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Distajo v. PNC Bank

October 27, 2009


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


Plaintiff Gregorio Distajo commenced this employment discrimination action against Defendant PNC Bank, N.A. ("PNC") after PNC terminated him from a job at one of its branches. PNC has filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) and 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, we grant PNC's Motion.


The Complaint and its attachments set forth the following facts.*fn1 Defendant PNC Bank employed Plaintiff, an individual of Filipino descent, for eight years, from 1996 until his termination on August 18, 2004. (Complaint ¶ 9; Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Complaint ("PHRC Compl."), attached as Ex. B to Complaint, ¶¶ 4, 7, 9.) Plaintiff began his employment with PNC as a Reconcilement Clerk, but was promoted in 1999 to the position of Teller Superviser. (PHRC Compl. ¶¶ 4-5.)

In 2004, prior to Plaintiff's August 2004 termination, several night deposit bags went missing at PNC. (Plaintiff's Narrative of Relevant Facts (Pl.'s Narr.), attached as Ex. H to Compl., at 1; see generally Compl. ¶¶ 7-8, 11.) Although the night bags were subsequently recovered, gift checks were missing from the bags, and PNC initiated an investigation. (See Compl. ¶¶ 5, 7, 11.) One of the tellers that Plaintiff supervised admitted to having stolen the gift checks. (Compl. ¶ 7.) She and her brother (who also worked at PNC) told PNC investigators that Plaintiff had not followed the proper policies and procedures in handling the night deposit bags. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) An investigator therefore questioned Plaintiff, who admitted to having placed the night bags in an unlocked vault, which violated established policies and procedures that required the bags to be kept in a secured area until processed. (Id. ¶ 5; Pl.'s Narr. at 1). Plaintiff attempted to explain to the investigator that he had been short-handed that night, but the investigator "abruptly interrupted" him, and began "raising her voice and yelling at" him. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff also alleges that the investigator grew increasingly frustrated with his accent. (Pl.'s Narr. at 1-2.) Plaintiff was subsequently terminated from employment at PNC. (PHRC Compl. ¶ 9.) PNC's stated reason for Plaintiff's termination was his "dishonesty" in connection with its investigation. (PHRC Compl. ¶ 10.) The teller who admitted to stealing the gift checks, an Iranian, was also terminated. (PHRC Compl. ¶ 15; Compl. ¶ 7.)

On January 19, 2005, prior to bringing the instant action, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), in which he alleged that PNC had violated § 5(a) of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §§ 951-963, by terminating him on account of his Filipino ancestry. The PHRC investigated his complaint, but found insufficient evidence on which to conclude that an act of discrimination had occurred. (See 11/16/07 Ltr. to Pl. from PHRC, attached as Ex. B to Compl.) Plaintiff filed objections to the PHRC's factual findings but, on review, the PHRC again concluded that there was insufficient evidence of unlawful discrimination. (See 2/6/08 Ltr. to Pl. from PHRC, attached as Ex. D to Compl.) It therefore dismissed Plaintiff's complaint. (3/13/08 Ltr to Pl. from PHRC, attached as Ex. D to Compl.) On February 2, 2009, the EEOC informed Plaintiff that it was adopting the findings of the PHRC, and it advised Plaintiff of his rights to institute an action in the federal District Court. (2/2/09 EEOC letter, attached as Ex. 1 to Compl.)

On April 28, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas in Bucks County. Shortly thereafter, PNC removed the case to this Court. In Count I of the Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that PNC discriminated against him on the basis of his national origin, in violation of his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2, et seq. In Count II of the Complaint, Plaintiff asserts a claim under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act ("WCA"), apparently arising out of distress and injuries he suffered as a result of being held at gunpoint during two armed robberies at PNC. (See Compl. ¶ 15.) However, in his brief in opposition to PNC's Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff asserts that labeling this claim as a WCA claim was a mistake, and that he intended to assert a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131-12134.


When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), we look primarily at the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). We take the factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). Legal conclusions, however, receive no deference, and the court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (cited with approval in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

A plaintiff's pleading obligation is to set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), which gives the defendant "'fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). The "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' " Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In the end, we will grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion if the factual allegations in the complaint are not sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, at 235-36 (3d ed. 2004)).


PNC moves to dismiss both Counts of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) and 12(b)(6).*fn2 For the following reasons, we grant PNC's Motion.

A. Count I

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. In order to state a claim for discriminatory discharge under Title VII, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he is qualified for the position from which he was terminated; (3) he was fired from the employment position; and (4) he was removed under circumstances that give rise to a inference he was fired because of his membership in a protected class. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973); Waldron v. SL Indus., Inc., 56 F.3d 491, 494 (3d Cir. 1995)(citing Tex. Dep't of Cmty Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981)); Omogbehin v. Dimensions Intern., Inc., Civ. A. No. 08-3939, 2009 WL 2222927, at *4 (D.N.J. July 22, 2009). Factual allegations that can give rise to a reasonable inference of discrimination include that similarly ...

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