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Jones v. Gemalto, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 29, 2015

JOHN R. JONES, Plaintiff,
GEMALTO, INC., Defendant.


GERALD J. PAPPERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff John R. Jones ("Jones") asks the Court, for the second time, to provide redress for alleged discriminatory treatment and a physical assault he allegedly endured during his prior employment with Defendant Gemalto, Inc. ("Gemalto"). Gemalto removed this action from the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and then moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Jones moved to remand the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447. The Court considers both Jones' motion to remand and Gemalto's motion to dismiss. For the reasons that follow, Jones' motion to remand is denied and Gemalto's motion to dismiss is granted.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Jones, an African American individual, began working as a feeder operator at Gemalto's manufacturing plant in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania on October 12, 1996. (Compl. ¶¶ 5-6.) During his employment, Jones repeatedly requested to be trained as a press operator, which is a higher paid position than feeder operator. ( Id. ¶ 8.) Jones was never trained, even though less senior Caucasian workers received this training. ( Id. ¶¶ 9, 10.)

On September 30, 2010, Gemalto held a meeting during which management promised to improve promotional practices in the company and sought employee input. ( Id. ¶ 12.) Jones voiced his concern that he and other African American employees were being denied opportunities to train on the printing press because of their race. ( Id. ¶ 13.) After the meeting, Jones was assured by Joe Wright, the printing manager, that he would receive training on the press. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Michelle Giordano, the human resources manager, scheduled a meeting with Jones to further discuss his concerns. ( Id. ¶ 15.)

Jones never received the promised training, despite renewing his requests with Wright and Giordano. ( Id. ¶ 16.) Instead, his performance and workplace movements were subjected to enhanced scrutiny and criticism. ( Id. ¶ 17.) Ed Vega, Jones' supervisor, verbally abused Jones and falsely accused him of failing to properly do his job. ( Id. ¶ 18.)

Vega's alleged harassment came to a head on April 28, 2011. As Jones returned from the bathroom, "Vega accused him of wasting time by walking around too much." ( Id. ¶ 19.) Jones attempted to explain that he was returning from the bathroom and Vega asked Jones to step into his office. ( Id. ¶ 20.) Jones entered Vega's office to continue the discussion. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Jones complained about Vega's harassment, the conversation became heated, and Vega physically attacked Jones. ( Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) Jones defended himself and then fled Vega's office and the plant. ( Id. ¶ 24.) Jones went directly to the hospital to obtain treatment for the injuries he sustained. ( Id. ¶ 25.) Gemalto took a statement from Vega regarding the incident, but did not contact Jones and did not respond to attempts by Jones' attorney to contact the company. ( Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) Jones was notified on May 2, 2011 that his employment had been terminated. ( Id. ¶ 28.) Jones was subsequently arrested and charged with assault.[1] ( Id. ¶ 30.)

Jones, through his attorney, filed an action on November 3, 2011, alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII based upon Jones' inability to obtain training as a press operator and retaliatory discharge in violation of Title VII based upon Jones' termination (" Jones I "). See Jones v. Gemalto, No. 11-cv-06902, ECF No. 1. The case was assigned to the Honorable John R. Padova, who granted summary judgment in favor of Gemalto on both counts. See Jones v. Gemalto, No. 11-cv-06902, 2013 WL 1194518 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 25, 2013).

Nearly two years later, Jones filed this action (" Jones I ") against Gemalto in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas based, again, on the facts described above. Jones now alleges three claims arising under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951 et seq. : (1) failure to train and promote, (2) discrimination and harassment, and (3) hostile work environment; as well as three claims arising under Pennsylvania common law: (1) assault and battery, (2) wrongful discharge, and (3) emotional distress. Gemalto removed the action on the basis of diversity jurisdiction (ECF No. 1), and then moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Jones' claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata and by the applicable statutes of limitation. (ECF No. 5.) In response, Jones moved to remand, asserting that removal was improper because Gemalto is a citizen of Pennsylvania, like Jones, and the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000. (ECF No. 7.) Jones then filed an opposition to Gemalto's motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 8.) The Court considers[2] Jones' motion to remand and Gemalto's opposition (ECF No. 9), as well as Gemalto's motion to dismiss and Jones' opposition.[3] (ECF No. 8.)

II. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

A defendant may remove "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Thus a defendant may remove from state court to federal court a civil case between citizens of different states in which the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

A plaintiff may challenge the removal by moving to remand the case to state court. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Grounds for remand include: "(1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction or (2) a defect in the removal process." PAS v. Travelers Ins. Co., 7 F.3d 329, 352 (3d Cir. 1993). "The party asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of showing that at all stages of the litigation the case is properly before the federal court." Samuel-Bassett v. KIA Motors Am. Inc., 357 F.3d 392, 396 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1045 (3d Cir. 1993)). "Because lack of jurisdiction would make any decree in the case void and the continuation of the litigation in federal court futile, the removal statue should be strictly construed and all doubts resolved in favor of remand." Johnson v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., 724 F.3d 337, 346 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Brown v. Francis, 75 F.3d 860, 864-65 (3d Cir. 1996)).

Here, Plaintiff contends, without providing any factual support, that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) because both parties are citizens of Pennsylvania ...

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