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Karen B. Gokay v. John J. George

February 20, 2013

KAREN B. GOKAY,
PLAINTIFF
v.
JOHN J. GEORGE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Karen Gokay brings this action against her former employer and its Executive Director alleging employment discrimination based on sex and retaliation.*fn1

The defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss. For the following reasons, I will deny the motion.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

The Berks County Intermediate Unit is a state-created agency providing services to public and non-public schools throughout Berks County. Miss Gokay began her employment there in 1999, and rose to the level of Director of Human Resources and Public Relations before her termination in October 2010. While at the Unit, Miss Gokay allegedly enjoyed a reputation for excellent job performance and integrity.

During the summer of 2010, Elton Butler, the Assistant Director of Human Resources, announced his retirement. Typically, as the Director, Miss Gokay would have advertised and interviewed candidates to fill Mr. Butler's position. However, Defendant Dr. John J. George, the Executive Director of the Unit, notified Miss Gokay that there would be no interviews and that the position would go to Robin Rosenberry, a male colleague and friend from Defendant George's previous place of employment. Miss Gokay found the selection of Mr. Rosenberry peculiar because Mr. Rosenberry had no advanced degree which is typically required for positions of that level. Dr. George had previously told the plaintiff several times that he had hoped Mr. Butler would retire so that Mr. Rosenberry could replace him.*fn3

At some point after beginning his employment, Mr. Rosenberry suspected that someone was rifling through his desk and improperly assessing his files. Instead of utilizing the proper chain of command, Mr. Rosenberry complained directly to Defendant George. The two allegedly devised a "trap" in which a video camera would be secreted in the office and the perpetrator caught. Miss Gokay alleges that, without her knowledge, she was the target of the trap. As Mr. Rosenberry's direct supervisor, Miss Gokay should have been able to access freely anything on his desk or in his files. The video camera footage showed that a custodian was the culprit. Miss Gokay first learned of the existence of the video camera and the trap when the custodian's supervisor unknowingly came to her to apologize for the behavior of the custodian.

In October 2010, Miss Gokay was terminated for what she characterizes as a pretext for illegal discrimination. Before Dr. George became the Executive Director of the Unit, the plaintiff reported to Dr. Nancy Allmon, the previous Executive Director. The vacation policy had always been that the directors began to earn vacation benefits after being hired, and the benefits would be awarded on July 1 of each year. Dr. Allmon allegedly changed the policy when Stanley Kita, the Assistant Executive Director of the Unit, was hired. Dr. Allmon decided to award him vacation up front as soon as he was hired, rather than have him earn it. In 2002, Dr. Allmon extended the policy to all directors hired after Mr. Kita in 2002. Miss Gokay worked alongside Dr. Allmon to change the vacation policy, drafting its new language. Those hired before 2002, including the plaintiff, remained with the previous policy of "earning" their vacation leave.

On September 14, 2010, Miss Gokay was called to a meeting with Defendant George to discuss a challenge to the vacation policy brought by Mr. Kita. Mr. Kita was planning to retire but realized that he would not be entitled to a payout for his "earned" vacation leave upon retirement, because the "new" policy awarded vacation time before it was actually earned. Upon learning of this situation, Defendant George accused Miss Gokay of unilaterally changing the Unit's vacation policy and incorporating language in compensation and benefits plans without the Board's approval. Miss Gokay insisted that the policy was accomplished under the direction of Dr. Allmon but admitted she had drafted the vacation language. However, Defendant George told the plaintiff that Dr. Allmon did not remember authorizing any change in vacation policy.

On September 15, 2010, Defendant George placed Miss Gokay on unpaid administrative leave for changing the vacation policy, even though she was allegedly directed by the former Executive Director to do so. She was terminated the following month.

The amended complaint alleges that Miss Gokay was treated like a criminal upon termination, being handed a box of her personal belongings packed by someone else, and escorted out of the building in front of other employees. Lower level employees were told about the circumstances of Miss Gokay's termination, which damaged her reputation. Other male employees, including those who committed fraud, were allowed to retire graciously, even given retirement parties, and the details of their terminations kept private.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 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). In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, a federal court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all plausible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984).

It remains true that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to plead in detail all of the facts upon which she bases her claim. Rather, the Rules require "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2). In recent rulings, however, the Supreme Court rejected language in Conley which stated that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561. Rather, a "complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct," id. at 564, and it must contain enough factual matters to suggest the required elements of the claim or to "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" those elements. Phillips v. County of ...


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