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Arenivar v. Manganaro Midatlantic LLC

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 10, 2018

FLOR ARENIVAR, Plaintiff,
v.
MANGANARO MIDATLANTIC, LLC et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Flor Arenivar filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against Defendants Clark Construction Group, LLC (“Clark Construction”) and Manganaro Midatlantic, LLC (“Manganaro”), the general contractor and a subcontractor, respectively, of a construction project on which she worked, alleging that she was sexually harassed while on the job. See ECF No. 3 at 34-47 (“Compl.”). Defendants removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, asserting that Clark Construction, the only defendant with an individual member that resides in the District of Columbia with Arenivar, was fraudulently joined. ECF No. 1 (“Removal Not.”). Arenivar has moved to remand the case back to Superior Court, arguing that Clark Construction is a proper party. ECF No. 14; see also ECF No. 14-1 (“Remand Br.”); ECF No. 16 (“Remand Opp.”); ECF No. 17 (“Remand Reply”). For the reasons explained below, Arenivar's Motion to Remand is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         According to her complaint, in May 2016, Arenivar began working as a laborer at the construction site for the Museum of the Bible (the “Site”). Compl. ¶¶ 6-7. Clark Construction was the general contractor for the Site, and Manganaro was a subcontractor that performed drywall installation. Remand Br. at 1. Arenivar alleges that she was repeatedly sexually harassed and retaliated against by one of her direct supervisors, a Manganaro employee, before being terminated. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 10-41; ECF No. 15 (“Arenivar Decl.”) ¶ 6; Removal Not. ¶ 26; Remand Opp. at 2.

         On October 18, 2017, Arenivar filed this lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court. Compl. She asserts claims under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”) for discrimination, D.C. Code § 2-1402.11, and retaliation, D.C. Code § 2-1402.61, against both Clark Construction and Manganaro. Compl. ¶¶ 51-64.

         On January 4, 2018, Defendants removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Removal Not. ¶¶ 9-11. The parties do not appear to dispute the facts each has set forth regarding the citizenship of the parties. Arenivar is a resident of the District of Columbia. Compl. ¶ 1. The sole member of Clark Construction Group, LLC is Clark Construction, LLC. Id. ¶ 3. Clark Construction, LLC has three individual members, two of whom reside in Virginia and one of whom-like Arenivar-resides in the District of Columbia. Id. ¶ 3; Removal Not. ¶ 20. The sole member of Manganaro Midatlantic, LLC is Manganaro North America LLC. Compl. ¶ 2; ECF No. 16-1 (“Second Douglas Decl.”) ¶ 3. Manganaro North America LLC has two individual members. Second Douglas Decl. ¶ 4. One resides in Massachusetts, and the other in Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 5-6.

         Defendants assert that Clark Construction was fraudulently joined to prevent removal, and that it was “never [Arenivar's] employer in any respect.” Removal Not. ¶ 20; see also Id. ¶¶ 12-19, 21-29. Furthermore, they argue that if Clark Construction were disregarded for jurisdictional purposes, the remaining parties would be completely diverse, as is required for diversity jurisdiction.[1] See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         As might be expected, the parties do not agree on the role Clark Construction played in Arenivar's employment. Arenivar avers in a declaration that Manganaro employees were her direct supervisors on “most days, ” but that Clark Construction “controlled” the Site and “had the ultimate power” to control Arenivar's assignments on a daily basis. Arenivar Decl. ¶¶ 2, 6. Moreover, she alleges that Clark Construction occasionally assigned her to a work crew cleaning up debris “that had no relation to Manganaro's drywall work.” Id. ¶ 2. She also states that Clark Construction provided her workplace safety training on her first day on the job, hosted monthly meetings to discuss safety and project timelines, and could send home employees who violated Clark Construction's workplace safety rules. Id. ¶¶ 3-5. And while Manganaro paid Arenivar directly, she argues that Clark Construction “indirectly funded” her compensation as the general contractor for the project. Remand Br. at 6. Finally, Arenivar alleges that after she was terminated, she spoke with a Clark Construction field superintendent, who relayed her complaint of sexual harassment to Clark Construction's Vice President of Human Resources. Compl. ¶¶ 44, 47.

