Mosley v. Bay Ship Management, Inc., No. Civ.A. 00-2306(JCL).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
Citation174 F.Supp.2d 192
Docket NumberNo. Civ.A. 00-2306(JCL).
PartiesChristopher MOSLEY, Plaintiff, v. BAY SHIP MANAGEMENT, INC., Robert C. Wattam and the United States of America, Defendants.
Decision Date27 December 2000

Henry Alan Gluckstern, Maplewood, NJ, for Plaintiff.

Kevin P. Kopp, Kaufman, Borgeest & Ryan, New York City, Pamela R. Perron, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Newark, NJ, for Defendants.


LIFLAND, District Judge.


Defendants Bay Ship Management, Inc. ("BSM") and Robert C. Wattam ("Wattam") move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). In their moving papers, the defendants base an argument for dismissal on a release signed by plaintiff on November 30, 1999. Pursuant to the Court's Order dated October 25, 2000, the defendants' motion for dismissal based on the release will be treated as a motion for summary judgment. On November 20, 2000, pursuant to the parties' stipulation, the Court ordered dismissal of this action only as to the defendant United States.

For the following reasons, defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.


BSM is a Delaware corporation which does business in New Jersey. The Antares is a ship owned by the United States of America. BSM operates sea vessels, including the Antares, on behalf of the United States for the Department of Navy's Military Sealift Command. (Complaint ¶ 8) The Antares was based in Baltimore, Maryland. (Complaint ¶ 15)

On May 27, 1997, the plaintiff was employed by BSM in the capacity of Chief Steward on the Antares. Plaintiff and his department were responsible for cleaning the ship and operating the laundry services. As Chief Steward, plaintiff reported to the Master of the ship. Wattam was hired as Master of the Antares in mid-January, 1999. The plaintiff alleges that Wattam did not act in a professional or harmonious manner towards the plaintiff based on plaintiff's skin color. Plaintiff alleges that Wattam only engaged in "the barest minimum amount [of conversation] necessary to communicate his orders." (Complaint ¶ 27) According to plaintiff, this lead to "an un-natural, counter-productive, and hostile work environment." (Complaint ¶ 27)

On September 13, 1999, Wattam terminated plaintiff's employment because, according to the defendants, the plaintiff did not carry out the duties that Wattam had ordered the previous weekend. (Complaint ¶ 31) Plaintiff claims that he was wrongfully discharged by Wattam due to racial discrimination. (Complaint ¶ 52)

The record indicates that on September 13, 1999, the plaintiff filed a grievance report which is formally labeled the "Beef Report." In the Beef Report, plaintiff wrote that his "Beef Question" was: "being discharged under racial conditions, being discharged by unfair practice." (Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit A) Dennis Metz was the official port agent who received the report. He made the following notes: "member filed beef `report' on the above date, but had no statement or rebutle [sic], to refute the discharge. Could, at this time give me nothing to work with. Member will prepare a statement so that I may properly handle this grievance." (Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit A) On September 14, 1999, the plaintiff made a subsequent statement in which he discussed the abusive attitude of Wattam and explained that "my department always seems to get jumped on about overtime and job performance. Maybe this is the time to mention that my department is all black (African Americans)." (Mosley Affidavit, Exhibit B, p. 4) Plaintiff supplemented this statement on September 17, 1999. (Mosley Affidavit, Exhibit C). In his third statement, plaintiff states: "I feel like Capt. Wattam should be trained in how to deal with Blacks. If his problem with blacks is more deeply rooted than that which can be corrected, then he should not be in the position as Captain of a vessel. Also in this particular day and age to have such prejudice openly displayed is beyond belief." (Mosley Affidavit, Exhibit C, p. 2)

A Port Committee hearing was conducted on November 30, 1999. At the hearing, two representatives of the Seafarers International Union ("SIU"), Steve Ruiz and Dennis Metz, were present. (Mosley Affidavit ¶ 23) Plaintiff was not represented by counsel. Plaintiff prepared and signed a hand-written agreement on November 30, 1999 which states: "I Christopher Mosley 467-06-0598 have agree [sic] to drop my beef against Bayship Management-that they drop the charges and agree to have quit on mutual consent." (Mosley Affidavit, Exhibit E) Following the hearing, Mr. Mosley received a copy of Dennis Metz's letter to BSM explaining the November 30, 1999 proceedings: "The Co. agreed to at the time of this meeting, to consider Mr. Mosley's mutual consent with reguard [sic] to his discharge for cause. As a result Bay Ship Mgt. will drop any MIB and/or pending SAB charges. This agreement should conclude the incident/issue. Mr. Mosley as a result, is dropping any and all grievances relative to this matter." (Mosley Affidavit, Exhibit F)

Plaintiff then filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging racial discrimination claims against Wattam. BSM was not specifically named in the complaint to the EEOC. The plaintiff's exact words were: "I was employed as a Merchant Seaman on May 28, 1997, as the Chief Steward on board the USNS Antares. I was discharged from employment on September 13, 1999. I believe I have been discharged because of my race (Black) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended." (Mosley Affidavit, Exhibit I) The EEOC sent plaintiff a right to sue letter dated January 27, 2000.

On May 12, 2000, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court claiming that defendants' discriminatory practices violated Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD") and the Maryland Commission of Human Rights Law. Specifically, the plaintiff's complaint makes the following claims:

1. Plaintiff was wrongfully discriminated against as an African American in violation of Title VII, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD") and the Maryland Commission of Human Rights Law. (Complaint ¶ 51-66)

2. Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981 by creating and maintaining a hostile work environment. (Complaint ¶ 67-77)

3. Plaintiff was wrongfully discharged in violation of Title VII. (Complaint ¶ 78-84)

4. Defendants violated Title VII by creating and maintaining a hostile work environment. (Complaint ¶ 85-89)

5. Defendants violated NJLAD by wrongfully discharging the plaintiff. (Complaint ¶ 90-97)

6. Defendants violated NJLAD by creating and maintaining a hostile work environment. (Complaint ¶ 98-103)

7. Defendants violated Article 49B by creating and maintaining a hostile work environment. (Complaint ¶ 104-109)

8. Defendants interfered with the contract between the United States and BSM to which plaintiff is a third-party beneficiary. (Complaint ¶ 110-114)

9. United States negligently delegated and entrusted the operation of the Antares by BSM. (Complaint ¶ 115-117)

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment eliminates unfounded claims without recourse to a costly and lengthy trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). However, a court should grant summary judgment only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests initially on the moving party. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. A litigant may discharge this burden by exposing "the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548. In evaluating a summary judgment motion, a court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Goodman v. Mead Johnson & Co., 534 F.2d 566, 573 (3d Cir.1976).

Once the moving party has made a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The substantive law determines which facts are material. Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id. No issue for trial exists unless the nonmoving party can demonstrate sufficient evidence favoring it such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in that party's favor. See id. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

B. Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim serves to test the sufficiency of the complaint. See Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir.1993). In considering such a motion, all allegations in the complaint must be taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts, Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir.1998); Robb v. Philadelphia, 733 F.2d 286, 290 (3d Cir.1984). A court should not dismiss a complaint unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Zynn v. O'Donnell, 688 F.2d 940, 941 (3d Cir.198...

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