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Connelly v. Lane Construction Corporation

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 28, 2014



TERRENCE F. MCVERRY, District Judge.

Now pending before the Court is DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED COMPLAINT UNDER FEDERAL RULE 12 (ECF No. 13), filed by Lane Construction Corporation ("Lane") with brief in support. Plaintiff Sandra Connelly ("Connelly" or "Plaintiff") filed a brief in opposition to the motion (ECF No. 15). Defendant filed a reply to Plaintiff's brief in opposition (ECF No. 16), and the matter is ripe for disposition.

Factual and Procedural Background

Connelly was employed by Lane as a union member truck driver from May 2006 until she was laid off in October 2010. (Am. Complaint ¶ 8, 11). Lane employed a total of seven (7) truck drivers at its Pittsburgh plant location during this time period. (Am. Complaint ¶ 10). Connelly ranked fifth in seniority and was the only female driver. (Am. Complaint ¶ 11). Connelly was involved in a romantic relationship with one of the other truck drivers, Mark Nogy ("Nogy"), which relationship ended in May 2007. (Am. Complaint ¶ 13-14). She alleges that during the summer of 2007, she was subjected to daily name-calling, belittling, and harassment from Nogy and her other co-workers. (Am. Complaint ¶ 16, 19-21). Connelly complained to Lane supervisors Jeremy Hostetler and Tim Holleran. (Am. Complaint ¶ 17, 24). As pled in the Amended Complaint, Lane management was responsive to Connelly. In 2007, Lane executives Charles Ames ("Ames") and Mike Hindt met with Connelly regarding her complaints about Nogy. (Am. Complaint ¶ 26). Following the meeting, Nogy was suspended from work for three days for his treatment of her. (Am. Complaint ¶ 29).

Connelly also reported truck drivers drinking on the job to her supervisor. (Am. Complaint ¶ 33). In 2009, Connelly learned that Lane provided an Ethics Line. She reported harassing treatment from Nogy to the Ethics Line. (Am. Complaint ¶ 35-36). She alleges that she called the Ethics Hotline a number of times due to men drinking on the job and discriminatory treatment. (Am. Complaint ¶ 38). The Ethics Line representative encouraged her to continue to report complaints. (Am. Complaint ¶ 37).

In May 2010, Connelly alleges she was sexually harassed by Lane foreman George Manning ("Manning"), who came close to her and stated "one day I'm going to kiss you." Connelly reported this incident to her supervisor and the Ethics Line and requested a transfer to a different job site. (Am. Complaint ¶ 40-43). Lane granted this request and Connelly was transferred to another job site. (Am. Complaint ¶ 45). Connelly conclusorily claims that her relationship with supervisors and male truck drivers became increasingly strained throughout 2010 and that she continued to make numerous complaints to the Ethics Line as well as Lane management. (Am. Complaint ¶ 46). However, she has not pled any specific facts regarding this time period.

In October 2010 supervisor Jerry Schmittein allegedly wanted Plaintiff to drive a truck that had a flat tire and steering problems. When Plaintiff refused, Mr. Schmittein allegedly became "incensed" and asked her "are you refusing to work?" (Am. Complaint ¶ 47). Connelly contacted Lane executive Ames, who told her to leave the work location that day. (Am. Complaint ¶ 48). Truck drivers were traditionally laid off at the end of the fall construction season each year and rehired the following spring. (Am. Complaint ¶ 6). Connelly alleges that she was laid off in October 2010 before the other truck drivers. (Am. Complaint ¶ 49).

The Complaint is silent regarding any contacts between the Plaintiff and Lane during the six-month period from October 2010 through April 2011. (Am. Complaint ¶ 52). Connelly has pled no facts as to any protected activity, alleged harassment, or alleged retaliation during this time.

In April and May 2011, Connelly claims that she witnessed a number of her co-workers at the job site. (Am. Complaint ¶ 52). Connelly then contacted Lane to ask why she had not been recalled. Ames responded that no work was available. (Am. Complaint ¶ 52). However, Connelly observed that the four drivers with more seniority had been recalled; that Mike Rupert, one of the drivers with less seniority, was working as a general laborer (non-trucker);[1] and that Casey Allen, the other driver with less seniority, had been recalled to drive the "tack truck." (Am. Complaint ¶ 55-60). The tack truck was the only vehicle which Connelly was not qualified to drive. (Am. Complaint ¶ 60). Her training on the tack truck had been postponed and never rescheduled. (Am. Complaint ¶ 70-71). The previous year, Donny Smail, the most senior driver, had driven the tack truck. (Am. Complaint ¶ 61).[2] Connelly also observed "rental trucks" from other companies being used and saw laborers driving trucks. Previously, Lane had not rented trucks or assigned laborers to drive trucks until all union drivers had been called back to work. (Am. Complaint ¶ 65-66). In summary, Connelly theorizes that Lane manipulated the recall process and truck assignments to exclude her from recall. (Am. Complaint ¶ 72).

Connelly filed a union grievance regarding the failure to rehire her, which was denied. (Am. Complaint ¶ 74-75). On October 7, 2011, she dual-filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and PHRC. (Am. Complaint ¶ 76). Although the Amended Complaint alleges that the EEOC charge was filed on October 7, 2010, that appears to be a clear typographical error.[3] The EEOC charge was filed in October 2011. The EEOC issued a right to sue letter on June 28, 2013. (Am. Complaint ¶ 85). Plaintiff filed her original Complaint with this Court on September 26, 2013, in which she alleged disparate treatment, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims under Title VII and the PHRA. Lane filed a motion for partial dismissal of Plaintiff's claims for acts that occurred prior to December 11, 2010. On March 11, 2014, this Court dismissed all claims except for Defendant's failure to rehire Plaintiff in April 2011. The Court held that there was nothing in the record to support a continuing harassment/retaliation theory.

The Court granted Plaintiff's leave to amend her Complaint, although it commented that it harbored significant doubts and warned Plaintiff that any amendment must be able to plead sufficient causal links. Plaintiff filed a four-count First Amended Complaint on March 25, 2014 under Title VII and PHRA, alleging disparate treatment on the basis of her gender and retaliation for making complaints of discrimination.

Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a Complaint, which may be dismissed for the "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Upon review of a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded facts and allegations, and must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc. , 662 F.3d 212, 220 (3d Cir. 2011), cert. denied , 132 S.Ct. 1861 (2012) (citing In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig. , 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010)). However, as the Supreme Court of the United States has made clear in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , such "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007).

The Supreme Court later refined this approach in Ashcroft v. Iqbal , emphasizing the requirement that a complaint must state a plausible claim for relief in order to survive a motion to dismiss. 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "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." Id. (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555). Nevertheless, "the plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, '" but ...

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