SANTOS v. IRON MOUNTAIN FILM & SOUND
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jose L. Linares on 2/20/14. (DD, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
MANUEL G. SANTOS,
Civil Action No. 2:12-CV-04214 (JLL)(MAH)
IRON MOUNTAIN FILM & SOUND,
LINARES, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court by way of Defendant Iron Mountain Entertainment
Services f/n/a Iron Mountain Film & Sound (hereinafter “Defendant”)’s motion to dismiss
Plaintiff Manuel G. Santos (“Plaintiff”)’s Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court has considered the submissions made in
support of and in opposition to the instant motion and decides this motion without oral argument
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant’s
motion is GRANTED and Plaintiff’s Title VII claim is dismissed with prejudice.
Plaintiff brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”),
§ 2000e et seq., and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”), N.J.S.A.
10:5-1 et seq. Plaintiff is Honduran and a resident of the County of Passaic, New Jersey. (SAC
¶J 1, 21.) Defendant is a records management company with offices in the State of New
Jersey. (Id., at ¶ 2; see also Def. Br. at 3.)
Plaintiff alleges that, on or about March 8, 2011, Defendant discovered that media films
belonging to a client had gone missing. (SAC at ¶J 10, 11.) Plaintiff and his co-workers were
directed to look for the missing films. (Id., at ¶ 10.) The following day, Plaintiff alleges that all
employees were directed to continue looking for the films. (Id., at 11.) That same morning,
Plaintiff was directed to escort the cleaning lady to the bathroom. (Id.) While cleaning the
bathroom, the cleaning lady realized that one of the toilets was clogged and told Plaintiffs
coordinator to call a plumber. (Id., at ¶ 12.) Later that morning, Plaintiff alleges that he and his
co-workers were joking about what could have happened to the missing films. (Id., at 14.)
Plaintiff alleges that he joked that someone threw the missing films in the toilet. (id.) The next
day, the plumber discovered pieces of film in the pipe. (Id., at ¶ 15.)
Following this discovery, Plaintiff alleges that he was singled out and treated irrationally
by management. (Id., at ¶J 20, 21, 22, 26, 28.) On Friday, March 11, Plaintiffs supervisor
directed him to do a “special job.” (Id., at ¶ 17.) Plaintiff claims that he was given this “special
job” so that his supervisor could keep an eye on him and a co-worker. (Id.) The following
Monday, Plaintiff claims that his supervisor was waiting for him at the door to the office. (Id., at
¶ 18.) Plaintiff alleges that he was kept for two hours without any explanation and that during
this time he could not “log into the [computer] system, touch the computer or perform any of his
regular duties.” (Id., at ¶J 18, 19.) Plaintiff was also not allowed to go to the bathroom
unescorted. (Id., atlJ 19.)
On March 15, Plaintiff arrived at work and again was not permitted to perform his regular
duties. (Id., at ¶ 25.) Plaintiff was called into Defendant’s office for questioning. (Id.) There
were two private investigators and two representatives from Human Resources in the room. (Id.)
One of the private investigators informed Plaintiff that he was the first to be interrogated because
they believed Plaintiff knew who took the missing media. (Id., at 26.) Plaintiff claims that he
was treated like a criminal and questioned for two hours. (Id.)
Six days later, on March 21, Plaintiff was interrogated a second time. (Id., at 28.)
During this second interrogation, Plaintiff told the private investigator that he did not know who
had taken the missing films. (Id.) Plaintiff stated that he only heard rumors as to who may have
taken them. (Id.)
Plaintiff claims that he was found guilty of taking the missing films. (Id., at 21.) He
alleges that Defendant did not investigate the incident but, rather, “already [f]ound [him] guilty”
prior to questioning him. (Id., at ¶ 21.) Plaintiff was not provided with an explanation as to why
he was the target of such treatment. (Id., at ¶ 22.)
Defendant placed Plaintiff on paid suspension, and ultimately terminated his employment
on April 14. (Id., at ¶J 27, 30.) On April 19, Plaintiff received a termination letter from
Defendant. (Id., at ¶ 31.) The termination letter stated that, after a thorough investigation by two
external investigators, Defendant determined that based on a number of factors Plaintiff “either
had knowledge of [o]r [was] involved in the matter directly” and was guilty of gross misconduct.
Plaintifis Second Amended Complaint asserts the following three claims against
Defendant: (1) violation of NJLAD; (2) violation of Title VII; and (3) defamation, slander and
Plaintiff filed a charge against Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) on September 7, 2011. (Def. Br. at 2; see also Def. Exhibit D))
Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint in this Court on July 6,2012. (CMIECF No. 1.) Plainti
then filed an Amended Complaint on August 23, 2013. (CM/ECF No. 18.) Defendant moved
dismiss the Amended Complaint on September 6, 2013. (CM/ECF No. 20.) This Court granted
Defendant’s motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint on November 13, 2013, without
prejudice. (CM/ECF No. 27.) Pursuant to this Court’s prior Opinion, Plaintiff was permit
file an amended complaint within thirty days. (Id.) Accordingly, Plaintiff filed a Second
Amended Complaint (“SAC”) on December 9, 2013. (CM/ECF No. 30.)
