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Cynthia Medley v. Sugarhouse Hsp Gaming

March 21, 2013

CYNTHIA MEDLEY PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUGARHOUSE HSP GAMING, L.P. ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Cynthia Medley brings this action against the following defendants (collectively the "Defendants"): SugarHouse HSP Gaming, L.P., d/b/a SugarHouse Casino, and SugarHouse HSP Gaming Prop. GP, LLC, d/b/a SugarHouse Casino (hereinafter collectively the "Corporate Defendants"); Greg Carlin, David Patent, Wendy Hamilton, and Patricia Tuck (collectively the "Individual Defendants"). Medley's second amended complaint asserts claims of wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") against Defendants in counts I and II, and a claim of a violation of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 ("COBRA") against SugarHouse HSP Gaming L.P. in count III. Before me is Defendants' motion to dismiss counts I and II pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss. Dismissal of Medley's wrongful termination claim against Tuck and the Corporate Defendants will be without prejudice to Medley's right to amend her complaint to provide further factual allegations, as long as such allegations can be made in good faith.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On June 25, 2007, Cynthia Medley was hired as an administrative assistant in the human resources department at SugarHouse Casino. (Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 10.) Later, Medley was promoted to the position of human resources representative. (Id. ¶ 11.) Her duties included processing paperwork for new employees, performing employee background checks with the Pennsylvania State Police, and assisting new employees in securing gaming licenses from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. (Id. ¶ 12.) Medley asserts that she was authorized to work from her home, and because of her administrative duties was also authorized to remotely access SugarHouse Casino's database and documents. (Id. ¶ 13.)

In March 2010, Medley reported to SugarHouse Casino general manager Wendy Hamilton that her immediate supervisor, Joann Weber, was creating a hostile work environment. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 16.) Despite her complaint, Medley alleges that Defendants did not take any action to remedy the situation. (Id. ¶ 20.) As a result of Weber's "harassing and degrading personal comments, [] profane and abusive language, [] and constant threats to terminate [Medley's] employment without justification," Medley suffered severe emotional distress that resulted in her experiencing a stroke in July 2010. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 22.) Due to her stroke, Medley missed approximately one month of work, returning to work in late August. (Id. ¶ 25.)

Between August and September 2010, SugarHouse Casino began preparing for its grand opening. (Id. ¶ 26.) So as not to delay the opening of the casino, Weber allegedly ordered Medley to falsify information and forge signatures and notary seals on such documents as I-9 forms and state license applications in order to complete employee background checks with the Pennsylvania State Police and expedite the receipt of gaming licenses. (Id.) Fearful of retaliation, Medley complied with Weber's order to forge the documents. (Id. ¶ 28.) Because Defendants did not act on her previous complaints, Medley decided not to report Weber's actions to her superiors. (Id. ¶ 29.)

SugarHouse Casino held its grand opening on September 23, 2010. (Id. ¶ 31.) For reasons unknown to Medley, Defendants terminated Weber's employment on September 24, 2010. (Id. ¶ 32.) No longer under the threat of retaliation, Medley contacted Hamilton on September 27, 2010, to request a meeting to discuss Weber's unethical and illegal conduct. (Id. ¶ 33.) Medley alleges that Hamilton refused to meet with her, and instead attempted to conceal Weber's criminal misconduct. (Id. ¶ 34.)

Between December 2010 and January 2011, Medley discovered that Defendants continued to maintain and rely upon the falsified and forged documents presented to the Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. (Id. ¶¶ 36-37.) For that reason, on February 17, 2011, Medley contacted Patricia Tuck, her new supervisor and the vice president of human resources, to request a meeting to discuss Weber's conduct. (Id. ¶ 38.) Medley alleges that Defendants again refused her request for a meeting and continued to conceal Weber's illegal and unethical behavior. (Id. ¶ 40.) In addition to denying a meeting, Medley avers that Tuck initiated an investigation to determine if Medley was sending SugarHouse Casino data or other internal documents outside of the company. (Id. ¶ 42.)

On March 2, 2011, Medley contacted Greg Carlin, SugarHouse Casino's chief executive officer, and requested a meeting to discuss Weber's conduct. (Id. ¶ 43.) Carlin held a meeting with Medley that same day. (Id. ¶ 45.) Also present for the meeting was David Patent, SugarHouse Casino's chief operating officer. (Id.) At the conclusion of the meeting, Carlin directed Medley to contact Michael Sklar, an attorney for SugarHouse Casino. (Id. ¶ 47.) Medley contacted Sklar, and on March 10, 2011, the two met in his car at an offsite location in Philadelphia. (Id. ¶¶ 49-50.) After listening to Medley's concerns, Sklar informed her that he would look into the matter. (Id. ¶ 52.) Medley alleges that such an inquiry never occurred. (Id. ¶ 53.)

On March 11, 2011, Tuck delivered a bonus check to Medley "for a job well done." (Id. ¶ 55.) Because she felt that this money was intended as a payoff, Medley refused to accept the check. (Id. ¶ 58.) Then, in mid-March, Tuck suspended Medley's employment, claiming that there was an on-going investigation into whether Medley had sent SugarHouse Casino data and documents outside of the company. (Id. ¶ 59.) Medley steadfastly denies sharing any data or documents with unauthorized individuals outside of the company, but maintains that she was allowed to access data and documents remotely by virtue of her authorization to work from home. (Id. ¶ 60.)

On April 14, 2011, Tuck scheduled a meeting with Medley in a hotel room in Philadelphia and informed Medley that her employment with SugarHouse Casino was being terminated for her violation of the company's "Electronic Technologies and Services" and "Confidentiality" policies. (Id. ¶¶ 61-62.) Medley claims that these policies did not exist at the time of her hiring, and that at no time did SugarHouse Casino ever communicate these policies to her. (Id. ¶ 64.) Before allowing Medley to leave the meeting, Tuck forced her to access her personal email account and delete all incoming and outgoing emails regarding Defendants' misconduct. (Id. ¶ 65.)

Defendants offered Medley a severance package in conjunction with her termination. (Id. ¶ 66.) The package included two months' salary as long as she released any potential action against Defendants. (Id.) Also following her termination, Defendants failed to inform Medley of her ability to continue health insurance coverage under COBRA. (Id. ¶ 67.) Because she was not aware of her health insurance option under COBRA, Medley claims that she was unable to seek necessary medical care. (Id. ¶ 68.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The pleading standard of Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements" will not suffice. Id. at678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to be plausible on its face. See id. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged"; a ...


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