid hours totaled approximately six to seven hours per week. Id. After, Plaintiff complained to Defendant Jillian Koerner, the Human Resource Manager, about Defendant Fuscellaro's actions. Id. at ¶ 45. In response, Defendant Koerner instructed Plaintiff to “stop working without pay or we [indicating Defendants] will get in trouble.” Id. Following this complaint, Defendant Koerner informed Plaintiff that she will be in touch; however, Defendant Koerner did not speak to Plaintiff until after her alleged wrongful termination. Id. at ¶ 36.

         A few days later, Defendant Jennifer Garron approached Plaintiff regarding her previous complaints to Defendant Koerner. Id. at ¶ 47. As the alleged discrimination continued, Plaintiff complained again to Defendant Garron, who then scheduled two meetings: the first meeting included only Defendant Garron and Plaintiff; the second meeting included Plaintiff, Defendant Garron, and Defendant Fuscellaro. Id. at ¶ 53.

         Despite these complaints, the alleged discrimination continued. Again, Plaintiff states that Defendant Fuscellaro continued to force her to work unpaid hours. Id. at ¶ 59-60. In response, Plaintiff asked Defendant Fuscellaro to be compensated. Defendant Fuscellaro allegedly told Plaintiff to comply or face termination. Id. at ¶ 61-62.

         Soon after, Plaintiff entered the emergency room at Lourdes Hospital because of stress regarding her treatment at work. The emergency staff diagnosed her with gastric issues. Id. at ¶ 67. A few days later, Plaintiff arrived at work but soon realized that she forgot her stethoscope at home. Id. at ¶ 68. Plaintiff then rushed home to get the stethoscope, and about three days later, Defendant Fuscellaro came forward with a videotape which showed Plaintiff leaving the office for approximately seven minutes after she had clocked into work. Id. at ¶ 69. In response to the tape, Plaintiff explained she suffered from serious health problems and that, on the day in question, she had rushed home to retrieve her stethoscope. Id. After, Plaintiff had a compliance meeting regarding the tape that Defendant Fuscellaro discovered. Id. at ¶ 75.

         During Plaintiff's compliance meeting she met with Defendant Hoelfner, Defendant Wexler, and Defendant Fuscellaro. In this meeting, she explained that she had left her stethoscope at home, and she shared her emergency room records to prove her recent hospitalization. Id. at ¶ 80. Plaintiff also complained about Defendant Fuscellaro's actions. Then Defendant Wexler allegedly informed Plaintiff that the company would investigate her reports of discriminatory treatment. Id. at ¶ 81.

         The following day, Plaintiff again met with Defendant Wexler to discuss Defendant Fuscellaro's alleged discriminatory conduct. Id. at ¶ 85. Following this meeting, Plaintiff spoke with Defendant Garron who informed her that the decision to fire Plaintiff its left up to Defendant Barbara Hoelfner. Id. at ¶ 90. After, Plaintiff had a meeting with both Defendant Garron and Hoelfner, during which they accused her of stealing company time and terminated her. Id. at ¶ 91. Following her termination, Plaintiff received a phone call from Defendant Koerner who added that termination further stemmed from an “incident” that happened earlier in January. Id. at ¶ 94. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Koerner refused to identify this incident. Id.

         Plaintiff filed several claims related to the allegations above. Plaintiff alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”), Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA), Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), and New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (“NJWHL”). Plaintiff asserts nine causes of action related to these laws. Count I alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for discrimination and retaliation. Count II alleges a violation of Title VII for discrimination. Count III alleges a violation of Title VII for retaliation. Count IV alleges a violation of FMLA for discrimination. Count V alleges a violation of NJLAD for discrimination. Count VI alleges a violation of NJLAD for retaliation. Count VII alleges a violation of NJLAD for aiding and abetting. Count VIII alleges a violation of FLSA for failure to pay overtime wages. Count IX alleges a violation of NJWHL for failure to pay overtime wages.

         Defendant now moves to dismiss Count VII against the Corporate Defendant, Count VIII and IX against the Individual Defendants, and each of Plaintiff's claims against THC.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a court to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When evaluating a motion to dismiss, “courts accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)). In other words, a complaint survives a motion to dismiss if it contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         To make this determination, a court conducts a three-part analysis. Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010). First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 131 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680). Finally, “where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680). This plausibility determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A complaint cannot survive where a court can only infer that a claim is merely possible rather than plausible. Id.

         III. ...


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