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GRUVER v. EZON PRODUCTS

March 22, 1991

KAREN L. GRUVER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EZON PRODUCTS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rambo, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) counts III and IV of plaintiff's complaint. The issues raised have been fully briefed, and the matter is ripe for consideration.

Background

Plaintiff Karen L. Gruver had been a warehouse worker employed by defendant Ezon Products. In her complaint, the allegations of which must be taken as true for the purpose of this motion, plaintiff states that during the course of her employment with Ezon she was subjected to various forms of sexual harassment by her supervisor, which, though reported to the company, went unpunished. Gruver alleges that this conduct led to an intolerable work environment, resulting in her constructive discharge in April 1989.

In November 1990 Gruver brought suit against her former employer, alleging that the company's conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (hereinafter Title VII), and three pendent state law claims. Count II of the complaint, the first of the state law claims, posits that plaintiff's rights under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa.Stat.Ann. §§ 951-963 (Purdon 1964) (hereinafter "PHRA") were violated by the company's conduct. In Count III, plaintiff argues that defendant, by allowing the harassment to go unpunished, breached a provision of an employment contract established by an employee handbook. Count IV lists a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Defendant brought this motion to dismiss the latter two claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Discussion

I. Breach of Employment Contract Claim

In her complaint, plaintiff appears to be asserting that an employee handbook circulated by defendant established an employment contract with her. She does not appear to claim that she was entitled to be discharged without just cause under the contract, but rather that the company had breached one of the contract's terms to plaintiff's detriment. The term in question, excerpted from the handbook, reads:

E. SEXUAL HARASSMENT

  It is the policy of Ezon Products Company to
  provide a work environment free of sexual
  harassment. Sexual harassment is defined as
  "unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual
  favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a
  sexual nature" between any Ezon employees and
  extends to those with whom we conduct business,
  including outside vendors and customers.
  Also, all management employees are strongly
  advised to avoid any social relationships with
  employees over whom they have supervisory control.

Sexual harassment will result in ...


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