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Gloria Stezzi v. Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania

October 4, 2012


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


Now before me are defendant Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania's motion for judgment on the pleadings and the response thereto of plaintiff Gloria Stezzi, proceeding pro se. For the reasons that follow I will deny defendant's motion.


Ms. Stezzi worked for Citizens Bank as a teller prior to her termination on October 26, 2007. Dkt. No. 4-1 at 12. Although the exact circumstances surrounding her discharge are in dispute, both parties acknowledge that Citizens Bank relieved Ms. Stezzi of her employment after a few deposit bags containing money were lost under her watch. Id. at 8; Dkt. No. 47-1 at 2. Subsequently, Ms. Stezzi filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Citizens Bank, alleging discrimination on the basis of race, sex and age. Dkt. No. 4-1 at 8. On November 15, 2007, Citizens Bank became aware of Ms. Stezzi's EEOC proceeding. Id. at 11. Five days later, on November 20, 2007, Citizens Bank instructed its agent, Talx Corporation, to appeal Ms. Stezzi's request for unemployment compensation benefits. Dkt. No. 47-1 at 2. In the appeal, Talx stated that Ms. Stezzi was "discharged for gross negligence causing a financial loss to the employer." Id. at 2-3. Ms. Stezzi claims that this appeal prevented her from continuing to receive unemployment compensation benefits and made it impossible to find new employment. Dkt. No. 4-1 at 9-10.

Prior to Talx's involvement, Ms. Stezzi claims that she had already received three weeks worth of unemployment compensation benefits. Id. at 5. On July 29, 2008, Ms. Stezzi filed another formal EEOC complaint, alleging that Citizens Bank ordered Talx to appeal her unemployment compensation benefits in retaliation for her previous discrimination complaint. Id. at 42. Her initial discrimination complaint filed with the EEOC sought relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; however, Ms. Stezzi's retaliation claim only invoked Title VII. Id. at 1-3, 42. Eventually, the EEOC dismissed both the discrimination and retaliation complaints filed by Ms. Stezzi. Id. at 4. For her retaliation claim, Ms. Stezzi received a Notice of Right to Sue Letter from the EEOC on May 25, 2010, and she filed a timely complaint with this Court on August 24, 2010. Id. at 4.


A party may move for judgment on the pleadings "[a]fter the pleadings are closed -- but early enough not to delay trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). In deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court considers the pleadings and exhibits attached thereto, matters of public record and "undisputedly authentic documents attached to the motion for judgment on the pleadings if plaintiffs' claims are based on the documents." Atiyeh v. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co. of Hartford, 742 F. Supp. 2d 591, 595 (E.D. Pa. 2010). Rule 12(c) motions are reviewed under the same standard that applies to motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). See Turbe v. Gov't of V.I., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991) (citations omitted).

Accordingly, in deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings, I "must view the facts presented in the pleadings and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 220 (3d Cir. 2005).

The motion will be granted if the plaintiff has not articulated enough facts "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). It is not enough for a plaintiff to allege mere "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. The plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Court "may disregard any legal conclusions." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.").

Additionally, pleadings that are pro se must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Dickerson v. Brooks, No. 06-289, 2007 WL 4689001, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 31, 2007), citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972); see also United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969) (noting that a petition prepared by pro se plaintiff may be inartfully drawn and should be read "with a measure of tolerance."). Because Ms. Stezzi has filed her complaint pro se, I must liberally construe her pleadings and apply the applicable law, regardless of whether she has mentioned it by name. Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003) (discussing how plaintiff's pleadings must be "liberally" construed).


Ms. Stezzi's only claim in this dispute is that Citizens Bank, upon gaining knowledge that she filed an EEOC discrimination claim against them, retaliated against her by ordering Talx to appeal her unemployment compensation benefits. As a result of this allegedly retaliatory action, Ms. Stezzi claims that she stopped receiving unemployment compensation and could not find another job in the banking field. Dkt. No. 4-1 at 9-10. Section 704 of Title VII, which is the applicable anti-retaliation provision, states that:

It shall be unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice . . . or because he has made a charge . . . under this subchapter.

42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-3(a). Therefore, "to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under Title VII," a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to show that: "(1) she engaged in activity protected by Title VII; (2) the employer took an adverse employment action against her; (3) there is a causal connection between her participation in the protected activity and ...

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