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Long v. Lieze Lot Sweeping Services

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 18, 2019

TIMOTHY LONG, Plaintiff,
v.
LIEZE LOT SWEEPING SERVICES, TIMOTHY M. LIEZE, SR., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ U.S.D.J.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Having considered the parties' submissions, the Court decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion will be denied.

         Background

         Plaintiff Timothy Long was employed as a “sweeper driver” by Defendant Lieze Lot Sweeping Services LLC from 2006 until his termination in August of 2017. Plaintiff's duties included picking up debris in parking lots and surrounding areas, emptying trash cans, and driving a sweeper truck. He was routinely scheduled to work six days per week, starting his shift at 8:00 p.m. and ending his shift between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Plaintiff worked between 60 and 78 hours per work week.

         Defendant initially paid Plaintiff $140 per day. At some point, Defendant changed Plaintiff's pay structure to $14 per hour. During the time of Plaintiff's employment, Defendants' work week began on Sundays and ended on Saturdays. Defendant paid Plaintiff what was designated as his “normal wages” of $14 per hour every Friday. Defendant allegedly did not compensate Plaintiff at the rate of time and a half for hours worked in excess of forty.

         On or around November 2016, Defendant changed Plaintiff's pay structure to $800 net pay per week, $600 (after taxes) of this was issued via a $750 payroll check and the remaining $200 as a cash payment. On or about April 10, 2017, Plaintiff complained to Defendant Timothy M. Lieze, Sr. that he was not being paid for overtime hours and was considering retaining a lawyer. Immediately following this complaint, Defendant terminated Plaintiff via text message. The Amended Complaint in this matter alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, N.J. Stat. Ann. §34:11-56a, (“NJWHL”).

         The Amended Complaint also alleges that Defendant had employed approximately five Caucasian employees since on or around 2015 but “systematically reduced this number to zero” with Plaintiff being the final Caucasian employee terminated and Defendant thereafter employing only workers of Hispanic descent. Through the instant motion, Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's claims for: violations of the Law Against Discrimination for gender, race, age, color and national origin discrimination (Count IV); violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) for retaliation (Count V); (6) violations of the NJLAD for Aiding and Abetting (Count VI); and violations of 42 U.S.C. §1981 for race discrimination and retaliation (Count VII).

         Standard on Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that a party may move for judgment on the pleadings. The movant under Rule 12(c) must show clearly that no material issue of fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rosenau v. Uniford Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 29091 (3d Cir. 1988)). A motion under Rule 12(c) is reviewed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Turbe v. Government of the Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint “for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege facts that raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While a court must accept as true all allegations in the plaintiff's complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008), a court is not required to accept sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations, unwarranted inferences, or unsupported conclusions. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The complaint must state sufficient facts to show that the legal allegations are not simply possible, but plausible. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234. “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Discussion

         Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint alleges the following facts with respect to discrimination: Plaintiff is Caucasian, other Caucasians were “systematically terminated since on or around 2015, ” Plaintiff was the last Caucasian terminated, and thereafter Defendant employed only workers of Hispanic descent.

         Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 are governed by the burden-shifting principles set forth by the Supreme Court:

First, the plaintiff has the burden of proving by the preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case of discrimination. Second, if the plaintiff succeeds in proving the prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant “to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection.” Third, should the defendant carry this burden, the plaintiff must then have an opportunity to prove by a preponderance of the evidence ...

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