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Walters v. Safelite Fulfillment, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 28, 2019

NICHOLAS WALTERS, Plaintiff,
v.
SAFELITE FULFILLMENT, INC., et al., Defendants.

          SMITH EIBELER, LLC By: Robert W. Smith, Esq.; Christopher J. Eibeler, Esq. Counsel for Plaintiff Nicholas Walters

          PORZIO, BROMBERG & NEWMAN, P.C. By: Kerri A. Wright, Esq. Counsel for Defendant Safelite Fulfillment, Inc.

          VORYS, SATER, SEYMOUR, AND PEASE LLP By: Daniel J. Clark, Esq. By: Liana R. Hollingsworth, Esq. Counsel for Defendant Safelite Fulfillment, Inc.

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Nicholas Walters (“Plaintiff”) brought this action against Defendant Safelite Fulfillment, Inc. (“Defendant” or “Safelite”), alleging retaliation and associational discrimination/wrongful discharge in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et. seq. (“NJLAD”). Now, this matter comes before this Court upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety (the “MTD”)[Dkt. No. 15-1], pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).[1] For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Nicholas Walters is a resident of Connecticut and was previously employed by Defendant for about twelve years. According to Plaintiff, he began working for Safelite at a location in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 2005 and remained at that location until March 2015, when he was transferred to a location in Connecticut. [See Compl., at ¶¶ 8-10, 25]. During his employment, Plaintiff states that he was promoted twice, first to Assistant Store Manager in 2011 and then to Store Manager in September 2015. [Id., at ¶¶ 9-10, 25]. Approximately two years after being transferred to Connecticut, Plaintiff's employment was terminated in April 2017.

         In July 2016, over a year after Plaintiff's transfer to Connecticut, Plaintiff alleges that managers in the Philadelphia region began discriminating against Greg Manning, a technician at the Cherry Hill location, upon Mr. Manning's return to work from a medical leave for ankle surgery. According to Plaintiff, Mr. Manning was subjected to discriminatory conduct, such as ridicule and other mistreatment, based on his disabilities, which included diabetes and obesity. [See Compl., at ¶¶ 30-36]. Mr. Manning was eventually placed on administrative leave on December 2, 2016. [Id. at ¶ 104]. After Plaintiff learned about the situation from Mr. Manning, Plaintiff sent an email to Dale Sweigart, stating that he was “concerned” about the situation with Mr. Manning. [Id.]. In that email, Plaintiff allegedly noted that Plaintiff “had complained of unfair treatment due to his diabetes and weight.” On December 7, 2016, Defendant terminated Mr. Manning's employment. [Id. at ¶ 122].

         Plaintiff alleges his email regarding Mr. Manning was subsequently forwarded by Philadelphia-area managers to Plaintiff's own Connecticut-based managers, including the local HR representative in Connecticut. [See Compl., at ¶¶ 105-116]. According to Plaintiff, the Philadelphia-area management team shared his email regarding Mr. Manning with Plaintiff's local management for the sole purpose of “further[ing] the Company's plan to retaliate against Plaintiff Walters in his own employment for opposing the unlawful conduct directed at Mr. Manning and for having encouraged Mr. Manning to exercise his rights.” [Id. at ¶ 116].

         Plaintiff contends that, following his complaint regarding Mr. Manning's treatment, Defendant retaliated against him through “an unwarranted and pretextual discipline warning on February 10, 2017 and putting him on a Personal Development Plan on February 20, 2017.” [Compl., at ¶ 149]. Additionally, Plaintiff claims that he was scolded by management for reporting the discriminatory conduct towards Mr. Manning, because Plaintiff “was going to get the Company sued as a result of sending the email.” [Id. at ¶¶ 137-143]. On or about April 10, 2017, Plaintiff was terminated from his employment with the Safelite location in Connecticut. [Id. at ¶ 150].

         On June 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Complaint, alleging that Defendant violated NJLAD (1) by retaliating against Plaintiff for complaining about and objecting to discriminatory conduct towards Mr. Manning; and (2) for terminating Plaintiff for associating with Mr. Manning. In response, Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's NJLAD claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To withstand a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain 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)(quoting Bell Atlantic 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. at 662. “[A]n unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” does not suffice to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 678. “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

         In reviewing a plaintiff's allegations, the district court “must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations as well as all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, and construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 358 n.1 (3d Cir. 2012). When undertaking this review, courts are limited to the allegations found in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents that form the basis of a claim. See In re Burlington Coat ...


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