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Jordan v. Staffing Plus, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 20, 2018



          Rufe, J.

         Plaintiff Dominique Jordan filed this suit asserting race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and other claims after Defendant Staffing Plus, Inc. terminated his contract in the wake of negative news coverage of his arrest. Defendant has moved to dismiss the discrimination claim for failure to state a claim and the remaining claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Because Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to show that he was terminated because of his race, and because the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his remaining claims, Defendant's motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts alleged in the Amended Complaint[1] are assumed to be true, unless otherwise stated, for purposes of the motion to dismiss. Plaintiff Dominque Jordan worked for Defendant Staffing Plus as an independent contractor.[2] At some point in time, Plaintiff was arrested, and although the charges were later dropped, Defendant terminated Plaintiff soon after the arrest was reported in local news media without investigating the media accounts or giving Plaintiff an opportunity to respond. Plaintiff alleges that he would not have been terminated under these circumstances if he was “pale skinned or Caucasi[a]n, ” and that he was terminated because Defendant wrongly classified him as “black.”[3]


         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a party to move for dismissal of any claim over which the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.[4] When considering a 12(b)(1) motion, the court “review[s] only whether the allegations on the face of the complaint, taken as true, allege facts sufficient to invoke the jurisdiction of the district court.”[5] When subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under 12(b)(1), the plaintiff must bear the burden of persuasion.[6]

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is appropriate where a plaintiff's “plain statement” lacks enough substance to show that he is entitled to relief.[7] In determining whether a motion to dismiss should be granted, the court must consider only those facts alleged in the complaint, accepting the allegations as true and drawing all logical inferences in favor of the non-moving party.[8] Courts are not, however, bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.[9] Something more than a mere possibility of a claim must be alleged; a plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”[10] The complaint must set forth “direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.”[11] In deciding a motion to dismiss, courts may consider “only allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of a claim.”[12]


         A. Claim One (Discrimination)

         An independent contractor may bring a cause of action under 28 U.S.C. § 1981 for discrimination occurring within the scope of the independent contractor relationship.[13] In order to state a claim for relief under § 1981 based on race, a plaintiff must allege facts in support of the following elements (1) that plaintiff is a member of a racial minority; (2) intent to discriminate on the basis of race by the defendant; and (3) discrimination concerning one or more of the activities enumerated in the statute, which includes the right to make and enforce contracts . . . .”[14] Thus to succeed in pleading his wrongful termination claim under § 1981, Plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to demonstrate that his termination was the result of intentional racial discrimination by Defendant.

         Here, Plaintiff has not alleged any specific facts that demonstrate his contract was terminated because of his perceived race. The Amended Complaint does not identify any pattern of racially derogatory statements or discriminatory comments made by Defendant. Nor has Plaintiff alleged that any lighter-skinned contractors were treated more favorably by Defendant than he was after they were arrested or became the subject of negative media attention. Plaintiff relies solely on his own bare assertion that “they would not have done that if I was a pale skinned or Caucasi[an].”[15] Courts have repeatedly held that such bare assertions of subjective belief are insufficient to establish an inference of discrimination.[16] Accordingly, Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted with respect to Plaintiff's discrimination claim under § 1981.

         B. Claims ...

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