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Muldrew v. Joseph McCormick Construction Co., Inc.

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

August 8, 2014



Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge

I. Introduction

On January 29, 2014, Plaintiff Loretta Muldrew (“Plaintiff”)[1] initiated this civil action against her former employer, Joseph McCormick Construction Co. (“McCormick Construction”), and Owen McCormick (“McCormick”), the company’s owner (collectively, “Defendants”). In her amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts that she suffered discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination on account of her race, gender and disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq. (“Title VII”), the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”). She also alleges that the Defendants violated the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. (“PHRA”), and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, 42 P.S. § 260.7 (“WPCL”).

Presently pending before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 17), Plaintiff’s Brief in Opposition (Docket No. 19), and Defendants’ Reply Brief (Docket No. 20). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED.

II. Factual Background

On June 5, 2005, Plaintiff, an African-American female, commenced employment with Defendant McCormick Construction as a flagger and general laborer. (Docket No. 14 at ¶ 3). During her tenure with McCormick Construction, Plaintiff was paid between $7.45 and $9.00 per hour. (Id.).

At some unspecified time during her employment, Plaintiff and another African-American co-worker complained to McCormick and Bob Quinn, their supervisor, that they were being treated in a discriminatory fashion. (Id. at ¶¶ 5, 17). Specifically, they asserted that they were not being afforded opportunities to work on well-paying jobs, they were not given adequate training, and that white co-workers were being paid starting wages of $10.00 to $12.00 per hour. (Id. at ¶¶ 5, 12, 18). Plaintiff also contends that she was not given as many bathroom breaks as her male co-workers. (Id. at ¶¶ 4, 12). Plaintiff’s amended complaint does not indicate whether (or in what manner) McCormick and/or Quinn responded to these complaints.

In November 2011, Plaintiff went on medical leave for cancer treatment. (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 21). At some point thereafter, Plaintiff moved to Arkansas, where she resided until her death, to receive chemotherapy treatment. (Id. at ¶ 7). Although it is less than clear from her amended complaint, Plaintiff also appears to suggest that she suffered from a disability prior to her diagnosis with lung cancer. (Id. at ¶ 22). However, Plaintiff has not provided the name of this disability or any facts supporting its existence, other than to suggest that she had two previous heart attacks and generally had trouble breathing, walking and working. (Id. at ¶ 23).

On April 3, 2013, Defendants sent Plaintiff a letter informing her that her employment had been terminated because she had been on medical leave for over 18 months and could not provide the company with a return to work date. (Id. at ¶ 7). As a result of her termination, Plaintiff lost her only source of insurance coverage. (Id.).

On November 5, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an Intake Questionnaire to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Id. at ¶ 9; Docket No. 11-1). In that document, apparently filed with the assistance of counsel, Plaintiff failed to provide any contact information or other details about her employer other than to write the name “Oewns” as the owner of the business. (Docket No. 11-1 at 1). In response to a series of questions concerning her basis for alleging discrimination, Plaintiff generally stated that she “was treated different at the work place” because of her race, sex and disability, that “white coworkers were treated better” with respect to breaks, training, and pay, and that she has lung cancer. (Id. at 2, 7). However, Plaintiff did not supply any specific facts in support of her allegations. (Id.). She also never filed a formal charge of discrimination with the EEOC and, consequently, has not received a right-to-sue letter. (Docket No. 19 at 2-3).

III. Procedural History

As noted above, Plaintiff filed her initial complaint on January 29, 2014. (Docket No. 1). Defendants moved to dismiss that complaint on March 18, 2014, arguing that Plaintiff’s claims had not been administratively exhausted at the agency level and otherwise failed to state a claim for relief. (Docket No. 7). Plaintiff responded by filing a substantively identical amended complaint on May 1, 2014. (Docket No. 14). That pleading is the subject of the instant motion to dismiss.

IV. Legal Standards

A valid complaint requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “To survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6)], a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)).

The Supreme Court in Iqbal clarified that the decision in Twombly “expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 684. The court further explained that although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that requirement does not apply to legal conclusions; therefore, the pleadings must include factual allegations to support the legal claims asserted. Id. at 678-79. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The determination as to whether a complaint contains a plausible claim for relief “is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In light of Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has instructed that district courts should first separate the factual and legal elements of a claim and then, accepting the “well-pleaded facts as true, ” “determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a ‘plausible claim for relief.’” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3rd Cir. 2009). Ultimately, to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

V. Discussion

In her amended complaint, Plaintiff maintains that she suffered discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination on account of her race and her disabilities. She also contends that white co-workers were paid higher wages than she was for the same work. Defendants, in their Motion to Dismiss, argue that Plaintiff has not exhausted her Title VII and ADA claims by filing a charge with the EEOC and that her remaining claims fall ...

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