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FUGARINO v. UNIVERSITY SERVICES

December 7, 2000

JOAN FUGARINO, PLAINTIFF,
V.
UNIVERSITY SERVICES, PAUL LIFSCHUTZ, AND MICHAEL MISERO, DEFENDANTS.



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

  MEMORANDUM

This is an employment discrimination case brought by Plaintiff Joan Fugarino ("Plaintiff") against Defendants University Services, Paul Lifschutz ("Lifschutz"), and Michael Misero ("Misero") (collectively "Defendants"). In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unlawfully discriminated and retaliated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951, et seq. ("the PHRA"). In addition to the Title VII and PHRA claims, Plaintiff also alleges an intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") claim against Defendants. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons below, we will grant Defendants' Motion in part and deny it in part.

BACKGROUND

Accepting all of Plaintiff's allegations as true, the relevant facts are as follows. In December 1998, Plaintiff began working for University Services as a Polysomnigraphic Technologist at its North Penn Sleep Disorder Center ("North Penn Center"). During Plaintiff's employment with University Services, Lifschutz was her immediate supervisor, and Misero was the manager of the entire North Penn Center. In March 1999, Lifschutz asked Plaintiff out on a date. Plaintiff refused. Thereafter, Lifschutz began to harass Plaintiff by constantly criticizing her work, publicly reprimanding her, searching her desk, and speaking badly of her to co-workers. In addition, Lifschutz made one "obscene" phone call to Plaintiff while she was at work.

In response to this harassment, Plaintiff complained to Misero on five different occasions over the next several months. Despite these complaints, Misero took no action to address the situation. Ultimately, Misero discharged Plaintiff on June 30, 1999 for unstated reasons. On August 24, 1999, Plaintiff dual-filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"). On March 27, 2000, Plaintiff received her right to sue notice, after which she commenced this lawsuit in June 2000.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must "accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom." Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000) (internal quotations omitted). A motion to dismiss may only be granted where the allegations fail to state any claim upon which relief can be granted. See Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Dismissal is warranted "if it is certain that no relief can be granted under any set of facts which could be proved." Klein v. General Nutrition Cos., Inc., 186 F.3d 338, 342 (3d Cir. 1999) (internal quotations omitted).

II. Individual Liability under Title VII

First, Defendants move to dismiss the federal discrimination claims against Lifschutz and Misero on grounds that individual employees cannot be held liable under Title VII. Plaintiff does not attempt to refute this statement of law, nor could she. It is well-established that individual employees are not liable under Title VII. Kachmar v. SunGard Data Sys., Inc., 109 F.3d 173, 183-84 (3d Cir. 1997); Sheridan v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 100 F.3d 1061, 1077 (3d Cir. 1996); Heap v. ICM America, LLC, No. CIV.A. 99-4278, 2000 WL 1022955, at *2 (E.D.Pa. July 17, 2000). Accordingly, we will grant Defendants' Motion with respect to Title VII claims against Lifschutz and Misero.

III. Retaliation Claims: Failure to Exhaust

Second, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to the retaliation claim. In particular, Defendants note that Plaintiff's EEOC charge of discrimination indicates that her cause of discrimination was "sex" and that the "retaliation" box was not checked. Defendants also note that the narrative in the EEOC charge does not specifically refer to retaliation. We find Defendants' reading of the administrative charge of discrimination too narrow.*fn1

In general, an employee must exhaust all applicable administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC before he may file suit under Title VII. See Waiters v. Parsons, 729 F.2d 233, 237 (3d Cir. 1984). It follows that the scope of the later civil complaint is "limited by the charge filed with the EEOC and the investigation which can reasonably be expected to grow out of that charge." Reddinger v. Hosp. Cent. Servs., Inc., 4 F. Supp.2d 405, 409 (E.D.Pa. 1998); see also Antol v. Perry, 82 F.3d 1291, 1295 (3d Cir. 1996); Bailey v. Storlazzi, 729 A.2d 1206, 1215-16 (Pa.Super. 1999). The EEOC charge is not, however, a "blueprint" for the subsequent litigation. Reddinger, 4 F. Supp.2d at 409. Rather, the exhaustion test is "whether the acts alleged in the subsequent Title VII suit are fairly within the scope of the prior EEOC complaint, or the investigation arising therefrom." Antol, 82 F.3d at 1295 (quoting Waiters, 729 F.2d at 237).

Although Defendants are correct that Plaintiff's EEOC charge does not specifically refer to retaliation, we find that a retaliation claim could "reasonably be expected to grow out of" Plaintiff's charge. Plaintiff alleged in her EEOC charge that Misero failed address any of her complaints about being sexually harassed and later fired her without explanation. (Def. Mot. at Ex. B). Plaintiff also generally stated that she believed she was discriminated against in violation of Title VII. (Id.). Finally, Plaintiff alleges in her Complaint that she filed a charge of "discrimination and retaliation" with the EEOC and received a right to sue notice pursuant to that filing. (Compl. at ¶¶ 3-4). Taking all of Plaintiff's allegations as true, we conclude that Plaintiff has sufficiently demonstrated exhaustion of her administrative remedies to withstand the present motion. See, e.g., Fosburg v. Lehigh Univ., No. CIV.A. 98-864, 1999 WL 124458, at *5 (E.D.Pa. Mar.4, 1999) (finding acts alleged within scope of EEOC charge and ...


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