Grant v. U.S. Post Office, Civil Action No. 19-9107 (SDW) (LDW)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
Writing for the CourtCHAMBERS OF SUSAN D. WIGENTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
PartiesRe: Grant v. United States Post Office et al.
Decision Date13 January 2020
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 19-9107 (SDW) (LDW)

Re: Grant
v.
United States Post Office et al.

Civil Action No. 19-9107 (SDW) (LDW)

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY

January 13, 2020


NOT FOR PUBLICATION

CHAMBERS OF SUSAN D. WIGENTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Desha Jackson, Esq.
Desha Jackson Law Group LLC
100 Willowbrook Drive, Suite 250
Freehold, NJ 07728
Attorney for Plaintiff

Susan Millenky, Esq.
U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of NJ
970 Broad St., Suite 700
Newark, NJ 07102
Attorney for Defendants

LETTER OPINION FILED WITH THE CLERK OF THE COURT

Counsel:

Before this Court is Defendants United States Post Office, Post Master General,1 Fred Hrinuk, Martin Israel, Emilio Milito, Deborah Smith, and Anthony Merlino's (collectively, "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss (D.E. 12) Plaintiff Margaret Grant's ("Plaintiff") Complaint (D.E. 1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). This Court, having reviewed the parties' submissions, having reached its decision without oral argument pursuant to Rule 78, and for the reasons discussed below, GRANTS Defendants' Motion and gives Plaintiff thirty (30) days to file an amended complaint.

DISCUSSION

A. Background

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1. Factual Background

Plaintiff is an African American woman over the age of forty who was employed by the U.S. Postal Service for 26 years. (Compl. ¶ 1 (Parties), ¶ 11 (Statement of Facts).)2 In July 2010, the agency notified employees at its West Jersey Processing & Distribution Center that the location would close and provided them with bid sheets listing agency positions available elsewhere and their requirements. (See id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that the manager responsible for the bid sheets, Fred Hrinuk, omitted necessary information, including testing requirements. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.)

Plaintiff became the senior bidder for a bulk mail position in Rahway, New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 17.) According to Plaintiff, the bid sheet for the position stated that bidders would need to test for the job but said nothing about the consequences of failing that test. (Id. ¶¶ 17-19.) The Complaint alleges that a supervisor, Martin Israel, told Plaintiff that the bulk mail job required a typing test, but Plaintiff was instead given a data entry test, without any preparation materials provided in advance. (Id. ¶¶ 21-25.) When she failed the test on March 31, 2011, she learned that she could be terminated for failing. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.) Plaintiff then wrote to the Postmaster General, several elected government officials, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") about "what was happening to her." (Id. ¶ 27.)

Plaintiff alleges that in or around May 2011, Mr. Hrinuk and other supervisors disliked her report to the Postmaster, with Mr. Hrinuk calling Plaintiff to state, "I advise you to take the Hillsborough window position or else be out on the street and I will see to it." (Id. ¶¶ 28-32.) At the time, Plaintiff alleges, there were 12 vacant jobs in Rahway, NJ, including her preferred position. (Id. ¶¶ 34, 53.) Plaintiff claims Mr. Hrinuk and Deborah Smith (a labor relations manager) harassed her by sending her emails at midnight, threatening her in response to her writing campaign, and stating that "they did not want her in the Rahway facility because she lawfully complained to her employer." (Id. ¶¶ 62-63.) Plaintiff also alleges that "[m]anagement conspired with the employees to discriminate against Plaintiff and allowed a petition to circulate the building which only white and Indian people signed against Plaintiff." (Id. ¶¶ 64-65.) Plaintiff does not state the content of this petition.

The Complaint alleges that, in retaliation for complaining to officials and the EEOC, Plaintiff was denied the opportunity to bid for another position, denied the opportunity to work on standby, and inaccurately told that there was no work in the Rahway office when in fact there were 12 vacancies. (Id. ¶¶ 45-50.) Plaintiff was terminated on April 23, 2013, allegedly because she failed the first test for the bulk mail job. (See id. ¶¶ 36-38, 68.)3 The Complaint lists four employees who were not terminated after failing the same exam but does not allege their races or ages. (Id. ¶¶ 38, 44.) Plaintiff claims that the retaliation and her subsequent termination violated the Memorandum of Understanding between the Postal Service and the American Postal Workers

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Union, which guarantees that a senior bidder may return to her prior assignment if she does not qualify for a position. (Id. ¶¶ 39-42.)

2. Procedural Background

On November 30, 2011, Plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the EEOC, alleging age discrimination, retaliation, and race discrimination related to the events that allegedly occurred in 2011. (D.E. 12-4 at 4.)4 The EEOC rejected Plaintiff's appeal from the final agency decision denying that claim on June 24, 2013, and notified her of her right to sue in District Court within 90 days of receipt. (Id. at 8.) On August 9, 2013, Plaintiff filed a second formal complaint with the EEOC, raising a single retaliation claim based upon her earlier EEOC complaint. (Id. at 12.) Plaintiff alleges that this complaint resulted in a non-final decision dated October 2018.5 (Compl. ¶ 69 (Statement of Facts).)

Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit on March 28, 2019, asserting ten claims, including: (1) breach of contract (Count I); (2) violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by way of retaliation (Count II), disparate treatment (Count IV), and a hostile work environment (Count VI); (3) violation of the Age Discrimination Employment Act ("ADEA") (Count V); and (4) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 of the Civil Rights Act.6 Defendants filed the instant motion on July 3, 2019, Plaintiff filed her opposition on September 27, 2019, and Defendants filed their reply on October 10, 2019. (D.E. 12, 16, 21.)

B. Standard of Review

A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) by challenging jurisdiction facially or factually. Const. Party of Pa. v. Aichele, 757 F.3d 347, 357 (3d Cir. 2014). A facial challenge to subject matter jurisdiction "considers a claim on its face and asserts that it is insufficient to invoke the subject-matter jurisdiction of the court." Id. at 358. "A factual attack, on the other hand, is an argument that there is no subject matter jurisdiction because the facts of the case . . . do not support the asserted jurisdiction." Id. In a factual attack, "the court may consider and weigh evidence outside the pleadings to determine if it has jurisdiction." Gould Elecs. Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000), modified on other grounds by Simon v. United States, 341 F.3d 193 (3d Cir. 2003).

On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must "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." Phillips v.

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County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

C. Analysis

1. Breach of Contract (Count I)

Plaintiff alleges that she was wrongfully terminated, in breach of the collective bargaining agreement that applied to her. (Compl. ¶¶ 2-11 (Count I).) To state a claim that the Postal Service breached a collective bargaining agreement, an employee must bring a "hybrid" claim alleging that: (1) the employer breached the collective bargaining agreement; and (2) the union breached its duty of fair representation. See 39 U.S.C. § 1208(b); Treusch v. Center Square Supermarket, LLC, 921 F. Supp. 2d 336, 344 (D.N.J. 2013) (explaining that federal statutes preempt state law contract claims arising out of breaches of collective bargaining agreements).7 Both elements must be alleged, even where the union is not named as a defendant. DelCostello v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 165 (1983). Here, Plaintiff fails to allege any facts that suggest her union breached its duty of fair representation. Count I must therefore be dismissed. See Punchios v. Owens Brockway, Civ. No. 07-865, 2008 WL 731197, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 17, 2008).

2. Title VII (Counts II, IV, and VI)8

Retaliation (Count II)

To plead a prima facie claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII, a plaintiff "must demonstrate that: (1) [she]...

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