On January 10, 2014, Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiffs SAC on the basis that it
fails to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (CM/ECF No. 36.) Plaintiff filed an opposi
to the instant motion on January 21, 2014. (CM/ECF No. 39.) Defendant filed a reply brief
January 28, 2014. (CMJECF No. 40.) Because the Court agrees with Defendant’s arguments
that Plaintiff has failed to state a plausible Title VII claim, the motion to dismiss is granted.
Since this Court previously dismissed Plaintiffs Amended Complaint without prejudice
gave Plaintiff the opportunity to amend his complaint to allege a Title VII claim, Plaintiffs SAC
is dismissed with prejudice.
The Court may properly consider attachments Exhibits A-E to Defense Counsel’s Declaration (“Def.
E”) without converting Defendant’s motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment to the extent that
attachments are integral to Plaintiff’s claims. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410,
Cir. 1997) (observing “that a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be
without converting the motion [to dismissj into one for summary judgment.”) (bracketed text in original)
quotation marks and citations omitted). This Court has previously held that “such documents
include an EEOC
charge and an associated right-to-sue letter issued by the EEOC.” Davis i UPS, CIV A. 07-5923
(JLL), 2008 WL
4104680, *2 (D.N.J. Sept. 4, 2008) (internal citations omitted).
On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure I 2(b)(6), “[cjourts
are required to accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and to draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Phillips v. County ofAilegheny, 515
F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008). But, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v, Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Courts
not required to credit bald assertions or legal conclusions draped in the guise of factual
allegations. See In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429 (3d Cir. 1997).
“A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twomblv,
550 U.S. at 555). Thus, a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss if it “contain[s] sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “[Al pro se complaint, however inartfully
pleaded must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); see also Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 234 (3d Cir.
2004) (“[P]ro se complaints in particular should be construed liberally.”).
In moving to dismiss Plaintiff’s SAC, Defendant makes the following arguments: (1)
Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6); (2)
Plaintiff’s NJLAD claim is barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations; and (3)
Plaintiff’s defamation claim is barred by the applicable one-year statute of limitations.
Violation of Title VII
Plaintiff asserts one claim against Defendant under Title VII for discriminatory treatment.
Plaintiff claims that, during the course of his employment with Defendant, he was subjected
discriminatory treatment in violation of NJLAD and Title VII. (SAC at
¶J 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22,
25, 37.) Plaintiff alleges that he is Honduran and that he was subjected to “disparaging and
negative treatment due to [his] ethnicity and national origin and for other wrongful reasons.”
(Id., at ¶ 37.) In support of its motion to dismiss, Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s SAC again
fails to allege a prima facie Title VII claim of discrimination on the basis of national origin or
ethnicity. (Def. Br. at 5.)
Pursuant to Title VII, it is unlawful for an employer “to discharge any individual
because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C.
2(a)(l). As a general matter, the plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie
case of discrimination under Title VII. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792,
802 (1973) (“The complainant in a Title VII trial must carry the initial burden under the statute
of establishing a prima facie case of... discrimination.”). This Court made clear in its prior
opinion that “the central focus of the prima facie case is always whether the employer is treating
some people less favorably than others because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national
origin.” See Santos v. Iron Mountain Film and Sound, 2:12-CV04214, 2013 WL 6054832
(D.N.J. Nov. 14, 2013) (quoting Sarullo v. US. Postal Serv., 352 F.3d 789, 798 (3d Cir. 2003)).
To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must allege
that: “(1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he is qualified for the position he held; (3) he
was either not hired or fired from that position; (4) under circumstances that give rise to an
While Plaintiff’s NJLAD claims will not be addressed at this time for the reasons set forth herein, the
Court finds it
worth mentioning that NJLAD claims are subject to the same analysis as those under Title VII. See Schurr i’.
Resorts Int’l Hotel, Inc., 196 F.3d 486,498 (3d Cit. 1999) (“Analysis of a claim made pursuant to the
generally follows analysis of a Title VII claim.”).
inference of unlawful discrimination such as might occur when the position is filled
by a person
not of the protected class.” Jones
Sch. Dist. Of Philadelphia, 198 F.3d 403, 410-411 (3d Cir.
1999); see also Clarkv. Sewritas Sec. Servs, CIV.A. 08-6356 JLL, 2010 WL4181123
Oct. 19, 2010).
