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Shick v. Aiello'S Cafe

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 18, 2017

STEVEN D. SHICK, Plaintiff,
v.
AIELLO'S CAFÉ Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

          Barbara Jacobs Rothstein U.S. District Court Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Steven D. Shick, proceeding pro se, filed this action against Defendants Aiello's Café, Earnest Aiello, and Rosa Aiello. Mr. Shick is a former employee of Aiello's Café. He brings an employment discrimination claim, as well as claims for “personal injury, ” “personal property, ” “civil rights, ” and “forfeiture/penalty.” Dkt. No. 1 at 4. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 14. Having reviewed the motion, the opposition thereto, the record of the case, and the relevant legal authority, the Court will grant the motion. The reasoning for the Court's decision follows.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff provides few factual averments in his form complaint; however, he attached several exhibits to the pleading. From reviewing those exhibits, the Court is able to glean the following factual allegations. Mr. Shick, who is sixty-two years old, alleges that he was employed by Aiello's Café as a dishwasher until he was terminated. In a letter he wrote to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), he alleged the following:

I was fired because the restaurant was not happy with my performance because I was complaining of unlawful and unsafe health practices and alcohol being served to minors, including violations of labor laws as child under the age of 16 were working in an establishment that serves alcohol and allowing children under the age of 18 to service alcohol.

Dkt. No. 1, Ex. 2. On September 22, 2016, the EEOC dismissed Mr. Shick's complaint after determining that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) did not apply to Aiello's Café because it employs “less than the required number of employees” to bring it under the purview of the Act. Id. at Ex. 3.

         Mr. Shick also filed a Child Labor Act complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Bureau of Labor Law Compliance, in which he alleged that the café employs four minors (sixteen-year-olds). Id. at Ex. 5. Mr. Shick included a citation notice in which it appears Aiello's Café was cited and fined $250 for employing a minor under the age of eighteen to serve alcoholic beverages. Id. at Ex. 6. Finally, in response to Defendants' motion to dismiss, Mr. Shick filed a copy of a document titled “Child Labor Act Inspection Report” dated November 13, 2015 in which Aiello's Café was cited for employing three minors. Dkt. No. 23, Ex. 1. The report indicates that the café has twelve employees. Id.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the plaintiff's allegations are to be construed favorably to the pleader and a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Simmons v. Community Service Providers, Inc., 847 F.Supp. 351, 352 (E.D. Pa. 1994). Although a pleading need not correctly categorize legal theories giving rise to the claims, the complaint must nevertheless provide a defendant with fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Id. at 353 (citing Williams v. New Castle County, 970 F.2d 1260, 1265-1266 (3rd Cir. 1992)). In addition, pro se complaints are to be more liberally construed and held to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Id. (citing Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365-66 (1982)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Construing the allegations in the complaint liberally, the Court concludes that Plaintiff attempts to state a claim for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”). This is consistent with the documents Plaintiff attached to his pleadings; it is also consistent with Plaintiff's opposition to the motion to dismiss in which he states that he brings this lawsuit because “defendants have acted unlawfully under the Federal statute of the ADEA Act of 1967 (Age discrimination).” Dkt. No. 23 at 4.

         “The ADEA prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals in hiring, discharge, compensation, term, conditions, or privileges of employment on the basis of their age.” Patel v. Shinseki, 984 F.Supp.2d 461, 468 (W.D. Pa. 2013) (quoting Duffy v. Paper Magic Grp., Inc., 265 F.3d 163, 167 (3d Cir. 2001)). However, the ADEA's prohibitions only apply to employers with over 20 employees. Id. (citing 29 U.S.C. § 630(b)); Mann v. Estate of Meyers, 61 F.Supp.3d 508, 528 (D. N.J. 2014) (“Congress did not wish to impose the burden of litigation upon small entities”). The exhibits Plaintiff attached in support of his complaint and opposition to the motion to dismiss conclusively demonstrate that Aiello's Café has fewer than twenty employers. See Dkt. No. 1, Ex. 3; Dkt. No. 23, Ex. 1. Indeed, the documents demonstrate that the café employs twelve individuals. Dkt. No. 23, Ex. 1. Therefore, Aiello's Café does not fall under the purview of the ADEA and Plaintiff cannot maintain his ADEA claim against it as a matter of law. See Evans v. Watt, 2004 WL 90064, *1 (C.D. Cal. January 7, 2004) (granting motion to dismiss because employee could not maintain an ADEA claim against employer who had fewer than fifteen employees); Avington v. Metropolitan Tulsa Urban League, 603 Fed.Appx. 662, 663 (10th Cir. 2015) (affirming summary judgment on ADEA claim brought by pro se plaintiff for failing to establish that his employer had twenty or more employees).

         Moreover, to the extent that Plaintiff attempts to bring an ADEA claim against Mr. and Mrs. Aiello individually, the courts in this Circuit have consistently held that individual defendants cannot be held liable for damages under the ADEA. Mann, 61 F.Supp.3d at 527-28 (citing cases). Therefore, Plaintiff cannot maintain ...


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