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McNeil v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 5, 2013

WAYNE MCNEIL, Plaintiff,
v.
GREYHOUND LINES, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

ANITA B. BRODY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Wayne McNeil brings suit against his former employer, Defendant Greyhound Lines, Inc. ("Greyhound"). McNeil alleges that Defendant Greyhound, through its managers, supervisors, agents, and employees, engaged in gender discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq. [1]

Defendant Greyhound moves to dismiss McNeil's complaint in its entirety, with prejudice, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on the basis of gender discrimination, race discrimination, or retaliation. I will grant in part and deny in part the motion for the reasons discussed below.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

Plaintiff Wayne McNeil is an African American male who wears his hair in dreadlocks in support of his race, culture, and heritage. He worked as a Greyhound bus driver from June 13, 1998, until his termination on January 3, 2013. During his tenure, McNeil was an exemplary employee, respected for his service to Greyhound.

Beginning in 2007, McNeil was repeatedly reprimanded and suspended for his hairstyle because his dreadlocks violated Greyhound's grooming policy. Greyhound's grooming policy states: "Hair must be kept neat be styled and colored in a matter that does not draw undo attention to the employee. Hair length for men should not be extended below the collar." Compl. ¶ 38. Female Greyhound employees are allowed to wear hair of any length. In March 2011, McNeil was suspended for three days without pay because of his hairstyle. On November 6, 2011, he was suspended for two days because of his hairstyle. McNeil told Greyhound that he wears his hair in dreadlocks in honor of his race, culture, and heritage and that removing his dreadlocks would go against his strongly held philosophical beliefs.

When McNeil contacted his direct supervisors about his treatment, they explained that they were following the directions of Vice President of the Region Michael Fleischhauer, a Caucasian male. Fleischhauer told McNeil that he personally disliked McNeil's hairstyle and that dreadlocks were not suitable for the work environment in any circumstance. Fleischhauer also commented to Al King, a manager at Greyhound, that "you know he [Plaintiff] is a troublemaker." Compl. ¶ 57.

According to McNeil, Greyhound applies its grooming policy only to those employees with ethnically African American male hairstyles. On several occasions, McNeil identified to his supervisors similarly situated male employees whose hair also extended below their collars. Caucasian men with hair below their collars were not reprimanded or suspended.

McNeil filed several grievances with his union describing his treatment and alleging discrimination; these grievances were denied. On November 14, 2011, McNeil filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"). On December 17, 2012, McNeil submitted to the EEOC a Request for Notice of Right to Sue letter.

On January 3, 2013, Greyhound terminated McNeil. According to the Notice of Termination attached to the Complaint, [3] on December 22, 2012, McNeil was assigned to drive an empty bus to Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania to a stranded Greyhound driver and passengers. A confrontation ensued between McNeil and the other driver. McNeil drove off, leaving behind the driver and one passenger. According to the Notice, McNeil's conduct violated Greyhound's personal courtesy/conduct policy, and this incident and McNeil's "previous record" led Greyhound to terminate McNeil. On January 11, 2013, McNeil received from the EEOC a Notice of Right to Sue letter.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court 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 omitted).

To survive dismissal, a complaint must allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rather, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the ...


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