         In response, Defendants note that Manganaro hired and paid Arenivar. ECF No. 1-1 (“Douglas Decl.”) ¶¶ 6-7. They also argue that Clark Construction “did not direct the day-to-day work of Manganaro employees” or have the power to control work assignments. ECF No. 16-2 (“Reedy Decl.”) ¶ 11. Moreover, Manganaro employees supervised Arenivar on all but a few days. Remand Opp. at 2. Indeed, all of the supervisors identified by name in her Complaint- Odel Quintero, Mark Shelton, Ramon Padron, and Steve Armstrong-were employed by Manganaro, not Clark Construction. Compl. ¶¶ 26-27; Douglas Decl. ¶ 9. And Defendants argue that, even when Manganaro employees like Arenivar were assigned to work on the debris clean-up crew, Manganaro determined which of its employees would be detailed to the crew and retained all authority to hire, fire, and discipline its employees. Remand Opp. at 2; Second Douglas Decl. ¶¶ 8-10; Reedy Decl. ¶¶ 7-9. Defendants also state that Manganaro never exercised its authority to discipline Arenivar for safety violations. Second Douglas Decl. ¶ 12; Reedy Decl. ¶ 10. Finally, Defendants note that Arenivar's discussion with a Clark Construction employee about her termination occurred after she was terminated. Removal Not. ¶ 27.

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Removal on the Basis of Diversity Jurisdiction

         “A civil action filed in state court may only be removed to a United States district court if the case could originally have been brought in federal court.” Nat'l Consumers League v. Flowers Bakeries, LLC, 36 F.Supp.3d 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)). “A federal court has diversity jurisdiction when (1) there is complete diversity of citizenship among the parties (that is, no plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any defendant) and (2) the ‘amount in controversy' is greater than $75, 000.” Witte v. Gen. Nutrition Corp., 104 F.Supp.3d 1, 4 (D.D.C. 2015) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)). “Where the district court's jurisdiction is dependent solely on the basis of diversity of citizenship between the parties, there must be ‘complete diversity,' meaning that no plaintiff may have the same citizenship as any defendant.” Busby v. Capital One, N.A., 932 F.Supp.2d 114, 130 (D.D.C. 2013) (citing Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373-74 (1978)).

         “Limited liability companies . . . carry the citizenship of each of their members.” Simon v. Hofgard, 172 F.Supp.3d 308, 314-15 (D.D.C. 2016). “The citizenship of the members of an LLC is traced all the way through-that is, when a member of an LLC is itself an LLC, the citizenship of the members of that LLC are relevant for diversity purposes, and so on.” Jakks Pac., Inc. v. Accasvek, LLC, 270 F.Supp.3d 191, 195 (D.D.C. 2017). An American citizen has citizenship in a state for diversity purposes if he is “domiciled within the state.” Newman-Green, Inc. v. Alfonzo-Larrain, 490 U.S. 826, 828 (1989). One indication of domiciliary status is a person's current residence. United States v. Williams, 825 F.Supp.2d 117, 124 (D.D.C. 2011).

         When a plaintiff files a motion to remand, “the removing defendant bears the burden of proving that removal was proper . . . .” Simon, 172 F.Supp.3d at 315. Parties may submit evidence outside the pleadings, including affidavits, in support of their position. Walter E. Campbell Co. v. Hartford Fin. Servs. Grp., Inc., 48 F.Supp.3d 53, 55 (D.D.C. 2014). “Courts in this circuit have construed removal jurisdiction strictly, favoring remand where the propriety of removal is unclear.” Ballard v. District of Columbia, 813 F.Supp.2d 34, 38 (D.D.C. 2011). “When it appears that a district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a case that has been removed ...


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