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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. United States Steel Corporation; United Steel

July 23, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer



The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") initiated this pattern or practice Americans with Disabilities Act action on behalf of charging party, Abigail DeSimone ("DeSimone")*fn1 and all similarly situated employees of Defendant U.S. Steel ("U.S. Steel") seeking to challenge U.S. Steel's policy of subjecting its probationary employees to random breath alcohol tests. (Docket No. 3). Pending before the Court is U.S. Steel's Second Renewed Motion to Dismiss. (Docket No. 205). U.S. Steel asserts two separate arguments in support of its Motion. First, U.S. Steel argues that EEOC's class claim should be dismissed, in part, based on the statute of limitations under Section 706(e)(1) of Title VII. (Docket No. 205). Second, U.S. Steel asserts that EEOC's class claim should be dismissed under Iqbal and Twombly because the EEOC has failed to specifically plead that it has met its statutory pre-suit obligations to investigate, issue reasonable cause findings and conciliate its claims, or to name any of the presently unidentified aggrieved employees who make up the purported class. (Id.; Docket No. 216). The EEOC counters that the time limitation period under Section 706(e)(1) is not a bar and that its class claim is properly pled. (Docket No. 213).

For the reasons that follow, U.S. Steel's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED, IN PART and DENIED, IN PART.


Since at least January 2006, U.S. Steel has been conducting random drug and alcohol testing of its probationary employees, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the basic labor agreement between U.S. Steel and the employees' union.*fn3 (Docket No. 3 at ¶ 15). The EEOC contends that U.S. Steel's policy affects all probationary bargaining employees at its Clairton, Pennsylvania facility who are subject to the relevant basic labor agreement and all probationary bargaining unit employees at other facilities throughout the United States. (Id. at ¶¶ 15(c), 15(e)).

The EEOC seeks relief for a class of presently unidentified aggrieved employees, (Id. at 8 ¶ E), setting forth claims under both Sections 706 and 707 that the subject testing process violates the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a), (d)(4). (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 3, 15). The EEOC also alleges that U.S. Steel violated the ADA because it subjected probationary employees to such testing and discharged them when a positive test result occurred. (Id. at 2).

One such discharged employee was Plaintiff-Intervenor DeSimone, whom U.S. Steel hired on January 14, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 13(a)). DeSimone submitted to a breath alcohol test, which indicated the presence of alcohol on January 29, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 13(b) and (c)). As a result, U.S. Steel terminated her employment on February 7, 2008, despite her protests that the test was a false positive engendered by her diabetic condition. (Id. at ¶ 13). Thereafter, DeSimone filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on June 6, 2008. (Docket No. 121-1). As noted, Ms. DeSimone has since settled her individual case. (Docket No. 192).


The EEOC filed its original Complaint on September 30, 2010 (Docket No. 1), followed by an Amended Complaint on October 13, 2010 (Docket No. 3). U.S. Steel previously filed two motions to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Docket Nos. 23; 120). These motions were denied, without prejudice, as the parties engaged in lengthy litigation pertaining to the EEOC's filing of confidential conciliation documents in opposition to the initial motion to dismiss. (Docket Nos. 118; 170).*fn4 Now that the issues surrounding the confidential conciliation documents have been resolved, (Docket Nos. 118; 196), and the Court has denied U.S. Steel's request for attorneys' fees and costs, without prejudice (Docket Nos. 218; 219), U.S. Steel's Motion to Dismiss returns to the forefront of this litigation.*fn5


A motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. The United States Supreme Court has held that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932 (1986)) (alterations in original).

As noted, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations and must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. However, the "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The Supreme Court has subsequently broadened the scope of this requirement, stating that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This standard requires showing "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). "This 'plausibility' determination will be 'a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949).

After Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that a district court must conduct the following analysis to determine the sufficiency of a complaint:

First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Second, the court should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Finally, "where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief."

Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1947, 1950); see also Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 2012 WL 296904 (Apr. 2, 2012); Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

Twombly and Iqbal have not changed the other pleading standards for a motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), and the requirements of FED. R. CIV. P. 8 must still be met. See Burtch, 662 F.3d at 220. Rule 8 requires a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief, and "contemplates the statement of circumstances, occurrences, and events in support of the claim presented and does not authorize a pleader's bare averment that he wants relief and is entitled to it." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (internal alterations, citations, and quotations omitted). The Supreme Court has explained that a complaint need not be "a model of the careful drafter's art" or "pin plaintiffs' claim for relief to a precise legal theory" so long as it states "a plausible 'short and plain' statement of the plaintiff's claim." Skinner v. Switzer, --- U.S. ---, 131 S. Ct. 1289, 1296 (2011); see also Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. Siracusano, --- U.S. --, 131 S. Ct. 1309, 1322 n.12 (2011) (emphasizing that "to survive a motion to dismiss, respondents need only allege 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'") (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570)).

In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court may consider "only the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of a claim." Lum v. Bank of Am., 361 F.3d 217, 222 n. 3 (3d Cir. 2004). A document forms the basis of a claim if it is "integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint." In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc. Sec. Litig., 184 F.3d 280, 287 (3d Cir. 1999) (emphasis in original; internal citations and quotations omitted).


U.S. Steel has brought two separate challenges to EEOC's Amended Complaint. The Court will first address the parties' arguments with respect to the statute of limitations defense and secondly discuss the parties' ...

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