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Rorke v. Toyota

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 22, 2016

KIM RORKE, Plaintiff,


          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

         I. BACKGROUND

         Kim Rorke, hereinafter “Rorke, ” filed a three count complaint against both her former employer, Aubrey Alexander Toyota, hereinafter “Aubrey Alexander, ” and former supervisor, Michael Andretta, hereinafter “Andretta.” Counts I and II assert claims of retaliation under Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Count III alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, and upon careful review of the pleadings and the briefs both in support and against the motion, I will grant the motion to dismiss. However, I will provide Rorke with one final opportunity to amend her complaint.[1]


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant may file a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Such a motion “tests the legal sufficiency of a pleading” and “streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding.”[2] “Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law.”[3] This is true of any claim, “without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one.”[4]

         Beginning in 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States initiated what some scholars have termed the Roberts Court's “civil procedure revival” by significantly tightening the standard that district courts must apply to 12(b)(6) motions.[5] In two landmark decisions, Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Roberts Court “changed . . . the pleading landscape” by “signal[ing] to lower- court judges that the stricter approach some had been taking was appropriate under the Federal Rules.”[6] More specifically, the Court in these two decisions “retired” the lenient “no-set-of-facts test” set forth in Conley v. Gibson and replaced it with a more exacting “plausibility” standard.[7]

         Accordingly, after Twombly and Iqbal, “[t]o 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.'”[8] “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.”[9] “Although the plausibility standard does not impose a probability requirement, it does require a pleading to show more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”[10] Moreover, “[a]sking for plausible grounds . . . calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [wrongdoing].”[11]

         The plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”[12] No matter the context, however, “[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'”[13]

         When disposing of a motion to dismiss, a court must “accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences from the facts alleged in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff].”[14] However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”[15] “After Iqbal, it is clear that conclusory or ‘bare-bones' allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss.”[16] “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”[17]

         As a matter of procedure, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has instructed that:

Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps. First, it must tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim. Second, it should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Finally, [w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.[18]

         The Court now turns to the specifics of the instant matter.


         a. Facts

         Taking the facts alleged in the complaint as true, as I must when considering a motion to dismiss, the narrative that unfolds is as follows:

         Rorke, a female, was a sales consultant working for Aubery Alexander. She worked for the dealership from August 6, 2008 through February 9, 2015. She claims constructive discharge due to a sexually hostile environment.

         Rorke asserts that her “job went smoothly” before Andretta was hired as the general manager of the dealership in May or June of 2012.[19] Rorke asserts that by January 2013, “Andretta had become an intimidating and degrading presence with a particular hostility toward women.”

         Rorke alleges the following as evidence of discrimination:

         ¶ 22 In or around November, 2013 he made Plaintiff deliver a car to Benton, PA an area of Pennsylvania unfamiliar to her.

         ¶ 23. Plaintiff told Andretta she was uneasy about making the trip.

         ¶ 24. Because Andretta forced Plaintiff to make the delivery, she had a severe anxiety attack and had to phone David Catlin and Mike Rorke for help to come pick her up at the location in Northumberland, Pennsylvania.

         ¶ 25. Plaintiff could not complete the delivery.

         ¶ 26. David Catlin took Plaintiff to her house, and the next day she had to go to the doctor when medication was dispensed and severe anxiety diagnosed.

         ¶ 27. The anxiety was a direct consequence of having worked for Andretta for almost a year.

         ¶ 28. Because of the impact of the attack Plaintiff was afraid to drive a vehicle for 3 weeks.

         ¶ 29. Prior to Andretta coming on board, Plaintiff never had any emotional psychological issues.

         ¶ 30. Throughout 2013-2014 both in Plaintiff's office and in a common sales area, Andretta would use profanity and intimidate the sales associates by slamming filing cabinets, throwing items and using profanity and degrading remarks.

         ¶ 31. In morning meetings, Andretta would humiliate sales associate, David Catlin, while degrading women at the same time.

         ¶ 32. Often the brunt of Andretta's jokes towards David Catlin involved David's sexual orientation and comments involving David's ex-wife and his then girlfriend.

         ¶ 33. For example Andretta would ask David if he showered with both his ex-wife and his girlfriend at the same time.

         ¶ 34. When Bryan Sage, the business manager, was employed Andretta would often refer to his wife as a “Crazy Bitch.”

         ¶ 35. The phrase “crazy bitch” was said regularly around Plaintiff and other employees.

         ¶ 36. Andretta called female employee Shannon Fink a “Pop Tart” which had a sexual and degrading meaning.

         ¶ 37. Andretta would sometimes page her over the loud speaker using this nick name.

         ¶ 38. Throughout Plaintiff's employment, Andretta would occasionally refer to her as “Toots” and then say, “Oh, I can get in trouble for calling you that can't I?”

         ¶ 39. Andretta often referred to all of the employees as “Ass Clowns” and told them to “grow a set of balls” and tell the customer how it was going to be.

         ¶ 40. Andretta consistently ‘fined' Plaintiff and other employees for various instances such as not wearing a name tag in the morning.

         ¶ 41. These “fines” were used as intimidation and went into a jug for a personal beer fund and lunches.

         ¶ 42. Various sales managers and associates knew this money was used for beer.

         ¶ 43. Andretta would use expletives like “Wake the fuck up” and “What the fuck is wrong with you” in morning meetings to the sales staff as a group.

         ¶ 44. In or around February 2014, he physically confronted another manager, Dennis Christiana, grabbing him by this shirt and forcing him through the back door while verbally abusing him in the process.

         ¶45. In or around late summer of 2014, Andretta took one of Plaintiff's customers who was properly documented and gave them to a male associate as a form of power and intimidation.

         ¶ 46. The male associate never had anything to do with the sale and his transfer of this customer went directly against the code of sales conduct.

         ¶ 47. The transfer event put so much stress and anxiety on Plaintiff that evening she had to leave work at 6:00 p.m. because anxiety overcame her.

         ¶ 48. Andretta told Plaintiff that if she left, “Don't come back until I call you.”

         ¶ 49. In effect, Plaintiff was suspended from employment because she protested his illegal actions and became sick because of them.

         ¶ 50. He texted Plaintiff two days later and said to come back at this time.

         ¶ 51. In or around the fall of 2014, Plaintiff was standing next to Andretta when he was working a deal for another ...

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