United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on a motion filed by Defendant
Catalent Pharmaceutical Solutions, LLC, to dismiss the
amended complaint. In this action, Plaintiff brings claims
under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act
(NJCEPA), N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:19-1 to -14; the federal
False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h), and the New
Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), N.J. Stat. Ann.
§ 10:5-1 to -42. Defendant argues New Jersey Law does
not apply to this claim, which arises out of Plaintiff s
employment in Kentucky and that Plaintiff has not adequately
alleged FCA retaliation.
16, 2017, Plaintiff Annette Wagner began working as Director
of Product Development for Defendant. (Amended Complaint, ECF
No. 8, at ¶ 5). A resident of Kentucky, Plaintiff worked
in a plant owned by Defendant in Winchester, Kentucky.
(Id. at ¶ 5, 6). Defendant - a Delaware
corporation with a principle place of business in New Jersey
- is a "development, delivery and supply partner for
drugs, biologies and consumer health products."
(Id. at ¶ 7). Plaintiff reported directly to
Scott Gunter, the Vice President of Quality Assurance and
Regulatory Affairs, who worked in Defendant's home office
in Somerset, New Jersey. (Id. at ¶ 5).
received an offer letter on May 3, 2016, which notified her
that she would be required to sign a confidentiality
agreement; she accepted the offer the next day.
(Certification of Kristen J. Feher ("Feher Cert."),
ECF No. 10-2, Ex. A, May 3, 2016 Offer Letter, at 3). On her
first day of employment, she signed the confidentiality
agreement, which provided, in part: "This Agreement
shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the
laws of the State of New Jersey, without giving effect to
conflict of law rules." (Feher Cert., Ex. B, Catalent
Confidentiality Agreement, ¶ 9). The confidentiality
agreement also provided, "Employee understands and
agrees that this Agreement is not to be construed as a
contract for a promise of continued employment."
(Id. at ¶ 4); and it furthered, "This
Agreement is the complete agreement between the parties
with respect to the subject matter thereof."
(Id. at ¶ 5 (emphasis added)).
after Plaintiff began her employment, she allegedly observed
violations of Current Good Manufacturing Guidelines and the
company's standard operating procedures
("SOP"). (Id. at ¶ 19). During her
short employment, from 2016 to 2017, Plaintiff noted various
violations relating to improperly training manufacturing
employees, failing to complete deviation investigation
reports, and falsifying documents. (Id. at ¶
meeting with over fifteen management employees, Plaintiff
reported the various violations. (Id. at ¶ 24).
Quality Assurance Manager Kris Burchette responded "that
the training problem had been identified during internal
audits for several years, but that no one had taken action to
correct it." (Id.). Later, Brian Lane, another
quality assurance manager, allegedly admitted he failed to
review his reports against the SOP requirements.
(Id. at ¶ 27). Moreover, Plaintiff reported
these items to the head of quality assurance, but no action
was taken. (Id.).
December 2017, Plaintiff reported to her general manager,
interim director of operations, and facility safety officer -
all of whom were located at the Winchester facility - that
the pharmaceutical chemical she was working with stained the
workers' skin and clothing, which she believed posed a
contamination risk. (Id. at ¶ 28). No. party
responded to Plaintiffs concerns. (Id. at¶29).
occasion (of unknown date), a quality assurance director told
Plaintiff she was on a "witch hunt." (Id.
at ¶ 30). A human resources director told her "that
there was too much turmoil at the Winchester facility for her
to move forward with a formal complaint."
(Id.). The HR director also told Plaintiff to ignore
the purported violations. (Id. at ¶ 31).
reported to the director of operations that no one was
following the SOP for maintenance of tablet tooling.
(Id.). The director allegedly told her that the SOP
had only been in place a couple years, and had not yet been
implemented. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that the Vice
President of Quality Assurance requested that she should not
document any violation or report it to the client.
(Id.). Plaintiff told her immediate supervisor about
her uneasiness with these responses and the need to remedy
the violations. (Id.).
complaint alleges that as Plaintiff "continued to
uncover more of such violations, [her] role at the Winchester
facility was restricted by Defendant so she would have less
responsibility to identify these issues. This included
eliminating her oversight of the investigation team, and her
authority to hire. (Id. at ¶ 33). Despite same,
Plaintiff apparently continued to report the perceived
violations. (Id. at ¶ 35).
16, 2017, Defendant terminated Plaintiff. (Id. at
¶ 36). Defendant claimed she was laid off due to
restructuring. (Id. at ¶ 37). Plaintiff alleges
that another individual, Larry Lawless, belonged to the same
division and reported to the same supervisor, but Lawless was
not terminated. (Id.). She further alleges that
"several other managers received significantly worse
across-the-board ratings than [Plaintiff]," including
Lawless. (Id. at ¶ 38). After she was
terminated Defendant "advertised an opening for the
position Plaintiff held at the Winchester facility."
(Id. at ¶ 39).
filed this complaint on June 1, 2018, alleging retaliatory
discrimination, in violation of NJCEPA (Count I); retaliatory
discrimination in violation of the FCA, 31 U.S.C. §
3730(h) (Count II); and gender-based discrimination, under
NJLAD (Count III).
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court is required to accept as
true all allegations in the Complaint and all reasonable
inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and to view them in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See
Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d
1380, 1384 (3d Cir. 1994). "To survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face."' Asheroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). While a court will
accept well-pleaded allegations as true for the purposes of
the motion, it will not accept bald assertions, unsupported
conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal
conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see also Morse v.
Lower Merion School District, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
1997). A complaint should be dismissed only if the
well-pleaded alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a
claim. See In re Warfarin Sodium, 214 F.3d 395,
397-98 (3d Cir. 2000).
court may consider certain narrowly defined types of material
without converting the motion to dismiss" into a motion
for summary judgment, In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc.
Sec. Litig.,184 F.3d 280, 287 (3d Cir. 1999), including
documents "integral to or explicitly relied
upon in the complaint," In re Burlington Coat
Factory Sec. Litig.,114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997)
(quoting Shaw v. Digital Equip. Corp.,82 F.3d 1194,
1220 (1st Cir. 1996)). Such material includes "the
complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of
public record, as well as undisputedly authentic ...