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Sims v. EQT Corporation

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 4, 2014

MICHELLE SIMS, Plaintiff,
v.
EQT CORPORATION; HALLIBURTON ENERGY SERVICES, INC., Defendants.

OPINION

MAUREEN P. KELLY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Michelle Sims ("Plaintiff") has filed this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., bringing claims for gender discrimination and retaliation against Defendants EQT Corporation ("EQT") and Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. ("HES") (collectively, "Defendants").

Presently before the Court is Defendant EQT Corporation's Motion to Dismiss Michelle Sim's Complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or for Summary Judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, ECF No. 14, and Defendant Halliburton Energy Services, Inc.'s Motion to Compel Arbitration and to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, to Stay.[1] ECF No. 23. For the following reasons, EQT's Motion to Dismiss and HES's Motion to Compel Arbitration and Motion to Stay will be granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was employed by HES as an Operator Assistant from January 17, 2012, until May 1, 2012, when she resigned her position claiming that she was constructively discharged. ECF No. 2, ¶¶ 9, 26, 29. During her 3½ month employment, Plaintiff worked on property owned and controlled by EQT in New Martinsville, West Virginia. Id. at ¶¶ 9, 10.

Plaintiff alleges that she was the only female working out of the Martinsdale facility and that she was subjected to disparate treatment based upon her gender. Id. at ¶ 11. Specifically, Plaintiff complains that on or about May 1, 2012, Dave Kale ("Kale"), the worksite manager for EQT, stated that "no women belong on [his] site;" that she was assigned to share a hotel room with a male co-worker; that Jason Obordorf ("Obordorf") required her to drive to West Virginia more frequently than male co-workers; that Obordorf required Plaintiff to "drive to depot and not to the site, when male co-workers were either permitted to do so or provided a hotel room if site was more than one hour drive;" that Obordorf told her that she had to eat lunch outside and not in the trucks where the men ate lunch; that Obordorf selectively "called her out" for reporting one minute late when male co-workers arrived at the same time; that Obordorf repeatedly put his hands down his pants; that Plaintiff was required to shovel sand while five male co-workers watched; that she did not receive an equal distribution of boots and gloves as her male co-workers; and that she was told to "drive Acid truck" despite not being qualified to do so and because "she does not have facial hair." Id. at ¶¶ 12-23, 26. Plaintiff also alleges that during a radio silence various employees were speaking over the radio but only Plaintiff was singled out and told by Kale to "shut her mouth" or he would kick her off the site which made her fearful. Id. at ¶¶ 23, 25.

Although Plaintiff alleges that she made complaints of unequal treatment to Holly Miller in Human Resources at HES, Plaintiff does not indicate when she made the complaints, whether it was on more than one occasion or what specific incidents she complained of. Id. at ¶ 12. Nevertheless, Plaintiff resigned her position on or about May 1, 2012, claiming that she was concerned for her safety due to the ongoing harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants on August 27, 2013. ECF No. 1. On December 20, 2013, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, ECF No. 2, bringing claims against Defendants for discrimination under Title VII (Count I) and Retaliation (Count II).

EQT filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint or for Summary Judgment on February 24, 2014. ECF No. 14. Plaintiff filed a Response to EQT's Motion to Dismiss on March 14, 2014, ECF No. 30, and on March 28, 2014, EQT filed a Reply in Further Support of its Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 34. HES filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration and to Dismiss on March 5, 2014, ECF No. 23, and submitted a Supplemental Brief in Support of its Motion to Compel Arbitration on April 10, 2014. ECF No. 35. Plaintiff filed a Response to HES's Motion to Compel Arbitration on April 10, 2014. ECF No. 36. HES filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Response on April 24, 2014, ECF No. 37, and on May 5, 2014, having been granted leave of Court, Plaintiff filed a Sur-Reply to HES's Reply. ECF No. 40. Accordingly, both EQT's Motion to Dismiss and HES's Motion to Compel Arbitration are ripe for review.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint pursuant to a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Odd v. Malone , 538 F.3d 202, 205 (3d Cir. 2008). The Court, however, need not accept bald assertions or inferences drawn by the plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employees' Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp. , 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004), citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the Court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id., citing Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has held that a complaint is properly dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) where it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " id. at 570, or where the factual content does not allow the court "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). See Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (finding that, under Twombly, "labels, conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" do not suffice but, rather, the complaint "must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct" and that are sufficient "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s] of his claim").

If the Court considers evidence outside of the pleadings, it may convert the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Butterbaugh v. Chertoff , 479 F.Supp.2d 485, 490 (W.D. Pa. 2007), citing In re Rockefeller Center Properties, Inc. Sec. Litig. , 184 F.3d 280, 287 (3d Cir. 1999). In addition, "when a motion to dismiss has been alternately framed as a motion for summary judgment and the nonmoving party has submitted evidence extraneous to its pleadings, the Court need not provide the parties with express notice of conversion." Id., citing Hilfirty v. Shipman , 91 F.3d 573, 578-79 (3d Cir. 1996).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that: "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue of material fact is in genuine dispute if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). See Doe v. Abington Friends Sch. , 480 F.3d 252, 256 (3d Cir. 2007) ("A genuine issue is present when a reasonable trier of fact, viewing all of the record evidence, could rationally find in favor of the non-moving party in light of his burden of proof").

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). See Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co. , 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004). "[W]hen the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Scott v. Harris , 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007), quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). In deciding a summary judgment motion, a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must draw all reasonable inferences, and resolve all doubts in favor of the nonmoving party. Matreale v. New Jersey Dep't of Military & Veterans Affairs , 487 F.3d 150, 152 (3d Cir. 2007); Woodside v. Sch. Dist. of Phila. Bd. of Educ. , 248 F.3d 129, 130 (3d Cir. 2001).

Motions to compel arbitration are also reviewed under the summary judgment standard. Schwartz v. Comcast Corp. , 256 F.App'x 515, 518 (3d Cir. 2007). "Only when there is no genuine issue of fact concerning the formation of the agreement should the court decide as a matter of law that the parties did or did not enter into such an agreement." Id., citing Par-Knit Mills, Inc. v. Stockbridge Fabrics Co., Ltd. , 636 F.2d 51, 54 (3d Cir.1980). Where a genuine issue of fact is found to exist, the District Court must hold a trial to determine whether an arbitration agreement exists. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

A. EQT's Motion for Summary Judgment

EQT argues that the claims Plaintiff has brought against it should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts in the Amended Complaint to support a finding that she was employed by EQT and that, looking beyond the Amended Complaint, it is clear that she was not. Plaintiff, however, contends that EQT was functioning as a joint employer and that EQT's Motion to Dismiss therefore should be denied.

The law is not in dispute. As recently found by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit:

Under Graves v. Lowery, 117 F.3d 723 (3d Cir.1997), a joint employment relationship exists when "two entities exercise significant control over the same employees." Id. at 727 (citations omitted); see also Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Browning-Ferris Indus. of Pa., Inc., 691 F.2d 1117, 1123 (3d Cir.1982). When determining whether an entity exercises significant control with another employer, district courts in the Third Circuit have assessed the following factors: (1) the entity's "authority to hire and fire employees, promulgate work rules and assignments, and set conditions of employment, including compensation, benefits, and hours"; (2) its "day-to-day supervision of employees, including employee discipline"; and (3) its "control of employee records, including payroll, insurance, taxes and the like." See, e.g., Abdallah v. Allegheny ...

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