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Babich v. Management and Technical Resources

March 9, 2007

MARY ANNA BABICH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MANAGEMENT AND TECHNICAL RESOURCES, INC., A CORPORATION, ANDREW CONTREAL, INDIVIDUALLY, WILLIAM ZELI, INDIVIDUALLY, AND GORDON O'TOOLE, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

SYNOPSIS

Plaintiff filed retaliation claims under Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") as well as a claim for wrongful termination against her former employers, contending that they terminated her employment after she complained of sexual harassment by a customer. The Defendants seek the dismissal of all claims for myriad reasons. I agree that the Title VII claim must be dismissed as against the individual defendants, but conclude that Plaintiff has satisfied the pleading requirements with respect to the exhaustion of administrative remedies. I also find that whether the employer has fifteen or fewer employees, and is thus subject to liability under Title VII, is a matter to be resolved after discovery. The PHRA claim will go forward against only the employer but the demand for punitive damages is inappropriate. Finally, the claim for wrongful termination is untimely because it is barred by the statute of limitations.

OPINION

Plaintiff Mary Ann Babich ("Babich") was a 31% shareholder, officer, employee and director of Defendant Management and Technical Resources, Inc. ("MTR"), an environmental consulting firm. She contends that a consultant retained by one of MTR's customers with whom she worked repeatedly made unwanted and offensive sexual comments to her. She informed Defendants Andrew Contrael and Gordon O'Toole of MTR of the offensive comments and claims that her opportunities at work were thereafter negatively affected. She was asked to voluntarily resign from her position with MTR, which she refused, and on May 7, 2004, Babich was advised by her attorney that she was being terminated as a shareholder, director and officer of MTR. See Complaint, ¶ 58.

Thereafter she filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging that, while working with the customer, she had been subject to both quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Id., ¶ 55. The EEOC ultimately dismissed the complaint on September 29, 2004 because of a lack of an employee/employer relationship. Id., ¶ 56. Babich then commenced this suit asserting claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the PHRA, 43 P.S. § 951, as well as a claim for wrongful termination. Essentially, Babich contends that she was discharged in retaliation for having complained of sexual harassment. She names as Defendants MTR, Contrael, O'Toole and William Zeli.*fn1

The Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. See Docket No. 4. With respect to the Title VII claim which is the basis for this Court's exercise of jurisdiction, the Defendants urge that Babich has not adequately plead exhaustion of administrative remedies; that she cannot impose liability upon the Individual Defendants; and that relief under Title VII is unavailable because MTR does not have at least fifteen employees. With respect to the PHRA claim, the Defendants again raise an exhaustion argument and ask as well that the demand for punitive damages be stricken as the PHRA does not permit the imposition of punitive damages. Finally, with respect to the claim for wrongful termination, the Defendants urge that the claim is preempted by the PHRA and that it is untimely and that the facts alleged do not support the imposition of punitive damages.

For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

Standard of Review

In deciding a Motion to Dismiss, all factual allegations, and all reasonable inferences therefrom, must be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 666 (3d Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1065 (1988). I may dismiss a complaint only if it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims which would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45 (1957). In ruling on a motion for failure to state a claim, I must look to "whether sufficient facts are pleaded to determine that the complaint is not frivolous, and to provide the defendants with adequate notice to frame an answer." Colburn, 838 F.2d at 666.

While a court will accept well-pleaded allegations as true for the purposes of the motion, it will not accept legal or unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. See Miree v. DeKalb County, Ga., 433 U.S. 25, 27 n.2 (1977). Moreover, the plaintiff must set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claims or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(2)(a) and Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46. Matters outside the pleadings should not be considered. This includes "any written or oral evidence in support of or opposition to the pleadings that provides some substantiation for and does not merely reiterate what is said in the pleadings." Charles A. Wright and Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 1366 (West 1990).

ANALYSIS

I. Count I - Title VII

The Defendants urge that Babich has not adequately plead exhaustion of administrative remedies. Significantly, the Defendants do not argue that Babich did not actually engage in the administrative process. Indeed, the Defendants concede that "Babich did institute an EEOC proceeding against MTR... ." See Docket No. 5, p. 4 n. 2. As such, I find this argument to be specious. Babich states that she has satisfied all jurisdictional prerequisites, she references that section of Title VII which requires her to engage in the ...


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