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Craig Frazier v. Exide Technologies

February 10, 2012


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

Memorandum Opinion

Plaintiff, Craig Frazier, an African-American male, alleges that while he was employed by Defendant, Exide Technologies ("Exide"), his supervisors subjected him to discriminatory treatment and then retaliated against him when he complained about that treatment. After filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and receiving a right to sue letter, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court, seeking relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and state tort law.

Presently before the Court is Defendant's "Motion to Dismiss (In Part)." For reasons set forth below, this motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Factual Background

Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the complaint essentially alleges that Plaintiff's supervisors harassed him with racial insults and subjected him to discriminatory treatment. Plaintiff claims that, among other incidents, a supervisor told him to "pick up the pace nigger," and made comments to other workers such as "I'm not gonna let that nigger have this job" and "I ain't letting that nigger pass his evaluation." Plaintiff also claims he was assigned to heavier and more difficult lifting in an attempt to keep him from meeting his quotas, which he met anyway. Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that his supervisors failed to provide the computer training that his white counterparts received, and thus he was forced to learn from his co-workers. (Compl. ¶¶ 16, 20(a)-(d), 21(a).)

The complaint further explains that because of this discriminatory treatment, Plaintiff made several complaints to Exide's Human Resources Department ("Human Resources"). Instead of making the situation better, however, Plaintiff alleges that "the behavior continued and became worse." On October 18, 2007, after a supervisor allegedly called him a "nigger," Plaintiff left his employment. Upon calling Human Resources, Plaintiff was told that he had been terminated. (Compl. ¶¶ 22-25.)

II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss, the court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded factual allegations, construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and "then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) (reaffirming Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)); Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). The court may only look to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments when deciding a motion to dismiss. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).

III. Discussion

A. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies for Certain Title VII Claims

Defendant first argues that Plaintiff's national origin discrimination and retaliation claims should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Def.'s Br. 6-8.) Before a plaintiff may file a Title VII claim in federal court, he must file a complaint with the EEOC, and then wait as the EEOC attempts to mediate the dispute without litigation. Waiters v. Parsons, 729 F.2d 233, 237 (3d Cir. 1984). Here, the Defendant concedes that Plaintiff properly complained to the EEOC about his claim of racial discrimination. The only question is whether that complaint also encompassed the claims of national origin discrimination and retaliation.

The relevant inquiry in determining whether claims have been administratively exhausted is "whether the acts alleged in the subsequent Title VII suit are fairly within the scope of the prior EEOC complaint, or the investigation arising therefrom." Antol v. Perry, 82 F.3d 1291, 1295 (3d Cir. 1996) (quoting Waiters, 729 F.2d at 237). Put another way, "a district court may assume jurisdiction over additional charges if they are reasonably within the scope of the complainant's original charges and if a reasonable investigation by the EEOC would have encompassed the new claims." Howze v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 750 F.2d 1208, 1212 (3d Cir. 1984); Webb v. City of Phila., 2007 WL 210405, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 23, 2007).

As to the national origin discrimination claim, Defendant explains that Plaintiff did not check the box for "National Origin" discrimination in his EEOC complaint, but merely typed in the word "BLACK." Defendant also points out that, in its "Notice of Charge of Discrimination," the EEOC only checked the box for "Race," even though a box for national origin was also available.Thus, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to his national origin claim. (Def.'s Br. 7, Exs. A, B.)Plaintiff counters that his use of the word "black" both denotes race, and African-American national origin. Accordingly, Plaintiff urges that he has satisfied the exhaustion requirement. (Pl.'s Br. 9.)

I find that Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies because the law does not require the rigid analysis Defendant advocates. The EEOC was aware that Plaintiff was African-American, and knew about the racially discriminatory acts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint, including his supervisors' use of the "N'" word. (See Def.'s Br. Ex. A.) Although Plaintiff's national origin allegations are thin, and require several inferences, I must view these allegations in a light favorable to the Plaintiff. I thus conclude that the ...

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