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Marcial-Delima v. Doughnuts

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 22, 2017

EASTON DOUGHNUTS, et al., Defendants.


          STENGEL, J.

         Plaintiff Marylyn Marcial-Delima brings federal and state employment discrimination claims against Easton Doughnuts, Raj Saraswati, and Raghu Yeddulapalli, alleging gender-based discrimination and retaliation. Easton Doughnuts, Saraswati, and Yeddulapalli filed a motion to dismiss the respective claims against them for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.


         The plaintiff was formerly employed as a general manager at Easton Doughnuts. (Am. Compl. ¶ 8.) Saraswati was the owner and managing member for Easton Doughnuts, and Yeddulapalli was the district manager. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) In October 2013, Easton Doughnuts purchased the Dunkin Donuts store where the plaintiff worked as a general manager, and retained all the employees working at that store, including the plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 17.) The plaintiff had a good work record and competently and properly performed her job duties, but Saraswati and Yeddulapalli immediately began to discriminate against her and treat her in a disparate manner “based on their stereotypical views of women and belief that women should be passive, quiet, and subservient.” (Id. ¶¶ 16, 18.) The plaintiff specifically alleges the following harassment and discriminatory conduct:

(1) verbal abuse for not being prim and proper, being too aggressive, not being submissive, and not acting in the manner Saraswati and Yeddulapalli expected a woman to act;
(2) subjecting her to hyper-criticism and hyper-scrutiny for manufactured and baseless reasons relating to her job performance;
(3) calling her “hopeless” and making derogatory comments about her intelligence; and
(4) refusing to provide her with the assistance and resources to properly and effectively perform her job duties.

(Id. ¶ 19.)

         The plaintiff reported and complained of the defendants' harassment and discrimination by objecting to their conduct and by informing Yeddulapalli that they were creating a hostile work environment. (Id. ¶ 20.) In response, Yeddulapalli laughed at her and dismissed her complaints without taking any remedial action. (Id. ¶ 21.) Afterward, the harassment and discrimination continued. (Id.)

         The plaintiff alleges that she was terminated on or about January 2, 2014 in retaliation for her having engaged in protected conduct by reporting gender-based harassment and discrimination. (Id. ¶ 22.) The stated reason for her termination was deficient job performance, but the plaintiff alleges that this reason is manufactured and pretextual because Saraswati and Yeddulapalli held the plaintiff to a higher standard than they would have done if she were a man, and refused to provide her with the assistance and resources that she needed in order to properly and effectively perform her job duties. (Id. ¶ 23.) The plaintiff believes that she was set up to fail in order to conceal Saraswati's and Yeddulapalli's discriminatory and retaliatory animus. (Id. ¶ 24.)


         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court recognized that “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.” Id. at 555. Subsequently, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court defined a two-pronged approach to a court's review of a motion to dismiss. “First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678. Thus, while “Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Id. at 678-79.

         Second, the Supreme Court emphasized that “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 679. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. A complaint does not show an entitlement to relief when the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Id.; see also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232-34 (3d Cir. 2008) (holding that: (1) factual allegations of complaint must provide notice to defendant; (2) complaint must allege facts suggestive of the proscribed conduct; and (3) the complaint's “‘factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555)).

         The basic tenets of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review have remained static. Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., No. Civ.A.08-626, 2008 WL 2779079, at *2 (W.D. Pa. July 15, 2008). The general rules of pleading still require only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and need not contain detailed factual allegations. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233. Further, the court must “accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, the court must “determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Pinkerton v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).


         The defendants move to dismiss all of the plaintiff's claims against them for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e). Having considered the amended complaint and the parties' briefs, I find that the plaintiff has not sufficiently stated a Title VII hostile work environment claim, and that claim is dismissed without prejudice. She has sufficiently stated her other claims, however, and the defendants' motion to dismiss is therefore denied in all other respects. The defendants' motion for a more definite statement is also denied.

         A. Count One: Violations of Title VII

         The plaintiff sets forth a claim against Easton Doughnuts pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 2000(e), et seq., [1] for (1) fostering and perpetuating a hostile and offensive work environment; (2) retaliating against her because of her expressed opposition to offensive gender-related conduct in the workplace;[2] and (3) subjecting her to more onerous working conditions and treating her in a disparate manner based on her gender. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 28.)

         1. Hostile Work Environment

         “To succeed on a hostile work environment claim, the plaintiff must establish that 1) the employee suffered intentional discrimination because of his/her sex, 2) the discrimination was severe or pervasive, 3) the discrimination detrimentally affected the plaintiff, 4) the discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person in like circumstances, and 5) the existence of respondeat superior liability.” Mandel v. M & Q Packaging Corp., 706 F.3d 157, 167 (3d Cir. 2013) (internal citation omitted). “The first four elements establish a hostile work environment, and the fifth element determines employer liability.” Id. (internal citation omitted). “For a hostile work environment claim to succeed, the conduct complained of must be adverse, severe, pervasive or regular and of the kind that would have detrimentally affected ...

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