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Lakesia Trent v. Test America

August 16, 2011

LAKESIA TRENT,
v.
TEST AMERICA, INC., ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Lakesia Trent has sued defendants Test America, Inc. and Aerotek Scientific, LLC alleging race discrimination and retaliation and seeking redress under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 951, et seq. Aerotek moves to dismiss counts I and II of plaintiff's amended complaint as against it. For the reasons that follow, I will grant defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an African-American female, alleges that she was "hired by the Defendants" in October 2007 as a Gas Chromatography Analyst. Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 22-23. Her amended complaint does not specify which defendant hired her but alleges that "the Defendants jointly employed the Plaintiff." Id. at ¶ 10. Answering plaintiff's amended complaint, Test alleges that plaintiff was employed by Aerotek, not by Test, and that plaintiff worked at Test as a temporary employee. Test Answer at ¶¶ 23-24. Aerotek supplies temporary staffing services on a contract basis to clients and, in its motion to dismiss, confirms that plaintiff is its former employee and that she worked as a lab technician for its client, Test. Aerotek Mot. Mem. at 1 & 1 n.1. In June 2008, plaintiff filed a charge of race discrimination against Test with the Equal Employment

Opportunity Commission. Pl.'s Am. Compl. at ¶ 19(a). On August 27, 2008, plaintiff was terminated. Id. at ¶ 35. Test claimed that plaintiff was terminated due to a slowdown in its workload. Id. Plaintiff claims that she was terminated and "replaced" by a white employee in retaliation for her June 2008 EEOC filing. Id. at ¶¶ 34-36. She filed a second EEOC charge against Test alleging retaliation on April 9, 2009.*fn1 Aerotek Reply to Pl.'s Opp'n at 4. On October 15, 2009, plaintiff dual-filed a third charge with the EEOC and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, this time alleging that Aerotek had discriminated against her. Id. On December 23, 2009, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter with respect to plaintiff's August 27, 2008 and April 9, 2009 charges against Test. Am. Compl. at ¶ 19c. On March 24, 2010, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this action, naming Test as the only defendant. The PHRC issued a right to sue letter with respect to plaintiff's October 15, 2009 charge against Aerotek on or around July 9, 2010. Aerotek Mot. Mem. at 2. On August 2, 2010, plaintiff filed an amended complaint in which she named both Test and Aerotek as defendants. However, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint makes no reference to her October 15, 2009 charge against Aerotek.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a Court to dismiss all or part of an action for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Typically, "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations," though plaintiff's obligation to state the grounds of entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. (citations omitted). The complaint must state "'enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch.Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008), quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The Court of Appeals has recently made clear that after Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1955, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009), "conclusory or 'bare-bones' allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: 'threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.' To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out 'sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. The Court also set forth a two part-analysis for reviewing motions to dismiss in light of Twombly and Iqbal: "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.'" Id. at 210-11, quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950 . The Court explained, "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to 'show' such an entitlement with its facts." Id., citing Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008) . "Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged--but it has not 'show[n]'--'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.

DISCUSSION

Aerotek moves to dismiss plaintiff's Title VII claims against it, asserting that plaintiff's amended complaint, which references only her June 2008 and April 2009 EEOC filings, does not sufficiently allege that she exhausted her administrative remedies with respect to her claims against Aerotek. Aerotek Mot. Mem. at 4. Plaintiff counters that the claims against Aerotek set forth in counts I and II of her amended complaint do not rest on her filing of an EEOC charge against Aerotek but are instead premised on a commonality of interests between Aerotek and Test. Pl.'s Opp'n at 1.

Title VII claims ordinarily require administrative exhaustion before judicial remedies can be invoked. Webb v. Bd. of Educ. Of Dyer Cnty., Tenn., 471 U.S. 234, 247-248 (1985). "'[N]o one is entitled to judicial relief for a supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed administrative remedy has been exhausted.'" McKart v. U.S., 395 U.S. 185, 193 (1969), quoting Myers v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., 303 U.S. 41, 50-51 (1938); see also Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Pathmark, Inc., No. 97-3994, 1998 WL 57520, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 12, 1998), citing Hicks v. Arthur, 843 F. Supp. 949, 956 (E.D. Pa. 1994) ("The federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear Title VII claims unless the claims have been previously filed with the EEOC . . . ."); Diamente v. Wallenstein, No. 89-9014, 1990 WL 139399, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 19, 1990) ("Section 2000e-5(f)(1) of Title 42 requires that a plaintiff exhaust her administrative remedies with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission . . . before bringing a Title VII claim in this court."). "The purpose of requiring an aggrieved party to resort first to the EEOC is twofold: to give notice to the charged party and provide an avenue for voluntary compliance without resort to litigation." Glus v. G. C. Murphy Co., 562 F.2d 880, 888 (3d Cir. 1997)

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit established a narrow exception to the administrative exhaustion requirement in Glus v. G. C. Murphy Co., 629 F.2d 248, 251 (3d Cir. 1981), vacated on other grounds, 451 U.S. 935 (1981), finding that Title VII claims against a party not named in an EEOC charge could proceed where the complaint before the EEOC had named a party whose interests were the same as those of the unnamed party, the named and unnamed parties shared the same attorney, and the unnamed party had received notice of the claim. Id. In reaching its conclusion, the Court enumerated four factors relevant to a determination as to whether a plaintiff may bring suit against a party who has not been named in an EEOC charge:

1) whether the role of the unnamed party could through reasonable effort by the complainant be ascertained at the time of the filing of the EEOC complaint;

2) whether, under the circumstances, the interests of a named are so similar as the unnamed party's that for the purpose of obtaining voluntary conciliation and compliance it would be unnecessary to ...


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