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Slade v. Hershey Co.

December 8, 2009

TRACIE SLADE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HERSHEY COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM

Pending before the Court is Defendant Hershey Company's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), for plaintiff's failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. No. 7.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

On July 26, 1982, Plaintiff Tracie Slade was hired by Defendant Hershey Company as a production employee. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 6.) Beginning in April 2006 through the date of her leave due to disability on February 21, 2008, Plaintiff asserts that she was subjected to a hostile work environment because of her race. (Id. ¶ 7.) This hostile work environment was created by Defendant's management, who subjected Plaintiff to false accusations that she intimidated her co-workers and that she caused personnel and production problems on the production line. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9.) According to Plaintiff, the harassment peaked on August 9, 2007, when she was falsely accused of inappropriate conduct and suspended for one day. (Id. ¶ 11.)

That same day, on August 9, 2007, Plaintiff had an allergic reaction to peanuts and informed her supervisor. (Id. ¶ 19). Plaintiff's duties involved contact with peanuts. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff continued to work around peanuts but used preventive measures such as carrying an EpiPen and pills in the event of an allergic reaction. (Id. ¶ 20). Plaintiff asserts that she was put on a mandatory leave of absence on February 21, 2008. (Id. ¶ 21.) In early April 2008, Plaintiff was told by Defendant's management that she could return to work on April 28, 2008, if she wore a face mask. (Id. ¶ 22.) Prior to the scheduled return date, however, Defendant requested that Plaintiff provide a second medical opinion regarding her allergy. (Id. ¶ 23.) Upon obtaining the second medical opinion confirming her allergy on May 1, 2008, Plaintiff was no longer permitted to return to work. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.)

On March 24, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant alleging violations of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.; the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.; and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. C.S. § 951, et seq. (Doc. No. 1.) On June 5, 2009, Defendant filed its motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 7.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In analyzing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), "courts 'accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). The plaintiff still must provide more than a formulaic recitation of a claim's elements that amounts to mere labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Additionally, the complaint's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. "This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

The Third Circuit has outlined the analysis a district court should undergo in determining whether the pleading standard has been met:

[W]hen presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts should conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff has brought claims under Title VII, the ADA, and the PHRA. Defendant has not challenged the PHRA claims in its motion to dismiss; therefore, the Court will not address these claims in its memorandum. The ...


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