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Resetar v. Phillips Feed Service, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 22, 2017



          STENGEL, J.

         In this employment discrimination case, the plaintiff alleges she was sexually harassed by her boss's wife, who was also an employee at the same company. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss. I will deny the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff, Tracy Resetar, was employed as an Executive Administrator at Phillips Feed Service, Inc. in Easton, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 7 ¶ 12). She worked at Phillips Feed for thirteen years up until the date she was fired. (Id. ¶ 11) As an Executive Administrator, Ms. Resetar reported directly to Phillips Feed's CEO: Mr. Blaine Phillips. (Id. ¶ 12). Mr. Phillips's wife worked as the company's Chief Marketing Officer (“CMO”). (Id. ¶ 15).[1]

         In November 2012, after Ms. Resetar underwent breast augmentation surgery, the CMO began sexually harassing her. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 20). The CMO made Ms. Resetar follow a “strict” dress code, but the CMO was allowed to wear clothes that did not comply with this dress code and that were “exceptionally revealing.” (Id. ¶ 15). The CMO would repeatedly boast that she was “probably in violation of the dress code, but who's going to say anything to me about it?” (Id. ¶ 18). The CMO would send home other women, to change their outfits, if they were not in compliance with the dress code. (Id. ¶ 17).

         According to Ms. Resetar, defendant's CMO would continually tell Ms. Resetar that she (the CMO) had “all the power.” (Id. ¶ 19). The CMO would stare at Ms. Resetar's breasts and body, something she did not do to male employees. (Id. ¶ 23). This made Ms. Resetar afraid the CMO sexually desired her or was jealous of her. (Id. ¶ 24). It also made Ms. Resetar fear the CMO was going to touch her breasts. (Id.). The CMO would also tell Ms. Resetar: “I have the perfect size boobs for my body.” (Id. ¶ 22). Based on the CMO's comments and behavior, male employees at Phillips Feed told Ms. Resetar that they thought the CMO was going to touch Ms. Resetar's breasts. (Id. ¶ 26). On one occasion, the CMO made Ms. Resetar pick up luggage from hers and Mr. Phillips's home, knowing that the luggage was directly next to “a basket filled with the [CMO]'s lingerie.” (Id. ¶ 30).

         Ms. Resetar also alleges the CMO would make comments about her husband, Mr. Phillips. For example, the CMO made degrading remarks about Mr. Phillips's children. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28). The CMO also commented that her husband, Mr. Phillips, had “chicken arms.” (Id. ¶ 29).

         The CMO had no direct line of supervision over Ms. Resetar. (Id. ¶ 32). However, the CMO was still successful in taking away some of Ms. Resetar's job duties in an effort to force Ms. Resetar to resign. (Id.). Ms. Resetar contends that the CMO was fixated on Ms. Resetar's physical looks, which made Ms. Resetar extremely uncomfortable. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34).

         Ms. Resetar never complained about the CMO's conduct. (Id. ¶ 35). Ms. Resetar never complained because she had been told by the CMO that she (the CMO) had “all the power, ” implying that if Ms. Resetar complained then she would be fired. (Id.). On September 24, 2014, defendant fired Ms. Resetar. (Id. ¶ 36). Defendant refused to provide Ms. Resetar, despite her requests, with any explanation of why she was being fired. (Id. ¶ 37). The CMO was directly involved in the decision to terminate Ms. Resetar. (Id. ¶ 38).

         In December 2014, Ms. Resetar filed an administrative Charge of Discrimination against defendant Phillips Feed. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9). This Charge was jointly filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”). (Id.). After receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, Ms. Resetar commenced this action against Phillips Feed, alleging sexual harassment and discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).


         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).

         III. ...

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