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Funayama v. Nichia America Corp.

May 20, 2009

TOMOKO FUNAYAMA, PLAINTIFF
v.
NICHIA AMERICA CORP., ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.

MEMORANDUM

This is an employment discrimination case. Tomoko Funayama alleges that Nichia America Corporation (Nichia), her former employer, and Mr. Shigeo Kuboniwa, Ms. Funayama's supervisor and President of Nichia's offices in Mountville, Pennsylvania, subjected her to race, national origin, age, and gender discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981,*fn1 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,*fn2 the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA),*fn3 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).*fn4 The complaint alleges the defendants also discriminated against her in retaliation for filing a complaint of discrimination*fn5 with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The defendants have filed a partial motion to dismiss (Document #6). For the following reasons, I will grant it in part and deny it in part.

I. Background

Ms. Tomoko Funayama is a woman of Japanese descent and is over forty years old. (Am. Compl. (Document #5) ¶ 10.) She was hired by Nichia on April 3, 1995, to work in its offices in Mountville, Pennsylvania, as a Business Coordinator/Accountant. (Id. ¶ 8.) She was promoted to Assistant Financial Manager in January 1998 and to Financial Manager in January 2004. (Id. ¶ 9.)

The complaint recounts numerous incidents of discriminatory treatment during her time at Nichia:

* Defendant Kuboniwa is alleged to have grabbed Ms. Funayama's breasts on several occasions and forced a kiss on her. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 24.) At least twice, he gave her graphic, sexually explicit literature to read (id. ¶¶ 20, 26), and he regularly asked her to come over to his apartment (id. ¶ 22).

* When traveling on business in 2001, Kuboniwa suggested they share a hotel room even though separate rooms had already been reserved. (Id. ¶ 19.)

* In 2003, Funayama was once ordered to bring pain medication to Kuboniwa's home, and he received her while dressed in only his undergarments. (Id. ¶ 21.)

* When a Nichia executive vice president came to visit the U.S. on a business trip in 2003, Kuboniwa scheduled a business dinner to be held at a local "Hooters" over Funayama's objections. (Id. ¶ 23). Funayama attended for the opportunity to network with the various Nichia managers, but felt uncomfortable as they commented on the waitresses' bodies in Japanese. (Id.)

* In June 2006, referring to Funayama's husband (who is of Caucasian descent), Kuboniwa allegedly said he found it "hideous that [she] was becoming Americanized." (Id. ¶¶ 14--15.) Funayama believes "Kuboniwa would not have made this remark if [her husband] was Japanese." (Id. ¶ 16.)

* In November 2007, Funayama submitted an Employee Self-Assessment evaluation on which she stated that one of her accomplishments was improving the balance between her work and personal life. (Id. ¶ 29.) Mr. Takanori Ujike, General Manager of Finance and Accounting in Nichia's Mountville office and Funayama's direct supervisor, told her "it was an inappropriate remark or accomplishment." (Id.)

* On November 17, 2007, Kuboniwa berated Funayama in a "violent and aggressive manner" for including children in Nichia's holiday event, and allegedly blamed her "because she was a woman and had just had a child." (Id. ¶ 27.) Funayama believes that a male would not have been treated in this manner. (Id.) Mr. Ujike refused to do anything about the incident because "it was a personal matter." (Id.)

* On May 8, 2008, Kuboniwa allegedly told Funayama her body was "nice and slim yet not too skinny" and that he "[did] not feel a woman was sexy unless the woman's body was like hers." (Id. ¶ 39.)

The complaint contains allegations of discriminatory treatment in connection with Nichia's decision to transfer its Mountville offices ...


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