Federal District Court Opinions

TEKLEWOLDE, Plaintiff, v. ONKYO USA CORP., Defendant. Civil
Action No. 06-1097 (DMC). United States District Court, D.
New Jersey. December 20, 2006



This matter comes before the Court upon motion by
Defendant Onkyo Corporation (“Onkyo”) to dismiss the
Complaint filed by pro se Plaintiff Gedion Teklewolde
(“Teklewolde” or “Plaintiff”) pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 78 and Local Civil Rule 7.1(i), no oral argument
was heard. After carefully considering the submissions of
the parties, and based upon the following, it is the
finding of this Court that Defendant’s motion to dismiss is


Plaintiff filed his pro se Complaint on March 7, 2006
against Defendants Onkyo USA Corporation (“Onkyo”) and
Circuit City. Since that time, this Court granted Circuit
City’s motion to dismiss and Circuit City is no longer a
party to this action. On May 3, 2006, Onkyo USA Corp. filed
this motion pursuant to 12(b)(6) to dismiss Plaintiff’s

Due to the length and narrative style of Plaintiff’s
Complaint, it is someone difficult to discern the exact
nature of Plaintiff’s claims against the Defendants.
Plaintiff recounts the Page 2 circumstances leading up to
his termination of employment with Defendant Onkyo in March
2004. Plaintiff does not cite to any particular statute or
common law cause of action in his Complaint. Reviewing the
Complaint under the liberal pleading standard applicable to
pro se litigants, the Court notes that Plaintiff’s
Complaint seemingly seeks relief pursuant to the
Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”). Plaintiff
alleges his employment with Onkyo was terminated in
retaliation for his attempts to maintain quality control
standards in an environment (1) of alleged cost-cutting,
(2) of allegedly “poor QC at the production locations” in
Japan and Malaysia, and (3) of disagreement with
plaintiff’s opinion that “what Onkyo is doing [in
connection with quality control and packing labeling] is
not to the best interests of the company. Compl.
¶¶ 22, 66. Plaintiff also makes references to
the fact that he is an Ethiopian Jew and alleges that he
suffered racial discrimination during his time at Onkyo
apparently seeking relief pursuant to Title VII. One
supervisor allegedly used the word “boy” when addressing
Plaintiff in “mid-1999.” Id. ¶¶ 23, 40.
Plaintiff alleges that he complained to management about
the racial overtone in the workplace for years thereafter
until 2002. Id. at ¶¶ 50-51. Plaintiff also
claims that the resolution of his complaints in 2002 was
unsatisfactory because he “felt [he] was ignored or my plea
did not count due to the fact that I sensed Mr. Watanabe [a
Japanese supervisor] was culturally not familiar with the US
law and customs. Id. ¶ 31. At the conclusion of his
Complaint, Plaintiff states that he is seeking $550,000 to
“help him recover from damages caused by unfair biased
discharge [sic] from work and work place harassment” as
well as compensation for “my engineering concept currently
adopted by ONKYO in its product called POWER PLUS for which
I have not been compensated since I departed.” Id. ¶


A. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), all allegations in the complaint
must be taken as true and must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S.
490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc., v.
Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998). In
evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, a court may consider only the complaint,
exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public
record, and undisputedly authentic documents if the
plaintiff’s claims are based upon those documents. See
Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998
F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). If, after viewing the
allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff, it appears beyond doubt that no relief could
be granted “under any set of facts which could prove
consistent with the allegations,” a court shall dismiss a
complaint for failure to state a claim. Hishon v. King &
Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

B. Rule 8(a) Requirements

Pursuant to Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure a complaint must contain “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Due to an understandable
difference in legal sophistication, a complaint drafted by
a pro se litigant must be held to a less exacting standard
than a complaint drafted by trained counsel. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). Nonetheless, a court should
dismiss the case pursuant to Rule 8(a), “if a pro se
complaint is so confusing or unintelligible that no party
could possibly understand or reply to it.” Wright v. Castle
Point Mortgage, No. 05-CV-4851, WL 1468678, *2 (D.N.J. May
24, 2006) (citing Cole v. Commonwealth Federal, No.
Civ.A.94-6099, *1 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 8, 1994; King v. Fayette
County, 92 F.R.D. 457, 458 (W.D. Pa. 1981)); Brown v.
Califano, 75 F.R.D. 497 (1977)). Page 4


A. CEPA Claim

Taking the allegations and facts of the Complaint in the
light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Teklewolde appears
to seek relief pursuant to CEPA. CEPA claims are barred by
a one year statute of limitations. See N.J.S.A. 34:19-5.
The statute of limitations on a CEPA claim begins to run on
the date in which the employer originally retaliated
against the employee, which typically occurs when the
employment of the complaining employee is terminated. See;
N.J.S.A. 34:19-5; see also Boody v. Twp. of Cherry Hill,
997 F. Supp. 562, 567-68 (D.N.J. 1997); Green v. Jersey
City Bd. of Educ., 177 N.J. 434, 437-38 (N.J. 2003).

