Williams v. I.B.E.W. Local 604 Sys. Council 7, Civil Action No. 16-5567 (ES) (JAD)

Decision Date27 March 2019
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 16-5567 (ES) (JAD)
PartiesBARBARA A. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff, v. I.B.E.W. LOCAL 604 SYSTEM COUNCIL 7, et al. Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Jersey

Not for Publication



Before the Court is defendant I.B.E.W. Local 604 System Council 7's ("Defendant's")1 motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint (D.E. No. 37) of pro se plaintiff Barbara A. Williams ("Plaintiff"). (D.E. No. 40). The Court has considered the parties' submissions,2 and decides the motion without oral argument. See L. Civ. R. 78.1(b); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the below reasons, the Court GRANTS-in-part and DENIES-in-part the motion to dismiss.

I. Background

The Court will "set out facts as they appear" in the Amended Complaint. See Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 358 n.1 (3d Cir. 2012). In sum, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, "on the basisof gender," engaged in "harassment, discrimination and retaliation" against Plaintiff, who at the relevant times was a "union member" of Defendant. (See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-3 & 6). The events giving rise to this matter stretch as far back as July 28, 1982, when Plaintiff was hired by "NJTRO"3 (see id. ¶¶ 15-16), and the 2000's, when Plaintiff asserts that she was discriminated against at various times (see, e.g., id. ¶ 22 (asserting that in "August 2007" Plaintiff was "treated differently from the male union members")). Plaintiff asserts that such discrimination has persisted until 2014 or later. (See, e.g., Am. Compl. ¶ 181).

Plaintiff, consequently, brings three counts in the Amended Complaint:

• Count I: "Discrimination Claims" (id. ¶¶ 3-9)4
• Count II: "Violations of the Civil Rights [Act of] 1964" (id. ¶¶ 10-11)
• Count III: "Violation of the New Jersey Equal Pay Act"5 (id. ¶¶ 12-14)

Defendant moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint, contending that "the allegations raised concern actions that occurred outside the [Title VII] statute of limitations or, in the case of the New Jersey Equal Pay Act, arise under a statute that applies only to employers." (D.E. No. 40-2 at 4). Defendant does not mention the NJLAD. (See generally D.E. No. 40-2 & 43).

II. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." But, to survive a motion todismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "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) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint cannot suffice "if it tenders [only] 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement,'" because while Rule 8 "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' . . . it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

Pursuant to the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, the Court of Appeals for this Circuit has promulgated a three-pronged test of the sufficiency of a complaint. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010). First, the Court considers "the elements a Plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Id. Second, the Court distinguishes the facts from the legal conclusions contained in the complaint, as the latter "are not entitled to an assumption of truth." Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680). That is, a complaint's "[t]hreadbare recitals of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements," Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, cannot "nudge[] [a plaintiff's] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Finally, the Court considers the complaint's remaining well-pleaded factual allegations and "determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief." Santiago, 629 F.3d at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

Throughout this process, the Court is "required to accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them after construing them in the light most favorable to the nonmovant." See, e.g., McDermott v. Clondalkin Grp., Inc., 649 F.App'x 263, 266 (3d Cir. 2016). And, further, "[i]n considering the defendants' motion to dismiss, the . . . Court [i]s required to interpret the pro se complaint liberally . . . ." See, e.g., Sause v. Bauer, 138 S. Ct. 2561, 2563 (2018). Finally, "[i]n deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of the public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents." Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010).

III. Analysis
A. Title VII

As a threshold matter, for the below reasons, Plaintiff's Title VII claims are time-barred to the extent that they are not based on conduct that occurred within 180 days of June 16, 2014.6

