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Deborah Ann Nardella v. Philadelphia Gas Works

April 3, 2012


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


Presently before the Court is Defendant Philadelphia Gas Works' Partial Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint.*fn1 (Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 14.) For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.


The facts, as presented here, are taken from pro se Plaintiff Deborah Ann Nardella's Amended Complaint, which is twenty-five pages long and contains 219 numbered paragraphs.*fn2

(Am. Compl., ECF No. 12.) Plaintiff was hired by Defendant Philadelphia Gas Works ("PGW") on April 7, 2003 to work as a secretary for the Director of Labor. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff worked for the Director of Labor, Thomas Murphy, a white male, and following his retirement, she was employed as a secretary for his successor, Defendant Steven Jordon, a black male.*fn3 (Id.; Compl. 2, ECF No. 1.) On June 26, 2008, Plaintiff was advised that she had been terminated in a letter from Defendant Gary Gioioso. The reason given for the termination was "poor work performance and significant errors." (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 200, 203; Compl. 2.) Plaintiff alleges that following her termination, her health insurance coverage was terminated while she was undergoing treatment for a fractured back. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 207-08.) Plaintiff claims that she did not receive severance pay. (Id. at ¶ 209.)

Plaintiff alleges that her performance at work was consistently underappreciated, and her contributions to PGW were underutilized, because she was a white female. Plaintiff offers several examples. She claims that her supervisors edited her work, "changing things which did not need changing to make her feel incompetent because she was a female." (Id. at ¶¶ 98, 160.) Plaintiff accuses PGW supervisors*fn4 of "repeatedly referenc[ing] a typo from two years prior." (Id. at ¶ 106.)

Plaintiff claims that employee Defendants changed the contents and the order of binders that she had prepared. (Id. at ¶¶ 123, 151-54.) She alleges that in May or June of 2008, her supervisor asked her to "reorganize all of the file cabinets and place the documents in binders by headings." (Id. at ¶ 151.) Plaintiff did so, leaving work for the day at 4:00 p.m. (Id. at ¶ 152.) When Plaintiff reported for work the next morning, the Director of Labor noted that a "document was out of order." (Id. at ¶ 153.) This happened repeatedly, and Plaintiff stated that "she felt someone changed the order of the documents after she left for the day." (Id. at ¶ 154.) The director asked, sarcastically, if "someone is coming in here in the middle of the night (ghost?) and changing the order of the documents." (Id. at ¶ 155.) Plaintiff subsequently called Security to investigate and filed a written report. (Id. at ¶ 156.)

Plaintiff alleges that she was "expected to take on double the work due to her race," leading her to feel "like she was involved in slave labor." (Id. at ¶ 131.) As an example of the overburdening, Plaintiff notes that the Director of Labor would "on occasion . . . ask plaintiff to review, edit and send other secretaries' work out on her computer," despite the fact that Plaintiff did not feel comfortable performing this function. (Id. at ¶ 212-13.) Plaintiff claims that while she was hired to work as a secretary for a single director, she was frequently assigned to work for other PGW supervisors without receiving a pay raise. (Id. at ¶ 176.) Plaintiff also claims that she "was continually and purposely interrupted every time that she prepared Minutes or any other important task," and was asked "to answer billing calls for customers at times." (Id. at ¶¶ 162-63.) Plaintiff refused to do this because she was not trained and the call-answering was a union position. (Id. at ¶ 164.) As a result of her refusal, she was reprimanded. (Id.)

During the course of her employment, Plaintiff was evaluated on several occasions. During the first years of her tenure at PGW, Plaintiff's evaluations indicated that she was performing her job satisfactorily. (Id. at 3.) In 2006 and 2007, however, company evaluations of Plaintiff's performance were less complimentary. (Id.) Plaintiff was labeled as "need[ing] improvement" and "consistently fall[ing] short of company standards." (Id.) Plaintiff claims that her negative evaluations were incorrect, and that her manager at her previous job agreed. (Id. at ¶ 173.) Plaintiff believes that a previous employer might have followed her to PGW in order to harass her. (Id. at ¶ 172.)

