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Hunsinger v. Empowered Staffing Solutions

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 15, 2017


          BRANN, J.


          KAROLINE MEHALCHICK United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Empowered Staffing Solutions and Ferdinand Cavallaro, owner thereof, on December 5, 2016. (Doc. 9). The Defendants move for dismissal on the grounds that the Plaintiff, Melynda Hunsinger, failed to properly exhaust administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 in pursuit of her employment discrimination claim. (Doc. 10). Specifically, they argue Hunsinger improperly filed the requisite request for review with the EEOC's New York branch, instead of Pennsylvania, where the Defendants are located. (Doc. 10). They state that this failure resulted in a dismissal on procedural grounds with no administrative review taking place, one of the purposes for requiring exhaustion of the claims prior to court intervention. (Doc. 10).

         I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

          Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a defendant to move to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:

Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), continuing with our opinion in Phillips [v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224 (3d Cir. 2008)] and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside
578 F.3d 203

         In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint, and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court “need not credit a complaint's ‘bald assertions' or ‘legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss.” Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Additionally, a court need not assume that a plaintiff can prove facts that the plaintiff has not alleged. Assoc'd. Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). A plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief, which “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court of the United States held that, when considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court may consider the facts alleged on the face of the complaint, as well as “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).

         II. Background[1] and Procedural History

         On October 2, 2015, Hunsinger, along with her mother, went to Empowered Staffing Solutions (“E.S.S.”) in order to fill out paperwork and complete a drug test as part of the application process for a housekeeping job at the Comfort Inn in Sayre, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 2, at 21). Hunsinger, a resident of New York, states she had been conditionally offered the job by Comfort Inn management prior to going to E.S.S. (Doc. 2, at 21). Hunsinger passed the drug test, and during an interview by agents of E.S.S. mentioned she had a disability - P.T.S.D. requiring limited hours, but otherwise not affecting her ability to perform the job. (Doc. 2, at 21). When pressed on the nature of her disability, Hunsinger refused to answer further questions on her disability by E.S.S. agents aside from the diagnosis itself. (Doc. 2, at 21). Agents expressed concern because “the owner may have a problem with the disability.” (Doc. 2, at 21). After this discussion, Hunsinger left E.S.S. assured that she would be called back with a work schedule. (Doc. 2, at 21).

         Hunsinger never received a call back. (Doc. 2, at 21). Hunsinger called the Comfort Inn and E.S.S., enquiring as to why she had not been hired as promised. (Doc. 2, at 21-22). Defendant Cavallaro stated Hunsinger was “not fit for the position.” (Doc. 2, at 22). When pressed, Cavallaro said “you know why.” (Doc. 2, at 22).

         Attributing the actions and statements of the Defendants to her disability, Hunsinger, then proceeding pro se, filed a verified complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights on October 13, 2015 against the same Defendants to this action. (Doc. 2, at 21). The Defendants responded on October 28, 2015, arguing that in fact Hunsinger's refusal to cooperate with E.S.S. caused her to be passed over for the position, not the fact that she had a disability. (Doc. 2, at 17-19). Hunsinger obtained pro bono counsel, who entered appearance on her behalf on January 19, 2016. (Doc. 2, at 13). On April 14, 2016, the Division of Human Rights dismissed Hunsinger's action for administrative convenience, stating that E.S.S. did not have a presence in New York and therefore the Division of Human Rights did not have jurisdiction. (Doc. 2, 11-12). The notice ...

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