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Masoner v. Education Mgmt. Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 2, 2014

JESSICA MASONER., Plaintiff,
v.
EDUCATION MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, Defendant

Page 653

For JESSICA MASONER, Plaintiff: Charles E. Steele, LEAD ATTORNEY, Justin C. Steele, Steele Schneider, Pittsburgh, PA.

For EDUCATION MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, Defendant: Elizabeth Stroyd Windsor, Matthew J. Meltzer, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Pittsburgh, PA; Sarah E. Bouchard, PRO HAC VICE, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Philadelphia, PA.

OPINION

Page 654

Joy Flowers Conti, Chief United States District Judge.

I. Introduction

On October 8, 2013, plaintiff Jennifer Masoner (" plaintiff" or " Masoner" ) filed a three-count complaint against her employer, Education Management Corporation (" defendant" or EDMC" ), alleging sex discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (count I), retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3 (count II), and retaliation in violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (" FSLA" ), (count III). On December 6, 2013, EDMC filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and a brief in support of the motion. (ECF Nos. 12, 13.) On January 7, 2014, Masoner filed a response in opposition to the motion to dismiss and a brief in support of the response. (ECF Nos. 16, 17.)

On January 21, 2014, the court held a hearing with respect to EDMC's motion to dismiss. After consideration of the submissions by the parties and the arguments presented at the hearing, the court determined EDMC's motion to dismiss would be granted and the complaint would be dismissed with prejudice. This opinion sets forth the court's reasoning for that decision.

II. Factual Background

Masoner was hired by EDMC in 2005, and is currently employed by EMDC. (ECF No. 1 ¶ ¶ 7, 38, 85.) Masoner alleges that in May and June 2012, she discussed, and then was punished for discussing, gender-based compensation at EDMC. (Id. ¶ 66.) On May 16, 2012, Masoner requested a meeting with Colleen Schaefer (" Schaefer" ), Masoner's human resources representative, to discuss the issues she was having in the workplace, including issues she had with her supervisor, Dr. Hilbelink (" Hilbelink" ). (Id. ¶ 54.) On May 21, 2013, Masoner met with Schaefer and Jaclyn Mitchell (" Mitchell" ), EDMC's senior human resources generalist. (Id. ¶ 58.) On May 22, 2013, Masoner met with Schaefer to discuss Masoner's concerns with respect to Hilbelink. (Id. ¶ 62.) On May 23, 2012, Masoner again met with Schaefer and Mitchell. (Id. ¶ 64.)

On June 12, 2012, Masoner completed an intake questionnaire with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the " EEOC" ). (ECF No. 17-1; ECF No. 1 ¶ 106.) Two days later, on June 14, 2012, Schaefer called Masoner on the telephone and told Masoner that she closed the investigation with respect to Hilbelink. (Id. ¶ 70.)

In or around July 2012, EDMC adopted a new Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy

Page 655

(" ADR Policy" ). (Declaration of Trisha Earls (ECF No. 13-1) ¶ 2.) The ADR Policy provided, in pertinent part:

o " This policy is intended to create the exclusive means by which all work-related disputes between Education Management Corporation (and its related entities or asserted agents, hereinafter " the Company" ) and its employees will be promptly addressed and fairly resolved."
o " Accepting or continuing employment with the Company after receipt of this Policy constitutes agreement to abide by its terms."
o " This Policy is effective on and after July 1, 2012."
o There are four steps to resolution: (1) Informal Resolution--" Employees are encouraged to attempt to resolve any work place issue, if feasible, informally with their supervisor, with other members of management or with the assistance of the Human Resources or Employee Relations Department." ; (2) Submission to the Company's Senior Management--" If not satisfactorily resolved in Step One, a dispute may be submitted in writing...to the ice President of Employee Relations." ; (3) Mediation--" If the dispute is not resolved as a result of Steps One or Two, then prior to proceeding to Arbitration, all parties are encourages to participate in a formal Mediation session facilitated by a professional, neutral Mediator." ; and (4) Binding Arbitration--" If the matter is not resolved at Step One, Two, or Three (or if the parties do not avail themselves of these opportunities), then all covered disputes... shall be submitted to Arbitration for final and binding resolution."

(ECF No. 13-1 at 8-9.)

On or about July 10, 2013, Masoner received a Dismissal and Notice of Rights letter (the " letter" ) from the EEOC. (ECF No. 17-4.)

On September 25, 2012, at 8:00 a.m., Jennifer Swenson (" Swenson" ), EDMC's vice president of human resources for online higher education, sent an email to Masoner's work email address, i.e., jmasoner@southuniversity.edu. (Id. ¶ 6.) The email provided:

EDMC has implemented an Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy to promptly and fairly address all work-related disputes. This policy allows for both informal and formal avenues for resolving concerns. This Policy is a term and condition of your continued employment with EDMC. Please click here to access the ADR Policy.
Please acknowledge by clicking here that you received, reviewed and agree to comply with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy. Questions regarding the Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy should be directed to you appropriate Human Resources or Employee Relations Representative.

(ECF No. 13-1.) On the same day at 12:10 p.m., Masoner forwarded the email from Swenson with respect to the ADR Policy to her private email address, i.e., ...


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