Plaintiff identifies three right-to-sue letters she received in connection with her claims of discrimination: One mailed "[o]n or about August 23, 2010" (see id. ¶ 47); one "[o]n January 6, 2015" (see id. ¶ 177; D.E. No. 37 at 39); and one "[o]n June 13, 2016" (see Am. Compl. ¶ 182; D.E. No. 37 at 55). But the actual date of receipt of the June 13 letter is not known: The Amended Complaint states only, "On June 13, 2016 Right To Sue Letter." (See id. ¶ 182). The Court "will presume that [P]laintiff received her right-to-sue letter three days after the EEOC mailed it," on June 16, 2016. See Seitzinger v. Reading Hosp. & Med. Ctr., 165 F.3d 236, 239 (3d Cir. 1999). Therefore, Plaintiff had until September 14, 2016, to file a complaint. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 201. Plaintiff originally filed a complaint on September 13, 2016. (D.E. No. 1 at 1 (recognizing that the complaint was "RECEIVED" on "SEP 13 2016")); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(d)(2)(A). Therefore, not more than ninety days had passed since receipt of the most recent right to sue letter;and the complaint was timely with respect to the conduct encompassed by that letter. See, e.g., Gavura v. Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 55 F. App'x 60, 61 n.2 (3d Cir. 2002). In contrast, any claims in connection with the other two right-to-sue letters are plainly not timely, and Plaintiff has not identified any basis for "equitable tolling of the ninety-day period." See, e.g., Myrick v. Discover Bank, 662 F. App'x 179, 181-82 (3d Cir. 2016). Accordingly, the Court will proceed with an analysis of Plaintiff's gender discrimination claims in connection with only the June 13 right-to-sue letter. See, e.g., Gavura, 55 F. App'x at 61 & n.2.

The June 13 right-to-sue letter resulted from a discrimination charge Plaintiff filed on June 16, 2014. (Am. Compl. ¶ 100; D.E. No. 37 at 56). "A plaintiff must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice, or within 300 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice if the plaintiff initially instituted proceedings with a state or local agency." Freeman v. Harris, 716 F. App'x 132, 133 (3d Cir. 2018) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)). This time period is "treated as" a statute of limitations. Burgh v. Borough Council of Borough of Montrose, 251 F.3d 465, 470 (3d Cir. 2001). Thus "discrete discriminatory acts are not actionable if time barred, even when they are related to acts alleged in timely filed charges." See Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 113 (2002). Here, Plaintiff does not allege or document a "cross-filing with a state agency under state law," so only conduct within 180 days of June 16, 2014, would be actionable. See Burgh, 251 F.3d at 472.

The Court now turns to the merits.

"Under Title VII, a Union is barred from discriminating against its members based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." Martinez v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers-IBEW Local Union No. 98, 352 F. App'x 737, 740 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(c)). But "[w]hile a union may be held liable under Title VII, the record [must] demonstrate that the Union itselfinstigated or actively supported the discriminatory acts allegedly experienced by [Plaintiff]." See Anjelino v. New York Times Co., 200 F.3d 73, 95-96 (3d Cir. 1999). In other words, a "[u]nion cannot be held liable for . . . alleged discrimination . . . unless the [u]nion took an active role in the discrimination." See, e.g., Martinez, 352 F. App'x at 740; see also Figueroa v. City of Camden, 580 F. Supp. 2d 390, 407 (D.N.J. 2008) ("[T]o hold unions liable for failing to remedy the potentially illegal acts of the true employers would be contrary to the approach that the Third Circuit has adopted [in Anjelino]." (internal quotation marks omitted)).

Here, the Amended Complaint does not plausibly support the inference "that [Defendant] itself instigated or actively supported the discriminatory acts allegedly experienced by [Plaintiff]" during the relevant period. See Anjelino, 200 F.3d at 95-96. For instance, during December 2013, Plaintiff alleges that she "lost out on the Denville NJ supervisor Job . . . while [she] was on vacation." (See Am. Compl. ¶ 79). But no allegation in the Amended Complaint connects Defendant—or any other named defendant (see supra note 1)—to the decision to deny her that job. (See id.). Similarly, Plaintiff alleges that on May 6, 2014, she "submitted [a] complaint . . . about being . . . charged an extra 2 [] hours of overtime hours worked by the other male union members"—members who "volunteer[ed] to start earlier than the regular start time"—but does not allege that Defendant, as opposed to NJTRO, charged her those hours. (See id. ¶ 89). Defen...

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