United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Ulearey brings this employment discrimination case against
her former employer, alleging that she experienced sex
discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The
defendants, Stong Plumbing and its president, Steve Reed,
filed a motion to dismiss the claims against them for failure
to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), as well as a motion for a more definite statement
pursuant to Rule 12(e) and a motion to strike Paragraph 13 of
the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(f). For the following
reasons, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied
in part, the motion for a more definite statement is denied,
and the motion to strike Paragraph 13 is denied.
plaintiff is an adult woman who resides in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 1.) According to the Complaint,
defendant PA Services, Inc., d/b/a Stong Plumbing, is a
Pennsylvania corporation with fifteen or more employees.
(Id. ¶ 2.) Defendant Steve Reed, the
owner/operator of Stong Plumbing, was the plaintiff's
direct supervisor and the chief decision-maker regarding
adverse employment actions against the plaintiff.
(Id. ¶¶ 3, 9.)
August 2011, Reed hired the plaintiff as an
Executive/Administrative Assistant. (Id. ¶ 8.)
The plaintiff began to assume progressively higher
responsibilities, such as managing business finances and
performing human resources functions, and, at Reed's
request, began to manage his personal finances. (Id.
¶10.) She also began to receive regular
“bonus” payments into her bi-weekly pay, based on
increasing responsibilities and work performance.
in January 2013, Reed began to make derogatory and sexually
explicit comments to the plaintiff both verbally and through
text messages. (Id. ¶12.) She alleges that the
text messages “described in vulgar, graphic detail
[Reed's] desire to engage in various sexual activities
with [the plaintiff]” which included “his desire
to rape [the plaintiff] and urinate on her for his own
perverse sexual gratification.” (Id. ¶ 13
(citing Compl. Ex. C).) The plaintiff repeatedly refused
Reed's advances and demanded that he stop harassing her,
but he refused and persisted in harassing her through August
2013. (Id. ¶14.) After the plaintiff did not
engage in sexual intercourse with Reed and demanded that he
stop harassing her, Reed stopped paying the
“bonuses” that had been included in her paychecks
prior to January 2013. (Id. ¶15.) The plaintiff
alleges that the bonuses stopped because she demanded that he
stop sexually harassing her, and not because of work
performance issues or any other legitimate reason.
(Id. ¶ 16.) She further alleges that the
pervasive sexual harassment forced her to resign from her job
at Stong Plumbing on or about July 26, 2013. (Id.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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. Following these basic dictates, the
Supreme Court, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
(2009), subsequently 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, although
“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
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)).
these new dictates, 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).
defendants move to dismiss counts one and three of the
Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). They also move for a
more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e). Additionally,
the defendants move to strike Paragraph 13 of the Complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(f). Having considered the Complaint and
the parties' briefs, I will deny the defendants'
motion to dismiss count one, and I will grant their motion to
dismiss count three. I will deny the motion for a more
definite statement, as well as the defendants' motion to
strike Paragraph 13 of the Complaint.
Count One: Sex Discrimination in Violation of 42 U.S.C.
defendants assert that they do not meet the definition of an
employer under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and therefore cannot
be sued pursuant to that statute, because they did not have
fifteen or more employees during the time period at issue.
(Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 3.) The plaintiff asserts
that, while she agrees that Title VII would not apply to the
defendants if Stong Plumbing is not an “employer”
as defined by the statute, the defendants'
“unsubstantiated assertion” that Stong Plumbing
did not have fifteen or more employees does not entitle them
to a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal. (Pls.' Resp. Opp'n to
Mot. Dismiss 4.) The plaintiff alleged in the Complaint that
Stong Plumbing had fifteen or more employees during the
relevant time period. (Compl. ¶ 2.) At the motion to