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Cauler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 14, 2015

BETTY CAULER, Plaintiff,
v.
LEHIGH VALLEY HOSPITAL, INC., d/b/a LEHIGH VALLEY HOSPITAL & HEALTH NETWORK, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

Stengel, J.

This is an age discrimination case involving a former temporary employee assigned to work at Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network through a staffing agency. The plaintiff alleges she was not hired full-time by the defendant because of her age and then was terminated from her job with the staffing agency after she complained about the initial age discrimination. The defendant has moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons explained below, I will grant this motion and dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff Betty Cauler, 62, began working for Aaron Resources, an employment agency, in February 2011. Aaron assigned her to work at Defendant Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network (LVHN) as a temporary part-time Standardized Patient/Simulation Technician.[2] Aaron “had an on-going business relationship” with LVHN to provide staffing.[3] The plaintiff allegedly received compliments on her performance from the doctors with which she worked.

In June 2012, the defendant sought to hire a full-time Simulation Technician. This position entailed the same work the plaintiff was already doing at LVHN through Aaron. The plaintiff told Deborah Arnold, her supervisor at LVHN, that she planned to apply for the position. Arnold “told her that she should not apply.” The plaintiff applied for the job anyway in July 2012. She did not get the job. Instead, LVHN offered the position to three “substantially younger employees, all junior, in seniority” to the plaintiff.[4] One accepted the position.

Allegedly, Deborah Arnold “sabotaged” the plaintiff’s application because she “wanted a younger employe[e] for this job.” When Ms. Cauler did not get the job, she complained to Arnold’s supervisor, an employee of LVHN, that she was being discriminated against.[5]

On August 23, 2012, Ms. Cauler was terminated from her position at Aaron and LVHN.[6] Allegedly, LVHN “encouraged Aaron Resources to terminate Plaintiff’s [e]mployment with Aaron Resources, or risk their contract with Defendant, LVHN.”

The plaintiff filed an EEOC charge against LVHN on November 8, 2012-within 300 days of the alleged discrimination.[7] She received her Right-to-Sue letter on January 12, 2015. She filed this action on March 3, 2015, claiming that she was discriminated and retaliated against by LVHN under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The plaintiff seeks lost earnings, benefits, and reinstatement to her previous position as a Simulation Technician.[8] The defendant moves to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint.[9] Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The factual allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, a federal court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984).

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to plead in detail all of the facts upon which she bases her claim. Conley, 355 U.S. at 47. Rather, the Rules require a “short and plain statement” of the claim that will give the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff’s claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Id. The “complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 564. Neither “bald assertions” nor “vague and conclusory allegations” are accepted as true. See Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Sterling v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., 897 F.Supp. 893 (E.D. Pa. 1995). The claim must contain enough factual matters to suggest the required elements of the claim or to “raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of” those elements. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

III. DISCUSSION [10]

a. Count I: Age Discrimination

The ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age…” 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). The plaintiff must show that age was the “but for” cause of the adverse action. Gross v. FBL Financial Servs., Inc., 557 U.S. 167, 176 (2009). To make out a prima facie failure-to-hire claim under the ADEA, the plaintiff must plead that: (1) she is forty years of age or older; (2) she was qualified for the position in question; (3) she was not selected for the position; and (4) circumstances giving rise to an inference of ...


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