United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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)).
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).