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Pepper v. Baierl Automotive Corporation

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 4, 2015

JEFF PEPPER, Plaintiff,
v.
BAIERL AUTOMOTIVE CORPORATION, I/T/D/B/A/ BAIERL ACURA, at al. Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

MAURICE B. COHILL, Jr., Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Jeff Pepper filed this employment discrimination action against Defendants alleging claims of religious discrimination, age discrimination, retaliation, and tortious interference with prospective contracts. Defendants have filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff has filed a Brief in Response, to which Defendants have filed a Reply Brief. For the reasons set forth below we will grant in part, and deny in part Defendants' motion.

I. Relevant Background

Plaintiff Jeff Pepper was employed by Defendants from approximately May 2006, until February 2012. Mr. Pepper is 66 years of age and of the Jewish faith. Mr. Pepper alleges that despite his satisfactory job performance he was demoted and ultimately terminated from his employment for reasons that were a pretext for religious and age discrimination. After filing a charge of discrimination with the appropriate agencies, Mr. Pepper alleges that Defendants unlawfully retaliated against him and interfered with his ability to obtain comparable employment elsewhere.

In Count 1 he alleges that he was subjected to unlawful discrimination based on his religion and age in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 P.C.S.A. § 955, et seq., and Pennsylvania's Common Law prescription against religious discrimination. In Count 2, he alleges that he was subjected to unlawful discrimination based on his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., the PHRA, and Pennsylvania's Common Law prescription against age discrimination. In Count 3, Mr. Pepper alleges that he was subjected to retaliation in violation of Title VII, the ADEA, the PHRA, and Pennsylvania's Common Law prescription against retaliation, in retaliation for filing claims of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Finally, in Count IV he alleges that Defendants tortiously interfered with Mr. Pepper's existing and prospective contracts.

II. Standards of Review

In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted 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. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008), quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n. 7 (3d Cir. 2002), and citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563, n.8 (2007).

"To survive a motion to dismiss a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. "Factual allegations of a complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. "This [standard] does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Thus, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

If a court decides to grant a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must next decide whether leave to amend the complaint must be granted. As explained in Phillips, : "We have instructed that if a complaint is vulnerable to 12(b)(6) dismissal, a district court must permit a curative amendment, unless an amendment would be inequitable or futile." 515 F.3d 236, citing Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir.2002)).

III. Discussion

A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies under the PHRA

Defendants have filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss seeking dismissal of Mr. Pepper's claims asserted under the PHRA for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Defendants allege that although Mr. Pepper filed a complaint with the EEOC raising claims of age and religious discrimination, he failed to cross-file his claims with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") as required by law. Therefore he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for claims under the PHRA, and such claims must be dismissed.

Plaintiff has filed a Brief in Response to Defendants' partial motion to dismiss attaching a letter from the PHRC showing that in fact his claims were timely cross-filed with the PHRC. Defendants filed a Reply Brief in which they concede that Plaintiff is correct that he has exhausted his administrative remedies under the PHRA with regard to his claims of religious discrimination and age discrimination, only. Accordingly, we will deny Defendants' motion to dismiss ...


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