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Michalak v. Servpro Indus.

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey

August 6, 2019, Decided; August 6, 2019, Filed

Civil Action No. 18-01727 (RBK-KMW)

Opinion

KUGLER, United States District Judge:

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant ServPro Industries, Inc.'s ("ServPro") Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 25] Plaintiff Tiffany Michalak's ("Plaintiff") Amended Complaint. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") [Doc. No. 24]. Plaintiff alleges that ServPro violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq., and was negligent in failing to properly investigate Plaintiff's report of workplace discrimination. ServPro now seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's claims of gender discrimination (Count II), hostile work environment (Count IV); retaliation (Count V); aiding and abetting discriminatory acts (Count VII); and negligence (Count VIII). For the reasons set forth in the Opinion below, Defendant's motion to dismiss is DENIED.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND1 AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This is a case involving allegations [*2]  of workplace discrimination and harassment. Tiffany Michalak ("Plaintiff") worked for Defendant O'Donnell Restoration, a franchisee of Defendant ServPro Industries ("ServPro"), for one year until her termination. During that time, she claims Manager Scott O'Donnell ("Mr. O'Donnell") sexually harassed her and subjected her to discrimination based on her sex. She reported these instances to an HR representative at ServPro's national headquarters. That representative allegedly promised to investigate the matter, but just two days later, Mr. O'Donnell terminated Plaintiff. Mr. O'Donnell allegedly told perspective employers not to hire Plaintiff. He also misrepresented Plaintiff's termination in order to later rescind her unemployment benefits. The motion presently before the Court turns largely on ServPro's relationship with Mr. O'Donnell and O'Donnell Restoration.

Plaintiff first began working for O'Donnell Restoration on December 11, 2014. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") [Doc. No. 24] at ⁋ 11. She worked predominately in sales and marketing, but a significant part of her duties included visiting businesses and attending networking events. Id. at ⁋ 11. For the next year, Plaintiff encountered [*3]  several instances of harassment and sexual discrimination. She alleges, "Women were seen as inferior and were treated in a subservient manner and as objects of desire and/or objects of derision. . ." Id. at ⁋ 13. Specifically, she describes several statements directed towards her that highlight this culture of discrimination. These include, "men do things better than women," "men are more detail-orientated," and "you women don't know anything about bank accounts or managing." Id.

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2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131370 *; 2019 WL 3562690

TIFFANY MICHALAK, Plaintiff, v. SERVPRO INDUSTRIES, INC. and O'DONNELL RESTORATION LLC d/b/a SERVPRO OF WOODBURY/DEPTFORD and SCOTT O'DONNELL, Defendants.

Notice: NOT FOR PUBLICATION

Prior History: Michalak v. ServPro Indus., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106445 (D.N.J., June 20, 2018)

CORE TERMS

Restoration, allegations, termination, amended complaint, motion to dismiss, franchisor, agency relationship, aiding and abetting, apparent authority, day-to-day, harassment, training, discriminatory act, instances, alleged facts, investigate, retaliation, franchise, argues