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McGhee v. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 28, 2013



EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, District Judge.

Darlynda McGhee (Plaintiff) brings four claims against Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Defendant): a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) maximum-hours violation (Count I); FLSA retaliation (Count II); breach of contract under Pennsylvania law (Count III); and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count IV).

Defendant moves to dismiss all claims. Plaintiff stipulates to dismissing the FLSA claims. Therefore, the Court need only address the breach-of-contract claim and the § 1981 retaliation claim.


Plaintiff worked for Defendant from May 2009 to April 9, 2012, performing registration tasks. Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 8, 41, ECF No. 1. On January 7, 2011, Plaintiff met with her supervisor, Janet James, who offered Plaintiff a promotion to Endoscopy Registrar, which included an increase in pay. Id . ¶ 23. Plaintiff accepted the offer the same day. Id . But as of March 3, 2011, Plaintiff had not received the new position or the pay raise. Id . ¶ 24. That day, she brought the issue to James's attention, and James told her to move to a new workstation in conjunction with the promotion and raise. Id . The next day, Plaintiff emailed James, asking why she had not received the promotion and raise on which the two agreed. Id . ¶ 25. On March 9, 2011, James emailed Plaintiff, confirming that Plaintiff accepted the position on January 7, 2011, acknowledging that the promotion and pay raise should have become effective on that date, and promising that the raise would be retroactive from that date. Id . ¶ 27. On July 7, 2011, Plaintiff sent an email to another supervisor, Michelle Cannion, stating that she still had not received her promotion or the corresponding raise. Id . ¶ 28. And on August 29, 2011, Plaintiff sent yet another email to Cannion, again stating that she had not received the promised pay raise. Id . ¶ 29.

On September 28, 2011, Plaintiff received an email from James in which James criticized her for inappropriate behavior and threatened to fire her if she displayed such behavior again. Id . ¶ 30. The email concerned a meeting between Plaintiff, James, and Cannion, although Plaintiff claims she did not behave improperly during the meeting. Id . ¶ 31. On October 7, 2011, Cannion requested that Plaintiff meet with her again to discuss Plaintiff's job. Id . ¶ 32. Plaintiff told Cannion that she would not attend the meeting without her attorney present because she feared Cannion would retaliate against her "for complaining about not being allowed to take her lunch break and not being paid for the break." Id . ¶ 33.[1]

On or around December 16, 2011, Plaintiff filed an EEOC complaint against Defendant, alleging that she was being discriminated against, retaliated against, and subjected to a hostile work environment because of her race. Id . ¶ 34. Plaintiff alleges Defendant was informed that she had filed an EEOC complaint against it based on race discrimination sometime after filing. Id . ¶ 35.

After Defendant was made aware of the EEOC complaint, Plaintiff alleges that its retaliation against her "became even more severe, " id. ¶ 36, and lists the following actions taken against her. First, on March 14, 2012, Plaintiff was disciplined for using foul language against two co-workers, which she denies. Id . ¶ 38. Second, on March 30, 2012, Plaintiff was disciplined for allegedly being insubordinate when asked to perform a task; Defendant agrees that Plaintiff performed the task but that she did so in a sarcastic manner, which Plaintiff does not dispute. Id . ¶ 38. Third, on April 5, 2012, James and Cannion told Plaintiff in a meeting that she was suspended indefinitely for insubordination. Id . ¶ 39. James and Cannion based the suspension on another of Plaintiff's requests to call her attorney when asked to attend a meeting with James-she feared that James was going to "unfairly discipline her, belittle her, and discriminate against her again." Id . ¶ 40. Finally, on April 9, 2012, Plaintiff was terminated. Id . ¶ 41. Plaintiff also makes a bare allegation that similarly situated employees who did not file complaints of racial discrimination with the EEOC were not similarly disciplined when they, inter alia, failed to perform tasks, "called off of work at the last minute, " and/or failed to arrive to work on time. Id . ¶ 42.


Plaintiff filed two initial, pro se complaints on May 7, 2012, and May 31, 2012. Compls., ECF Nos. 4, 6. The Court dismissed the complaints without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and provided leave to amend. Mem. Op., May 31, 2012, ECF No. 2. Plaintiff filed an amended pro se complaint on June 29, 2012, but the Clerk of Court returned it to her as unsigned. Order, July 12, 2012, ECF No. 7. After signing and filing the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 8), the Court dismissed it as failing to state a claim and provided a 30-day period in which to amend for a second time. Mem. Op., July 24, 2012, ECF No. 10. The Court also ordered all filings to be placed under seal because Plaintiff attached several medical documents that contained third-party, private information. Order, July 23, 2012, ECF No. 9. After obtaining counsel, Plaintiff moved for leave to file the Second Amended Complaint, although she did so on January 22, 2013, five months after the deadline to amend. Pl.'s Mot. Leave to File Second Am. Comp., ECF No. 14. On January 24, 2013, the Court granted the Motion. Order, Jan. 24, 2013. The Court also lifted the seal on all filings in response to a motion by Defendant, leaving only Plaintiff's first three complaints impounded. Order, May 7, 2013, ECF No. 20.

After receiving proper summons and service of the Second Amended Complaint, Defendant timely filed a motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint on June 10, 2013. Plaintiff moved to file a third amended complaint on June 24, 2013, and the Court granted the motion. Order, July 15, 2013, ECF No. 30. Defendant moved to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint, and Plaintiff responded. Finally, the Motion to Dismiss the Third Amended Complaint is now ripe for disposition.


In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must "accept as true all allegations in the Complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." DeBenedictis v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. , 492 F.3d 209, 215 (3d Cir. 2007) (internal citations omitted). In order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a Complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 & n.3 (2007). This "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555 (internal citation omitted). Although a plaintiff is entitled to all reasonable inferences from the facts alleged, a plaintiff's legal conclusions are not entitled to deference and the court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (cited with approval in Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555).

The pleadings must contain sufficient factual allegations so as to state a facially plausible claim for relief. See, e.g., Gelman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. , 583 F.3d 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2009). A claim possesses such 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.'" Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court is to limit its inquiry to the facts alleged in the Complaint and its attachments, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents. ...

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