Here, Plaintiff’s Complaint was filed in March 2006,
alleging injuries arising from an incident that occurred in
March 2004. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that
plaintiff was “let go due to revenge by management” in
March of 2004. Compl. ¶ 86. Due to the fact that
Plaintiff did not file suit until two years later, it is
evident that Plaintiff is time-barred from seeking any
relief pursuant to CEPA. Accordingly, dismissal is
appropriate to any CEPA claims alleged by Plaintiff.

B. Title VII Race Discrimination Claim

Taking the Complaint in the light most favorable to the
Plaintiff, Teklewolde seeks relief pursuant to Title VII,
based on alleged race discrimination. Prerequisites to
bringing such a claim include (1) the filing of a Title VII
claim with any agency with 300 days of any allegedly
discriminatory act; and (2) the filing of a Complaint with
this Court within 180 days of any allegedly Page 5
discriminatory act. As the Third Circuit articulated in West
v. Philadelphia Electric Co.,

According to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e), a charge of
employment discrimination must be filed within 300 days
`after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.’
The 300-day period applies where the plaintiff has
instituted proceedings with a state or local agency.
Otherwise, the applicable period is 180 days. 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-5(e). This filing is a prerequisite to a
civil suit under Title VII.

45 F.3d 744, 754 & n. 8 (3d Cir. 1995); see also Evans v.
Port Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp., No. 04-4062, 2006 WL 408391,
at *1 (3d Cir. Feb. 23, 2006); Shepherd v. Hunterdon
Developmental Ctr., 174 N.J. 1, 19 (2002).

In this case, Plaintiff’s Complaint cites a single,
isolated incident of alleged racial discrimination. Compl.
¶ 51. This matter was addressed by Onkyo management
in 2002. Id. Plaintiff. Plaintiff has not filed a timely
complaint with the EEOC or any other agency. Accordingly,
Plaintiff’s Title VII claims are time-barred and these
claims must be dismissed.

C. Money Damages for Onkyo’s Use of Plaintiff’s Concept

Finally, Plaintiff seeks damages based on his claim that
Onkyo allegedly adopted Plaintiff’s “engineering concept”
in a product called “POWER PLUS,” for which Plaintiff has
not received compensation. Compl. ¶ 96. The Court
views this claim as frivolous because Plaintiff has failed
to identify what “Power Plus” is, and how Defendant is
using it. Furthermore, Plaintiff asserts that he is owed
compensation for “day work” and payment for “lunch for the
technician” that he “had” to “bring around.” Id. at
¶ 63. Plaintiff makes no mention that he was
promised compensation for said events, nor that there was a
specific amount to which he is owed. Based on these
inadequacies in Plaintiff’s pleading, the Court views this
claim as frivolous.

Additionally, New Jersey’s “shop right” doctrine bars
Plaintiff’s claim for compensation Page 6 above his
ordinary remuneration for his “ideas, knowledge,
experience, and performance in coming up with a viable
process.” Caputo v. Nice-Pak Prod., Inc., 300 N.J. Super.
498, 507 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 151 N.J. 463 (1997);
see also Ingersoll-Rand Co. v. Ciavatta, 110 N.J. 609, 623
(1988). Here, Plaintiff seeks additional remuneration for
developing an “engineering concept.” However, other
paragraphs in Plaintiff’s Complaint defeat this potential
ground for recovery because Plaintiff repeatedly states
that he was hired to develop procedures to ensure the
orderly administration of Onkyo’s quality control effort.
Defendant correctly argues that Onkyo is “entitled to
continuing use of any such `concept’ that plaintiff
developed while an Onkyo employee, and does not owe
plaintiff any additional compensation for such continued
use.” Def.’s Br. at 13. For these reasons, Plaintiff’s
claim for compensation due to Onkyo’s use of his
“engineering concept” is dismissed.


For the reasons stated, it is the finding of this Court
that Defendant’s motion to dismiss is granted. An
appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.