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Kay Bellamy v. Waterfront Square Condominiums

February 19, 2013

KAY BELLAMY
v.
WATERFRONT SQUARE CONDOMINIUMS, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM

Now before me is a motion by defendants Waterfront Square Condominiums & Spa, Waterfront Square Homeowners' Association, Waterfront Square Condominium and Spa Master Association, GH Property Management, LLC and Miranda Milner to dismiss the complaint of plaintiff Kay Bellamy. For the reasons that follow, I will grant in part and deny in part defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an African-American female, alleges that she "worked for Defendant Entities for approximately 9 months."*fn1 Compl. ¶¶ 16-17. She asserts that defendant Milner, a Caucasian female and "a General Manager for Defendants," was her supervisor. Id. ¶ 18. Milner is alleged to have been "a decision maker concerning terms and conditions of employment for employees (including Plaintiff) of Defendant Entities including but not limited to hiring, firing, and issuing discipline." Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff contends that "[w]hile under the supervision of Defendant Milner, Plaintiff was treated in a demeaning and derogatory manner unlike Plaintiff's non-black co-workers, including but not limited to being referred to as 'you people' when speaking to Plaintiff and other black employees (as well as in other derogatory ways)." Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff alleges that she "witnessed Defendant Milner's hostility towards black residents, as Defendant Milner refused to speak with black residents and instead directed their questions and concerns to Plaintiff or black employees of Defendants in general." Id. ¶ 20. She further alleges that "Milner also attempted to eliminate Martin Luther King Day as an observed holiday expressing contempt for its inclusion as a holiday, even though the Waterfront Square Employee Handbook states that it is an observed holiday." Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff asserts that "Milner also treated Plaintiff in a discriminatory and disparate manner as compared to her male co-workers including but not limited to, denying her access to certain benefits that male co-worker's [sic] received." Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiff contends that in or about April, 2012, she complained to Milner and other managers "that she was being subjected to discriminatory treatment based on her race and gender and that she wanted same to cease." Id. ¶ 23. She alleges that after she registered her complaint "Milner began to exhibit even more hostility towards Plaintiff, including but not limited to interfering with her ability to successfully carry out her job duties." Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff asserts that "[o]n or about May 18, 2012, shortly after complaining of race and gender discrimination to Defendant Entities' management, including but not limited to Defendant Milner, Plaintiff was terminated by Defendants for allegedly 'not getting along with' Defendant Milner." Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff also alleges that defendants failed to properly provide her with notification regarding her COBRA benefits after she was terminated. Id. ¶ 40-41.

Plaintiff's complaint seeks relief including punitive damages for: race discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (against all defendants) (Count I); race discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. ("Against Defendant Company Only") (Count II); gender discrimination/retaliation in violation of Title VII ("Against Defendant Company Only") (Count III); and failure to give proper notice of COBRA benefits in violation of ERISA/COBRA, 29 U.S.C. § 1166 ("Against Defendant Entities Only") (Count IV).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Typically, "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations," though plaintiff's obligation to state the grounds of entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. (citations omitted). The complaint must state "'enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch. Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008), quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The Court of Appeals has made clear that after Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "conclusory or 'bare-bones' allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: 'threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.' To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out 'sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court also set forth a two part-analysis for reviewing motions to dismiss in light of Twombly and Iqbal:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief."

Id. at 210-11, quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court explained, "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to 'show' such an entitlement with its facts." Id., citing Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged--but it has not 'show[n]'--'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

DISCUSSION

I. Counts I, II and III: Race and Gender Discrimination, Retaliation and Hostile Work Environment

A. Discrimination (Race and Gender)

Plaintiff "cannot simply intone the legal conclusion that [she] was subject to discrimination." Johnson v. Dunkin' Donuts Franchising L.L.C., No. 11-1117, 2012 WL 1828028, at *21 (W.D. Pa. May 18, 2012) (citation omitted). In the absence of direct evidence of discrimination, plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII by alleging: 1) that she is a member of a protected class; 2) she was qualified for the position she held; 3) she suffered an adverse employment action; and 4) that the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances that give rise to an inference of discrimination. Sarullo v. U.S. Postal Serv., 352 F.3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2003); see also McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). *fn2 "The central focus of the prima facie case is always whether the employer is treating some people less favorably than others ...


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