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Doe v. Trishul Consultancy LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 30, 2019

JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
TRISHUL CONSULTANCY, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ZAHID N. QURAISHI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Mark Adams' ("Adams") Motion for Relief from Order Granting Plaintiffs Ability to Proceed Anonymously (the "Motion"). (ECF No. 63.) Defendants Sage BRE NYNJ LLC ("Sage Manager"), Sage BRE NYNJ Manager B LLC ("Sage Manager B"), and BRE NE Hospitality Property Owner LLC ("BRE") incorporate by reference the Motion for Relief from the Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed Anonymously, and separately move to bar Adams from his requested alternative relief of proceeding anonymously in this suit. (Mot. for Partial Joinder, ECF No. 64.) Plaintiff Jane Doe ("Plaintiff), with permission from the Court, requested that the Court rely on her initial papers, and Adams replied. (Pl.'s Correspondence, ECF No. 65; Adams' Reply Br., ECF No. 66.)

         For the reasons set forth below, Adams' Motion is denied. (ECF No. 63.) Sage Manager, Sage Manager B, and BRE's Partial Motion for Joinder is denied in part and granted in part. (ECF No. 64.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 27, 2018, anonymously named Plaintiff, Jane Doe, filed her initial Complaint against Trishul, Adams, and Marriott International, Inc., alleging discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 10:5-12(a), (d), (e). (Compl. ¶¶ 57-80, ECF No. 1.) On March 22, 2019 Plaintiff amended her Complaint to add as defendants Sage Manager, Sage Manager B, and BRE, and to add claims of assault and battery against Adams. (See generally, Am. Compl., ECF No. 27.) In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states that in or around June 2015, she was hired by Trishul Consultancy LLC ("Trishul"), a staffing agency. (Am. Compl. ¶ 21, ECF No. 27.)

         In June 2015, Trishul facilitated Plaintiff's placement as a housekeeper at the Courtyard Ewing Marriott ("Marriott") in Ewing, New Jersey. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 21.) Plaintiff's primary duty was to clean hotel rooms and her position was at all times supervised by Adams, the hotel's Executive Housekeeper. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) Plaintiff alleges that from June to November 2016, Adams repeatedly sexually assaulted, harassed, and threatened Plaintiff in and around the workplace. (Id. ¶¶ 21-57.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that in June 2016, Adams told Plaintiff to "pull up [her] shirt[, ]" and asked Plaintiff to have a "threesome" with him. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 38.) Plaintiff further claims that the harassment escalated into assault in October 2016, and that "[Adams] forced Plaintiff to give him oral sex by physically overpowering her [and] opening her mouth to insert his penis." (Id. ¶ 41.) She claims that Adams "threatened her about the sexual incident, and if she told anyone about it no one would believe her and that she would be 'done.'" (Id. ¶ 43.) Plaintiff alleges that in November 2016, "[Adams] followed Plaintiff into one of the hotel rooms she was cleaning .... and proceeded to fondle Plaintiff's buttocks and forcibly kiss her." (Id. ¶ 50.) She states that "[s]hortly thereafter, [Adams] again threatened Plaintiff that if she reported his conduct or said 'no' to his advances she would lose her job." (Id. ¶ 51.) Plaintiff reported this behavior to Marriott's management, and claims that she was later constructively discharged from her job when her hours were decreased significantly. (Id. ¶¶ 54-57.)

         Upon filing her initial Complaint, Plaintiff moved to proceed under pseudonym. (Mot. to Proceed Anonymously, ECF Nos. 2-3.) Trishul opposed, and Plaintiff replied. (Trishul's Opp'n Br., ECF No. 8; Pl.'s Reply Br., ECF No. 10.) The Court granted Plaintiffs Motion to Proceed Anonymously. (Order, ECF No. 14.) Following a conference with the Court, during which some of the defendants expressed a concern that they had not been afforded the opportunity to oppose Plaintiff's initial Motion to Proceed Anonymously, Adams filed the instant Motion. (Mot., ECF No. 63.) Defendants Sage Manager, Sage Manager B, and BRE moved to adopt and incorporate by reference Adams' Motion, with the exception of the defendants' request that any party, including Adams, be barred from proceeding anonymously. (Mot. for Partial Joinder, ECF No. 64.) Plaintiff submitted correspondence requesting that the Court rely on her initial response papers (Pl.'s Opp'n Br., ECF Nos. 2-3, 10), and the Court's prior Order permitting Plaintiff to proceed anonymously (Order, ECF No. 14), in analyzing Adams' Motion (Mot., ECF No. 63). (Pl.'s Correspondence, ECF No. 65.) Adams replied. (Adams' Reply Br., ECF No. 66.)

         II. PARTIES' ARGUMENTS

         A. Defendants' Arguments

         Adams now seeks relief from the Order granting Plaintiff the ability to proceed anonymously. (See generally Mot., ECF No. 63.) Adams first asserts that the Court should not grant Plaintiff anonymity because Plaintiff does not meet the stringent standards required for a party to proceed through a suit anonymously. (Id. at 3.) Specifically, Adams argues that potential embarrassment or economic harm to the plaintiff is not enough to qualify for anonymity. (Id. (citing Doe v. Megless, 654 F.3d 404, 408 (3d Cir. 2011)).) "Rather, the plaintiff must demonstrate 'both (1) a fear of severe harm and (2) that the fear of harm is reasonable.'" (Id. (citing Megless, 654 F.3d at 408).) Adams also argues that Plaintiff's allegations lack specificity. (Id. at 5, ECF No. 63.) Adams contends that the public has an established interest in an open litigation process. (Id. at 3 (citing Megless, 654 F.3d at 408-409, 411).) As a form of alternative relief, Adams requests that if the Court permits Plaintiff to proceed anonymously, he also be permitted to proceed anonymously. (Id. at 9.)

         Defendants Sage Manager, Sage Manager B, and BRE seek to join in Adams' Motion, except that they "object to any party being allowed to proceed anonymously." (Mot. for Joinder 2, ECF No. 64.) They argue that "[a]llowing any of the key parties to proceed anonymously will substantially burden Defendants and interfere with their ability to conduct discovery and defend this case. (Id.)

         B. Plaintiff's Arguments

         Plaintiff responds with correspondence requesting that the Court rely on her initial papers and the Court's prior Order in deciding this matter, also stating, "Adams subjected Plaintiff to a severe sexual assault and exposing her identity creates risk of extreme distress to Plaintiff." (ECF Nos. 10, 14, 65.) In her initial Motion to Proceed Anonymously, Plaintiff argues that "a party may proceed by way of pseudonym, particularly where disclosure of the litigant's identity creates a risk of 'extreme distress or danger.'" (Pl.'s Moving Br. ¶ 4, ECF No. 3.) She states that her identity has remained confidential to this point, and that the only people who are aware of her identity are parties to this litigation. (Id. ¶ 4.1.) Plaintiff asserts that to publicize her claims to her colleagues and friends would serve to revictimize her. (Id. ¶ 4.2.) Plaintiff states that there is a "strong public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of Plaintiff's identity," which opposes the "atypically weak public interest in revealing Plaintiff's name and identity because this matter is specific to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 4.3-4, 4.8.) Plaintiff asserts that she "would strongly consider foregoing this lawsuit should she be unable to proceed anonymously." (Id. ¶ 4.5.) She avers that she "has no illegitimate ulterior motives in seeking to proceed anonymously," and seeks to proceed under pseudonym "solely to protect her physical, mental, and emotional well-being." (Id. ¶ 4.6.)

         C. ...


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