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Farr v. Modular Steel Systems

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 12, 2017

ELENA FARR, Plaintiff,
v.
MODULAR STEEL SYSTEMS and JIM NOVICK, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

         FINDINGS:

         1. On February 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Complaint. ECF No. 1.

         2. Plaintiff states that she was hired by Defendant Modular Steel Systems in March 2014 and was purportedly fired before having spent two years at the company's plant in Bloomsburg, Columbia County, Pennsylvania. Id. at ¶¶ 21, 23. In precisely what capacity Plaintiff was hired is unclear from the Complaint.

         3. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Jim Novick, Modular Steel's Vice President, created a hostile work environment by making sexually- charged comments and attempting to stare at her breasts and buttocks. Id. at ¶¶ 25-30.

         4. After Plaintiff complained to a plant manager, she alleges that Mr. Novick “began to retaliate against [her].” Id. at ¶ 36.

         5. By way of example, Plaintiff writes that Mr. Novick had referred to her as a “cunt” and a “bitch.” Id. at ¶ 38.

         6. Plaintiff then writes that in February 2016, Mr. Novick “yelled at [her] and told her she was terminated with no explanation.” Id. at ¶ 52.

         7. Plaintiff also avers that she was “subjected to wage discrimination on the basis of her gender” because all male employees in the office received raises, while her pay stayed the same. Id. at ¶¶ 47-48.

         8. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss on March 7, 2017, noting that Plaintiff's Complaint was written “in the most bare bones of terms.” ECF No. 7 at 1. I agree.

         9. After Twombly and Iqbal, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Although the plausibility standard does not impose a probability requirement, it does require a pleading to show more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786 (3d Cir. 2016) (Jordan, J.) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         10. Plaintiff here has not “allege[d] sufficient facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will uncover proof of her claims.” Connelly, 809 F.3d at 789. To the contrary, the averments in Plaintiff's Complaint are shadowy at best and pale in comparison to the facts pled in Connelly. Specifically, nothing in the Complaint suggests that sex “played either a motivating or determinative factor” in the contested termination or pay decisions. Id. at 791.

         11. Moreover, “[f]or sexual harassment to be actionable, it must be sufficiently severe or pervasive “to alter the conditions of [the victim's] employment and create an abusive working environment.” Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 67 (1986). “Conduct that is not severe or pervasive enough to create an objectively hostile or abusive work environment-an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive-is beyond Title VII's purview.” Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993). A “mere utterance of an . . . epithet which engenders offensive feelings in an employee would not affect the conditions of employment to sufficiently significant degree to violate Title VII.” Meritor, 477 U.S. at 67.

         12. Plaintiff offers no facts that plausibly suggest she was the victim of sex discrimination so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of her employment as that standard is applied. See, e.g., Bumbarger v. New Enter. Stone & Lime Co., 170 F.Supp.3d 801, 830 (W.D. Pa. 2016) (Gibson, J.) (“[U]se of the word ‘b-h' on a few occasions and ‘c-t' on a few occasions, over the time period of 2009 until 2013, is ...


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