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ENNIS v. TYCO INTERNATIONAL LTD.

March 18, 2004.

STEVEN A. ENNIS, Plaintiff, -against- TYCO INTERNATIONAL LTD., SONITROL MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, and MID-ATLANTIC SECURITY, INC., Defendants


The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS GRIESA, Senior District Judge

Opinion

This is an action by plaintiff Steven A. Ennis against his former employer alleging discrimination on the basis of age and religion, and retaliatory termination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., and state and city civil rights laws. There are three defendants: Tyco International Ltd., Sonitrol Management Corporation, and Mid-Atlantic Security, Inc.

Now before the Court is a motion by Tyco. to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action against Tyco. Tyco's position is that it was not Ennis's employer, and that its personnel had nothing to do with the alleged wrongdoing. It is conceded for purposes of this motion that Sonitrol and Mid-Atlantic are closely enough related for both to be considered employers of Ennis. Page 2

  For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

  FACTS

  In the course of briefing on this motion to dismiss, the parties submitted, and had the opportunity to respond to, matters outside the pleadings. Because these matters were not excluded by the Court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b). Therefore, the facts are taken from the pleadings and the affidavits submitted on the motion.

  Ennis is a 57-year-old man of the Jewish faith. The complaint states that Ennis began working for Sonitrol, a provider of security products, on March 8, 1990, and was terminated from Sonitrol's employment on January 29, 2002. Although it is not entirely clear, it appears from the complaint that Ennis was employed at Sonitrol's New York City office, located in Manhattan.

  The complaint states that on September 5, 2001 Sonitrol hired Jim Wright as General Manager for the Metro New York area, which included the New York and New Jersey offices. Wright mainly worked out of the New Jersey office. Wright was reportedly a minister, and was referred to as "Father Jim."

  The complaint alleges that over the course of the approximately eighteen months between Wright's arrival and Ennis's termination, numerous events occurred to create a hosfile work environment. In about October of 2001 the first of these Page 3 events occurred, when Wright allegedly left two voice messages for Ennis "screaming that he had an attitude problem" after Ennis accidently hung up on Wright during a cell phone conversation. The complaint alleges that when Ennis relayed this incident to a co-worker, the co-worker stated, "Jim hates Jews."

  The complaint alleges that, over time, Wright created a "cult-like working environment" by hiring young "followers from his church," who were unqualified for their positions at Sonitrol and lived with Wright in his home in New Jersey. Wright and the young employees allegedly made various displays of religion in Ennis's presence, including praying and singing hymns. Wright is also alleged to have made derogatory remarks about Jewish holidays.

  The complaint alleges that Ennis communicated with Sonitrol management regarding his problems with Wright on November 11, 2001. On this date Ennis wrote to John Rausch, Director of Sales for Sonitrol, informing him that a telephone conversation between Ennis and Wright had occurred, in which Wright had verbally abused Ennis. Ennis stated in the letter that he found the behavior intolerable and desired some action on the part of Rausch.

  The complaint further alleges that on January 15, 2002 Ennis wrote to Phil Adams, Director of Human Resources at Sonitrol, stating that Ennis felt that Wright was discriminating against Page 4 him because Ennis was Jewish. The letter also stated that Wright had hired primarily young workers and had displayed hostility toward older workers, and that this constituted age discrimination. According to the complaint, on January 17 Ennis made a follow-up phone call to Rausch and informed him of the complaint Ennis had sent to Adams. Ennis also told Rausch in that conversation that Wright "had a problem with" Ennis because Ennis was Jewish.

  Ennis was absent from work between January 21 and January 28, 2002 due to the death of his mother. The complaint alleges that on January 29 Ennis discovered that his cell phone had been disconnected by Sonitrol. When Ennis arrived at his office that day, he discovered that Wright, a co-worker, and a locksmith had entered the office, removed the documents, and changed the lock on the door. When Ennis was able to enter his office later that day, he found a letter from Rausch stating, "Effective immediately, your employment with Sonitrol of Metro New York is terminated." The letter cited Ennis's ongoing conflict with Wright as the reason for the termination.

  The complaint states that Tyco, Sonitrol, and Mid-Atlantic "are a single employer, with interrelated corporations, centralized control of labor relations common management and common ownership." The complaint also alleges, in each of its five counts, that "each of the defendants was an `employer'" Page 5 within the meaning of the relevant statute. These statements ...


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