In November 2006, PGW placed Plaintiff on a Personal Improvement Plan ("PIP"). (Id. at ¶ 15.) Plaintiff was enrolled in a second PIP on November 9, 2007. (Id. at ¶ 55.) Although it is unclear what these PIPs entailed, they were presumably a response to negative evaluations of Plaintiff's work performance. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16, 55.) Plaintiff claims that she was coerced into participating in the PIPs, and told that if "she did not sign the PIP she could be fired." (Id. at ¶ 19.) Plaintiff claims that she was placed on these PIPs by her superiors to prevent her from interviewing for higher-paying positions or from "progress[ing] as the males progressed in the company." (Id. at ¶¶ 56, 100, 194.) Plaintiff also claims that these PIPs had the effect of preventing her from receiving "the benefits of being a full time employee of the company." (Id. at ¶ 92.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims that she was denied the opportunity to be reimbursed for tuition expenses because of the PIP. (Id. at ¶¶ 90-91, 102.) Plaintiff claims that PGW ridiculed her "because [PGW] preferred to have an African-American in the department." (Id. at ¶ 91.) She notes that her superiors seemed to "take pleasure" in the close supervision of Plaintiff that the PIPs required. (Id. at ¶ 166.)

Plaintiff claims that PGW pursued hiring and training policies that discriminated against Caucasians in favor of African-Americans. For example, Plaintiff claims that she "was not invited to attend the training on a new attendance system as were other members of PGW of a different race." (Id. at ¶ 77.) She claims that the "majority of the employees that PGW hired were of the darker race." (Id. at ¶ 79.) Furthermore, she notes that "PGW/Labor Director was more comfortable working with African-Americans." (Id. at ¶ 82.) She claims that she was denied the opportunity to learn a new computer system because she was a white female. (Id. at ¶¶ 104-06, 117.)

Plaintiff requested to be transferred from the Labor Department, but her request was denied. (Id. at ¶ 25.) As the work environment at PGW became more difficult for Plaintiff, she sought recourse through the company's internal human resources procedures. Plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the Human Resources department in mid-November 2007, "expressing concern over the continuous discrimination . . . harassment high gas bills, etc." (Id. at ¶ 57.) Plaintiff repeatedly cites higher gas bills as evidence of discrimination and the hostile work environment at PGW, implying that PGW management deliberately inflated her home utility bills as a form of retaliation. (See, e.g., Id. at ¶¶ 165, 199.) Plaintiff claims that PGW's billing department was unresponsive to her complaints about high bills. (Id. at ¶ 165.) PGW's Organizational Development and Legal departments responded to Plaintiff's complaints about discrimination and high gas bills advising that they "did not feel plaintiff had any basis for a Complaint." (Id. ¶ 57, 64.) Plaintiff alleges that in June 2008, her supervisor "called [her] in to his office and insinuated that she was trying to take over his job as the Director." (Id. at ¶ 66.) Plaintiff denied this allegation, which the Director of Labor then repeated. (Id. at ¶¶ 67-68.) It appears that Plaintiff was accused of going over the Director's head in filing a grievance. (Id. at ¶¶ 83-84.) Plaintiff was terminated soon thereafter. (Id. at ¶ 83.) According to Plaintiff, company officials were consistently unsympathetic to her complaints. (Id. at ¶¶ 53-55.)

Plaintiff claims that she was "discriminated against, forced to work in a hostile environment, harassed [and] ridiculed," and that she was paid "wages which were not comparable to other employees performing similar work." (Id. at 3.) According to Plaintiff, she was denied raises and opportunities to advance because of her gender. (Id. at ¶ 101.) Plaintiff alleges that her mistreatment is the product of a conspiracy to discriminate against her, and that she was further retaliated against for expressing concern about the existence of such a conspiracy. (Id. at 3.)

Plaintiff filed a grievance with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), and received a Notice of Right to Sue in September 2009.*fn5 (Am. Compl. Ex. 1.) On November 25, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this District. The case was assigned to Honorable Mitchell S. Goldberg. Judge Goldberg addressed a Motion To Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, dismissing several counts and granting Plaintiff leave to file an Amended Complaint. (Order on Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 11.) Judge Goldberg concluded that Counts II, III, IV, V and VI of the Complaint failed to state a claim. (Mem. on Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint on July 26, 2010. Defendant PGW filed this Partial Motion to Dismiss on August 25, 2010, seeking to dismiss Counts II, III, IV, V and VI of ...

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