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Santiago v. Citywide Community Counseling Services, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 12, 2013

LILLIAN SANTIAGO, Plaintiff,
v.
CITYWIDE COMMUNITY COUNSELING SERVICES, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

ROBERT F. KELLY, Sr., District Judge.

Presently before this Court is Defendant, Citywide Community Counseling Services, Inc.'s, Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, and Plaintiff, Lillian Santiago's, Response in Opposition. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Lillian Santiago ("Plaintiff"), is an adult female that resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Defendant, Citywide Community Counseling Services, Inc. ("Defendant"), is a Pennsylvania corporation with a place of business located at 537-539 East Allegheny Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 2.) Defendant employs more than fifty employees. (Id.) Plaintiff worked as a Building Manager for Defendant from on or about March 8, 2007, until her termination by Defendant on June 14, 2012. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.)

In approximately June of 2011, Plaintiff recommended that Defendant hire Nilsa Lopez ("Lopez"), a friend of Plaintiff's daughter, for an internship position. (Id. ¶ 2.) Several months after Defendant hired Lopez for the internship, Lopez met with Plaintiff and complained of being sexually harassed by a male therapist (the "therapist") employed by Defendant. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff advised Lopez to file a formal complaint with the management of Defendant. (Id.) In an effort to help Lopez, Plaintiff called her supervisor, Anna Jimenez ("Jimenez"), the clinical director for Defendant, and informed her that Lopez had a complaint to make regarding the inappropriate sexual advances of the therapist. (Id. ¶ 10.) During this conversation, Plaintiff recounted the full details of Lopez's claim. (Id.)

On the evening after Lopez filed the complaint, the owner of Defendant, Modesta Molena ("Molena"), called Plaintiff on the phone and told her that she did not want the complaint to "get out" because it "could hurt the clinic." (Id. ¶ 11.) Immediately following the filing of the complaint, Lopez was hired as a full time clerk. (Id. ¶ 12.) However, Lopez was terminated shortly thereafter due to purported attendance issues. (Id.) Subsequent to her termination, Lopez filed a lawsuit against Defendant claiming sexual harassment and retaliatory discharge. (Id. ¶ 13.) After Defendant became aware of Lopez's lawsuit, Molena repeatedly complained to Plaintiff and blamed Plaintiff for the lawsuit. (Id.)

During Plaintiff's employment with Defendant, she utilized Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave on two occasions. From May 3, 2012, until May 6, 2012, Plaintiff was absent from work in order to care for her pregnant daughter. (Id. ¶ 25; Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n at 1.) From May 8, 2012, through May 20, 2012, Plaintiff missed work to care for her husband, who was hospitalized and underwent surgery related to testicular cancer. (Id.; Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n at 1.) Regarding these absences, Plaintiff asserts that she provided notice to Defendant of her need for FMLA leave as soon as was practicable. (Id. ¶ 29.)

Upon Plaintiff's return from FMLA leave on May 21, 2012, Plaintiff alleges that she was treated with hostility by employees of Defendant. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 26.) Specifically, Plaintiff avers that she was approached by Jimenez, Molena and Molena's Executive Assistant, Lizzette Perez, and asked if she would take a voluntary demotion to work part-time. (Id.) Plaintiff refused to accept the demotion. (Id.) During this conversation, Molena again complained to Plaintiff about the lawsuit filed by Lopez asserting that Lopez was wasting her time going to court and that the lawsuit was filed solely for financial gain. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff replied that she had nothing to do with Lopez's lawsuit. (Id.)

On June 14, 2012, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 15.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's reason for terminating her employment was that she was being "laid off" for "financial reasons." (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff believes that her termination was related in substantial part to her involvement in the sexual harassment complaint filed by Lopez against Defendant and Plaintiff's use of FMLA protected leave. (Id. ¶ 7.)

On April 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant. (See Compl.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Defendant's actions violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (Id.)

II. STANDARD OF LAW

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz , 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has failed to set forth a claim from which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); see also Lucas v. City of Phila., No. 11-4376 , 2012 WL 1555430, at *2 (E.D. Pa. May 2, 2012) (citing Hedges v. U.S. , 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005)). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must view any reasonable inferences from the factual allegations in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Buck v. Hamilton Twp. Sch. Dist. , 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2002).

The Supreme Court set forth in Twombly, and further defined in Iqbal, a two-part test to determine whether to grant or deny a motion to dismiss. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ("Third Circuit") has noted that these cases signify the progression from liberal pleading requirements to more "exacting scrutiny" of the complaint. Wilson v. City of Phila. , 415 Fed.App'x 434, 436 (3d Cir. 2011).

Initially, the court must ascertain whether the complaint is supported by well-pleaded factual allegations. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. Conclusions of law can serve as the foundation of a complaint, but to survive dismissal they must be supported by factual allegations. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679. These factual allegations must be explicated sufficiently to provide a defendant the type of notice that is contemplated by Rule 8. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (requiring a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief); ...


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