United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JODY FINEFROCK, JULIA FRANCIS, and SUSAN BARNINGER, individually and on behalf of a collective of others similarly-situated, Plaintiffs,
FIVE GUYS OPERATIONS, LLC, Defendant.
H. RAMBO United States District Judge
employment action, three female restaurant managers assert,
inter alia, both individual and collective
violations of the Equal Pay Act, claiming that they were paid
less than male restaurant managers by Defendant Five Guys
Operations, LLC. Presently before the court is
Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims
under the Equal Pay Act. For the reasons that follow, the
motion to dismiss will be denied.
a general matter, a district court ruling on a motion to
dismiss may not consider matters extraneous to the
pleadings.” In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec.
Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). Thus, for
the purposes of the motions sub judice, the court
only considers the allegations contained in the complaint
(Doc. 1), and will accept as true all well-pleaded factual
allegations contained therein. See Steedley v.
McBride, 446 F. App'x 424, 425 (3d Cir. 2011)
(citing Capogrosso v. Superior Court of N.J., 588
F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2009)).
2009 and 2015, Plaintiffs Jody Finefrock, Julia Francis, and
Susan Barninger (collectively, “Plaintiffs”)
were, respectively, restaurant-level employees and general
managers of Five Guys restaurants within the Middle District
of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 2-4.) Defendant Five
Guys Operations, LLC (“Defendant”) owns and
operates more than one thousand Five Guys restaurants in the
United States, including the restaurants at which Plaintiffs
worked. (Id. at ¶ 1.)
to the complaint, Defendant maintains strict, centralized
control over employees at its corporate-owned restaurants,
including decisions regarding hiring and wages. (Id.
at ¶ 14.) Defendant's centralized control is
enforced through a rigid hierarchical structure at the
restaurant level, whereby crew members at individual
restaurants report to shift leaders, who then report to an
assistant general manager, who in turn reports to the general
manager. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.) Moving above
the restaurant level, general managers report directly to a
district manager, which typically oversee ten to fifteen
restaurants within a geographic region. (Id. at
¶16.) Those district managers then report directly to an
area manager, who reports to Defendant's Chief Financial
Officer, who is one of Defendant's top executives.
(Id.) District and area managers, who are
predominantly male, determine the labor budgets and wage
rates for employees within their region based on instructions
from Defendant's executives. (Id. at ¶ 17.)
allege that they were paid less than male employees who held
the same positions and performed the same work at every
restaurant-level position from crew member up to general
manager pursuant to Defendant's systematic and willful
gender discrimination. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-20.)
The complaint alleges that Ms. Finefrock was paid $7.61 per
hour as a crew member, while a male crew member in her
restaurant was paid $8.00 per hour. (Id. at ¶
23.) Upon her promotion to shift leader, Ms. Finefrock was
paid $8.00 per hour while that same male colleague, who had
also been promoted to shift leader, was paid $9.50 per hour.
(Id. at ¶ 24.) The pay disparity only grew as
Ms. Finefrock earned yet another promotion to assistant
general manager, as she was paid an annual salary of $30, 000
while a male colleague she was asked to train as an assistant
manager garnered a $35, 000 salary, as did another male
assistant general manager at a different Five Guys
restaurant. (Id. at ¶¶ 27, 29.) When Ms.
Finefrock was promoted to general manager of Five Guys
restaurant number sixty-two in York, Pennsylvania, her
initial salary was $38, 000, while a contemporaneously
promoted male general manager at another Five Guys restaurant
was given a starting salary of $40, 000. (Id. at
¶¶ 30-31.) Ms. Finefrock was paid a lower salary even
though her restaurant consistently exceeded Defendant's
corporate evaluation standards.
initiated this action by filing a complaint on June 21, 2016,
asserting individual and collective actions pursuant to the
Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) and 255(a) (Count I),
as well as individual employment retaliation claims pursuant
to both the Equal Pay Act and Fair Labor Standards Act, 29
U.S.C. § 215(a)(3) (Counts II & III) against
Defendant. (See Doc. 1.) On August 12, 2016,
Defendant responded by filing both an answer to the complaint
(Doc. 17) and a motion to dismiss Count I. (Doc. 18.)
Defendant submitted a brief in support of its motion on
August 26, 2016 (Doc. 22), Plaintiffs filed their opposition
on September 12, 2016 (Doc. 23), and Defendant timely replied
(Doc. 24). Thus, the motion has been fully briefed and is
ripe for disposition.
has moved to dismiss Count I of the complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the
complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a),
which requires that a complaint set forth “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). For a
complaint to survive dismissal it “must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
Thus, 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.” United States v. Pennsylvania, 110
F.Supp.3d 544, 548 (M.D. Pa. 2015) (quoting Fleisher v.
Standard Ins. Co., 679 F.3d 116, 120 (3d Cir. 2012));
see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
of Plaintiffs' complaint asserts both individual and
collective violations of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. §
216(b) and 255(a)(3), based on Defendant's allegedly
willful practice of paying female employees less than male
employees performing similar work. (See Doc. 1,
Count I.) Defendant has moved to dismiss, and offers two
arguments that support dismissal: 1) that Plaintiffs have
failed to adequately plead that separate Five Guys
restaurants are a single establishment for purposes of the
Equal Pay Act; and 2) that Plaintiffs have failed to name
specific male comparators who allegedly received higher pay.
(See Doc. 22, pp. 3-7.) Plaintiffs, on the other
hand, contend ...