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Delores Williams v. Kerry Collins

December 5, 2012

DELORES WILLIAMS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
KERRY COLLINS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

In this employment discrimination suit, Plaintiff Delores Williams asserts three counts against Defendants Lowe's Home Centers, Inc. (Lowe's), Kerry Collins, Beth Soslow, Edward Wendorff, Robert Campbell, and Tracy Albertson (collectively, Defendants). Williams alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 P.S. § 951, et seq. She also asserts a state-law defamation claim.

Defendants Albertson, Collins, Soslow, and Wendorff moved to dismiss all claims on May 7, 2012. Defendant Lowe's similarly moved on September 24, 2012. Defendant Campbell joined in both motions. For the following reasons, I will grant the motions in part and deny them in part.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

A. Factual History

Plaintiff Delores Williams, an African-American woman, was hired by Defendant Lowe's Home Centers, Inc. in April 2009 and began working at the Lowe's of East Lancaster store in July 2009. Compl. ¶ 7. Defendant Kerry Collins was the store manager at Lowe's of East Lancaster; Defendant Beth Soslow was the assistant store manager; Defendant Edward Wendorff was the store operations manager; Defendant Robert Campbell was the store department manager; and Defendant Tracy Albertson was the regional human resources manager. Id. ¶ 6.

Williams claims Defendant Campbell began making offensive "comments about her race and sexuality" in April 2010. Id. ¶ 6. Williams complained to her store human resources manager, Andrew Feason, who reported the allegations to Defendant Albertson. Id. ¶ 10. Williams eventually complained directly to Defendant Collins. Id. ¶ 12. Shortly thereafter, Defendant Campbell was fired. Id.

Within a week of Campbell's termination, Williams began to note "persistently negative attitudes and hostile dispositions and comments" by her supervisors. Id. ¶ 17. Defendant Collins "admonished [her] for continuing to speak with Feason." Id. ¶ 13. Defendant Wendorff "openly berated [her] in front of other employees and customers" and falsely accused her of stealing merchandise. Id. ¶ 14. Williams was also "subjected to random scheduling changes." Id. ¶ 18. According to Williams, Defendants Collins and Albertson "discourag[ed] her from complaining. Id. ¶ 15.

On November 1, 2010, Defendants Collins and Soslow terminated Williams' employment for allegedly double charging a customer and not correcting the error. Id. ¶ 19. Williams claims another employee was responsible for the error, a white male who was not terminated or disciplined. Id.

B. Procedural History

Williams filed her initial complaint on May 23, 2011.*fn2 Defendants moved to dismiss all claims. After Williams failed to timely respond, I granted Defendants' motion as uncontested pursuant to Local Rule of Civil Procedure 7.1(c). Williams filed an untimely motion for reconsideration, which I denied because it failed to allege any legitimate basis for reconsideration. Williams filed the present complaint on March 5, 2012. She asserts claims for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I-all Defendants), violations of Title VII and the PHRA (Count II-Defendant Lowe's), and defamation (Count III-Defendant Wendorff ).*fn3 Defendants Albertson, Collins, Soslow, and Wendorff moved to dismiss all claims on May 7, 2012. Defendant Lowe's similarly moved on September 24, 2012. Defendant Campbell joined in both motions.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The factual allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "[C]onclusory or 'bare-bones' allegations will no[t] . . . survive a motion to dismiss." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009).

Applying these standards, I "must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Fowler, 578 U.S. at 210-11. Ultimately, I must "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief.'" Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has ...


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