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James Mayo v. Mercy Philadelphia Hospital

March 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Timothy R. Rice United States Magistrate Judge


Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendant Mercy Philadelphia Hospital ("Mercy") seeks to dismiss Plaintiff James Mayo's ("Mayo") race- and age-based hostile work environment claims.*fn1 For the following reasons, Mercy's motion is GRANTED. Mayo's age- and race-based disparate treatment claims remain.


Mercy fired Mayo on August 15, 2008. Mayo filed a Pennsylvania Commission on Human Relations ("PCHR") complaint on June 11, 2009, exactly 300 days after his termination. Mayo filed this complaint on November 15, 2010 against Mercy. He alleges Mercy: (1) discriminated against him on the basis of his race and age; (2) created a hostile work environment; and (3) violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") by engaging in a pattern and practice of terminating employees over age 40 and replacing them with younger employees. See Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Mayo v. Mercy Phila. Hosp., No. 10- CV-5261 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 15, 2010) [hereinafter Plaintiff's Amended Complaint].


To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a 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) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). I may dismiss a complaint "only if it is certain that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Brown v. Card Serv. Ctr., 464 F.3d 450, 456 (3d Cir. 2006). I need not, however, credit a plaintiff's "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (discussing the difference between factual and legal conclusions).


A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

A plaintiff must exhaust administrative remedies before bringing suit under Title VII. Antol v. Perry, 82 F.3d 1291, 1295-96 (3d Cir. 1996); Waiters v. Parsons, 729 F.2d 233, 237 (3d Cir. 1984). Administrative exhaustion occurs when the claims raised in the formal complaint are "fairly within the scope*fn2 of the prior [administrative charge], or the investigations arising therefrom." Antol, 82 F.3d at 1295.

Mercy argues Mayo failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for his race- and age-based hostile work environment claims because "[t]he PCHR Complaint's plain vanilla discrimination and retaliation allegations would not place anyone on notice of a hostile work environment claim." Mercy's Motion to Dismiss (in part) the Amended Complaint at 7, Mayo v. Mercy Phila. Hosp., No. 10-CV-5261 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 14, 2010) [hereinafter Mercy's Mtn. to Dismiss]. I agree.

Mayo's administrative charge alleges he was denied full-time employment, and he discussed with his co-worker his plan to file a charge of discrimination soon after the denial. Id. at Ex. A, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations Complaint. He then began to receive a series of emails criticizing small mistakes in his work that subsequently served as the basis of his dismissal. Id. These facts failed to give the PCHR notice of a hostile work environment claim because the facts do not indicate the discrimination was "severe or pervasive." Antol, 82 F.3d at 1295; see Andrews v. City of Phila., 895 F.2d 1469 (3d Cir. 1990); discussion infra at III(B). Therefore, Mayo failed to administratively exhaust his race- and age-based hostile work environment claims.

B. Hostile Work Environment

Mercy also claims Mayo's hostile work environment claim should be dismissed because his complaint fails to allege "severe or pervasive" conduct. Mercy's Mtn. to Dismiss at 8. A hostile work environment exists when unwelcome racist or ageist conduct unreasonably interferes with a person's performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. See Weston v. Pennsylvania, 251 F.3d 420, 425-26 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Meritor Sav. Bank FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 65-67 (1986)). To establish a prima facie hostile work environment case against Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, Mayo must prove: (1) he suffered intentional discrimination because of his membership in a protected class; (2) the discrimination was severe or pervasive;*fn3 (3) he was detrimentally affected by the discrimination; (4) the discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person in his position; and (5) respondeat superior liability exists. Andrews, 895 F.2d at 1482; Cardenas v. Massey, 269 F.3d 251, 260 (3d Cir. 2001); accord Weston, 251 F.3d at 426.

"[T]he harassment must be so severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of employment and creates an abusive environment." Weston, 251 F.3d at 426 (citing Meritor, 477 U.S. at 67). Courts consider the following factors to determine whether an environment is hostile or abusive: "the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance." Weston, 251 F.3d at 426 (quoting Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 23 (1993)). The record must be evaluated as a whole. Cardenas, 269 F.3d at 261 (citing Durham Life Ins. Co. v. Evans, 166 F.3d 139, 149 (3d Cir. 1999)). "[S]imple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to discriminatory ...

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