The Court finds that Plaintiff has again failed to make out a prima facie case under Title
VII. The SAC sets out facts sufficient to support only the first three elements of a prima
Title VII violation. First, Plaintiff alleges that he is Honduran. (SAC at 21.) Since
origin is a protected class under Title VII, the complaint may be construed to support the
element. See Sarullo, 352 F.3d at 798 (holding that Plaintiff established his status as a membe
of a protected class by way of his ethnicity). Second, Plaintiff has alleged that he worked
Defendant from April 2004 until April 2011, when he was terminated. (SAC at
¶J 3, 31.) The
Court construes the complaint liberally and determines that Plaintiff has sufficiently pleade
job qualifications by way of his continued employment with Defendant. See Sempier v. Johnso
& Higgins, 45 F.3d 724, 729 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding that the court should consider a plainti
objective rather than his subjective qualifications in evaluating the sufficiency of a prima facie
case, because “to deny the plaintiff an opportunity to move beyond the initial stage... would
improperly prevent the court from examining the criteria to determine whether [defen
justification] was mere pretext”). As to the third element, Plaintiff alleges that he was
to “disparaging and negative treatment” and ultimately terminated, thereby suffering an
employment action. (SAC at ¶J 30, 37.) See Storey v. Burns mt ‘1. Sec. Servs., 390 F.3d 760,
764 (3d Cir. 2004) (“[W]e have defined an adverse employment action under Title VII as
action by an employer that is serious and tangible enough to alter an employee’s compensation
terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.”) (internal citations and quotations
also Cardenas v. Massey, 269 F.3d 251, 263 (3d Cir. 2001).
As to the fourth element, Plaintiff must put forward “evidence adequate to create
inference that an employment decision was based on an illegal discriminatory criterio
Pivirotto v. Innovative Sys., Inc., 191 F.3d 344, 356 (3d Cir. 1999). Plaintiff has not
facts that give rise to an inference of discrimination. Plaintiff has not alleged, for examp
his position was subsequently filled by a person who was not a member of a protected
While Plaintiff has amended his complaint to add allegations that he was subjected to
interrogations, he does not allege facts that would allow this Court to infer discrim
behavior by Defendant. (See SAC at ¶J 21, 22, 37.) In particular, Plaintiff fails to provid
court with facts alleging that other employees who were of a different ethnicity or nation
were treated more favorably. See Sarullo, 352 F.3d at 798 (holding that the central focus
prima facie case “is always whether the employer is treating some people less favorably than
others because of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin”) (internal quotations
see also Prophete v. Blackstone Group, CIV. A. 11-7425, 2013 WL 1565397 at *4 (D.N.J
2, 2012) (holding that Plaintiff did not allege a prima facie case where she failed to “advan
factual allegations to demonstrate that other... employees who were of a different religio
gender were treated more favorably”). Absent such factual content, the Court cannot draw the
reasonable inference that Plaintiff was discriminated against due to his protected status.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual conten
that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.”) (internal citations omitted).
While the Court is mindful that Plaintiff is a pro se litigant and the Court is to construe
the complaint liberally, the Court is precluded from crediting Plaintiff’s “bald asserti
ons or legal
conclusions draped in the guise of factual allegations.” See In re Burlington Coat Facto,y
Litig., 114 F.3d at 1429. Since Plaintiff continues to allege discriminatory treatm
pleading sufficient facts to support his claims, the Complaint fails to state a plausible Title
cause of action. This Court previously dismissed Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint without
prejudice. Since Plaintiff was not able to amend his complaint to make out a prima facie
discrimination, it would be futile to allow Plaintiff an additional opportunity to do so. See
Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d. Cir. 2002) (“[Tjhe court must inform
the plaintiff that he has leave to amend within a set period of time, unless amendment would
inequitable or futile.”) (internal citations omitted). Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Title VII claim
dismissed with prejudice.
Remaining State Law Claims
Defendant also argues that: (1) Plaintiff’s state law claims are inadequately pleaded; and
(2) Plaintiff’s NJLAD and defamation claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
(See Def. Br. at 6, 7, 8.)
Since the Court has dismissed Plaintiff’s Title VII claim, the sole claim over which it has
original jurisdiction pursuant to 29 U.S.C.
§ 1331, it declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state law claims. Section 1 367(c)(3) of Title 28 provides, that “[t]he
district courts may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim under subsection
(a) if... the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction..
Ortiz v, Univ. ofMed. & Dentistty ofNew Jersey, CIV. A. 08-2669, 2009 WL 2194782 at *2
(D.N.J. July 23, 2009); New Rock Asset Partners, L.P. v. Preferred Entity Advancements, Inc.,
101 F.3d 1492, 1508 (3d Cir.1996); Growth Horizons, Inc. v. Delaware County, Pa., 983 F.2d
1277, 1284 (3d Cir.1993) (“In making its determination, the district court should take into
account generally accepted principles of ‘judicial economy, convenience, and fairness to the
litigants.”) (quoting United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966)). The Court finds
that “at this early stage in the litigation, dismissal of the pendent state claims in a federal forum
will result in neither a waste ofjudicial resources nor prejudice to the parties.” Freund v. Florio,
795 F.Supp. 702, 710 (D.N.J.1992). As such, Plaintiff’s state law claims are dismissed without
For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s Title VII claim is dismissed with prejudice.
The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state law claims, and
they are dismissed without prejudice. An appropriate Order accompanies this opinion.
LL8 DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: February, 2014
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