United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge.
Robbie Heverling ("Heverling") and Nathan Hess
("Hess") commenced this action against defendant
McNeil Consumer Pharmaceuticals, Co.
("McNeil"). Plaintiffs allege that McNeil fostered a
hostile work environment and retaliated against them in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17, and the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). 43 Pa. Stat. &
Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 951-963. Plaintiffs also
advance a state common law claim for wrongful termination.
(Doc. 1). McNeil moves to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc.
12). The court will grant the motion.
Factual Background & Procedural History
is a corporation which manufactures pharmaceutical drugs.
(Doc. 1 ¶¶ 3, 5). McNeil employed plaintiffs as
processing associates at McNeil's plant in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13). During the
entire course of plaintiffs' employment, the Food and
Drug Administration ("FDA") subjected McNeil to a
consent decree which required McNeil to adhere to certain
quality control and manufacturing standards. (Id.
¶ 14). Between January 2015 and May 2015, plaintiffs
observed that management at the Lancaster plant consistently
violated the consent decree and did not satisfy the FDA's
Good Manufacturing Practices. (Id. ¶¶
17-22). Plaintiffs specifically note that the plant's
management allowed them to use contaminated tools and
equipment in violation of FDA requirements. (Id.
¶ 17). Plaintiffs also aver that McNeil's management
engaged in improper record keeping and that their shift
supervisor failed to properly inspect plaintiffs'
workplace for cleanliness and quality control. (Id.
brought these issues to their shift supervisor. (Id.
¶¶ 23-24). Plaintiffs also approached two other
shift supervisors about these problems. (Id.
¶¶ 25-30). None of the supervisors alleviated
plaintiffs' concerns. (Id.) In May 2015, one of
the machines at the plant malfunctioned, causing a batch of
contaminated product to leave the facility. (Id.
¶ 31). Plaintiffs reported this incident to their
supervisors. (Id. ¶ 32).
allege that McNeil initiated a Title VII investigation
"nearly immediately after the aforementioned complaints
were made." (Id. ¶ 33). McNeil interviewed
most of the male employees in plaintiffs' shift during
the investigation. (Id. ¶ 34). Investigators
asked plaintiffs and others whether they ridiculed another
male employee using sexually-charged language. (Id.
¶ 35). During his interview, Hess indicated that he
never teased male employees in his shift. (Id.
¶ 36). Heverling told an investigator that he did tease
other male employees in his shift, but that other male
employees engaged in similar behavior and he never singled
out the specific employee in question. (Id. ¶
37). Both Hess and Heverling stated that other male employees
in their shift subjected them to homophobic slurs.
(Id. ¶ 39). Plaintiffs allege that "[a]s a
result of . . . their participation in the Title VII
investigation, " McNeil terminated them from employment
on June 25, 2015. (Id. ¶ 40). Both plaintiffs
received termination letters indicating that the reason for
their terminations, inter alia, was inappropriate
behavior towards other employees. (Id. at 16, 18).
Plaintiffs contend that McNeil had "two primary
motivations" for terminating their employment.
(Id. ¶ 41). Plaintiffs cite "their
reporting of sexual and homophobic slurs during the Title VII
investigation" as well as their repeated complaints
about McNeil's failure to adhere to the FDA's
regulations and required practices. (Id.)
filed charges with the United States Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission on October 18, 2015.
(Docs. 16-1, 16-2). The EEOC sent plaintiffs right-to-sue
letters on January 12, 2016. (Doc. 1 at 14-15). Plaintiffs
filed the instant complaint (Doc. 1) on April 11, 2016.
Therein, they allege a hostile work environment claim, Title
VII and PHRA retaliation claims, and a state law wrongful
termination claim. (Id. ¶¶ 44-75). McNeil
filed the instant motion (Doc. 12) to dismiss on June 13,
2016. The motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for
the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When
ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the 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. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d
Cir. 2008). In addition to reviewing the facts contained in
the complaint, the court may also consider "matters of
public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and
items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver
v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380,
1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v.
White Consol. Indus.. Inc.. 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.
notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide
"the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips.
515 F.3d at 232 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly.
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the
complaint, the court must conduct a three-step inquiry.
See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121,
130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step, "the court
must 'tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead
to state a claim.'" Id., at 130 (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next,
the factual and legal elements of a claim should be
separated; well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, while
mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id. at
131; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside. 578 F.3d
203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the court isolates the
well-pleaded factual allegations, it must determine whether
they are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for
relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555. 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
should grant leave to amend before dismissing a curable
pleading in civil rights actions. See Fletcher-Harlee
Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247,
251 (3d Cir. 2007); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp.,
293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002). Courts need not grant leave
to amend sua sponte in dismissing non-civil rights
claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fletcher-Harlee
Corp., 482 F.3d at 251, but leave is broadly encouraged
"when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).
asseverates that plaintiffs' allegations, even accepted
as true, fail to establish an entitlement to relief under
Title VII, the PHRA, and Pennsylvania common law. The ...