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Jones v. Amerihealth Caritas

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 6, 2015


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In this employment race and sex discrimination, harassment and retaliation case, the employer and supervisor defendants raise a wide variety of exhaustion and merits arguments seeking to dismiss some or all of the claims in the employee's First Amended Complaint (" FAC" ). Several issues on informal complaints as the basis for a retaliation claim and the availability of punitive or " pain and suffering" damages under plead claims have not yet been addressed by our Court of Appeals. At this motion to dismiss preliminary stage, and following the weight of persuasive authority, we find that Plaintiff's claims for race and sex discrimination, harassment and retaliation are sufficiently plead so as to allow the parties to proceed into discovery and we deny the Defendants' motion to dismiss in its entirety.

I. Allegations of First Amended Complaint.

In May 2011, Amerihealth Caritas (" Amerihealth" ) hired Jonathan Jones (" Jones" ), an African-American male, as a Claims Examiner. (ECF Doc. No. 6, Compl., ¶ 19.) He became one of Amerihealth's most consistent Claims Examiners. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Jones claims that his supervisor Kathleen Gray (" Gray" ) treated Jones differently than other employees because he was a male. ( Id. ¶ 23.) As alleged, Defendant Gray subjected Jones to disciplinary measures that other employees were not subject to and denied Jones' promotion applications. ( Id. ¶ 24.)

Jones complained about Gray's treatment in June 2012, as well as other discrimination he allegedly faced. ( Id. ¶ 26.) After making those complaints, Amerihealth repeatedly passed over Jones for promotions that went to less qualified female, Caucasian counterparts. ( Id. ¶ 27-28.) Amerihealth then transferred Jones away from Gray's supervision in October 2013. ( Id. ¶ 29.)

Jones also complained of being paid less than white female counterparts. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 35-36.) In Summer 2012, Jones complained internally to Human Resources employee Michael Greevy regarding the disparity in pay. ( Id. ¶ 36.) Jones claims that, after these complaints, Amerihealth

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continued passing him over for promotions. ( Id. ¶ 37.)

On June 28, 2013, Jones cross-filed an administrative charge (the " First Charge" ) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). After obtaining counsel, Jones cross-filed a second administrative charge (the " Second Charge" ) with the EEOC and PHRC on November 3, 2013. Jones then filed an amended charge (the " Amended Charge" ) on November 18, 2013. On May 19, 2014, the EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on the First Charge filed by Jones.[1]

Jones now brings suit against Amerihealth and his supervisor Gray alleging unlawful employment discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (" PHRA" ) 43 Pa.C.S. § 955, et seq, as well as unlawful employment practices in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (" § 1981" ), the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) (the " EPA" ), and the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3) (the " FLSA" ). Defendants moved to dismiss the FAC in its entirety arguing that Jones failed to administratively exhaust his claims for race and sex discrimination, as well as retaliation under Title VII. Further, Defendants assert that the FAC fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under § 1981, the EPA, and the FLSA.

II. Standard of review.

A plaintiff must plead " a short and plain statement of the claim," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Any " pleading offering only 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' " Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

The complaint need not contain " detailed factual allegations" but rather " 'sufficient factual matter to show that the claim is facially plausible,' thus enabling 'the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for [the] misconduct alleged.' " Warren Gen. Hosp., 643 F.3d at 84 (quoting Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210). " The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). We will dismiss a complaint if the factual allegations in the complaint are not sufficient " 'to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.' " West Run Student Hous. Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat'l Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

III. Analysis

A. Jones' alleged failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

Defendants allege that Jones failed to administratively exhaust his claims for race and sex discrimination, harassment, and retaliation under Title VII and the PHRA. With regard to the race and sex harassment, Defendants claim that since neither the First nor Second Charge refers to harassment based on race or sex, Jones failed to administratively exhaust. Defendants further argue that since Jones

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failed to attach his May 19, 2014 Right-to-Sue letter, he has not demonstrated that he exhausted his administrative remedies with regard to any claims based on the First Charge. Defendants further argue that because Jones did not specifically allege that he waited one year to file his PHRA claims, he has failed to show that he exhausted his administrative remedies under the PHRA.

The filing of an administrative charge with the PHRC and EEOC is a prerequisite for filing suit alleging workplace discrimination. See Antol v. Perry, 82 F.3d 1291, 1295-96 (3d Cir. 1996) (dismissing Title VII gender discrimination claim where plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies); Richards v. Foulke Assocs., Inc., 151 F.Supp.2d 610, 613-16 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (finding plaintiff filing claims under PHRA must exhaust administrative remedies). This Court must determine " whether the acts alleged in the subsequent Title VII suit are fairly within the scope of the prior EEOC complaint, or the investigation arising therefrom." Waiters v. Parsons, 729 F.2d 233, 237 (3d Cir. 1984). " The scope of the original charge should be liberally construed because charges are 'most often drafted by one who is not well versed in the art of legal description.' " Weems v. Kehe Food Distribs., Inc., 804 F.Supp.2d 339, 342 (E.D. Pa. 2011) (quoting Hicks v. ABT Assocs., Inc., 572 F.2d 960, 965 (3d Cir. 1978)).

Initially, we find that Jones' claims of race and sex harassment, as well as retaliation in connection with the disparity in wages, are fairly within the scope of his First EEOC complaint. In his First Charge, Jones checked the " Discrimination Based On" boxes for race, sex, and retaliation. Jones' narrative describing the alleged discrimination is as follows:

I was hired in May of 2011, and employed as a Claims Examiner. In June of 2012, I made an internal complaint to human ...

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