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Dixon v. Amerihealth Administrators

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 26, 2017



          DuBois, J.

         In this employment discrimination case, plaintiff Maria Garcia Dixon alleges that she was discriminated against and that her employment was terminated by defendant, Amerihealth Adminstrators (“Amerihealth”) because of her “race and color.” Dixon, an African-American woman, was terminated following a series of complaints to Amerihealth's Human Resources Director concerning discriminatory treatment and discipline by her supervisor. Dixon asserts claims of race discrimination, harassment, and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 P.S. §§ 951, et seq. Presently before the Court is Amerihealth's Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons that follow, Amerihealth's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts as alleged in the Amended Complaint are as follows. Dixon was hired as a Claims Service Representative by Amerihealth in April of 2008. Am. Compl. ¶ 4. In November of 2010, Vicky Meager, who is Caucasian, became Dixon's immediate supervisor. Am. Compl. ¶ 6. Meager provided “Caucasian workers with training and assistance that was denied to similarly situated African-American employees, ” Am. Compl. ¶ 8, and “denied [Dixon] and her African-American coworkers assistance and guidance regarding their work duties and responsibilities, ” Am. Compl. ¶ 9. Dixon was subjected to “unfair and unwarranted discipline” by Meager in July and September of 2013. Am. Compl. ¶ 11. In September of 2013, Dixon complained to Amerihealth's Human Resources Director, Susan Weed, about Meager's discriminatory treatment. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. Meager was placed on corrective action by Amerihealth, but her discriminatory treatment of Dixon continued. Am. Compl. ¶ 14.

         Approximately five months later, in February of 2014, Dixon “filed a charge of discrimination alleging race discrimination.” Am. Compl. ¶ 15. On June 15, 2014, Dixon was terminated, allegedly for performance deficiencies. Am. Compl. ¶ 17. Dixon additionally alleges that, in the year prior to her termination, Meager was responsible for the discharge of four other African-American employees who held the same positions as Dixon. Am. Compl. ¶ 19.

         Dixon filed her initial Complaint on March 31, 2017. On June 12, 2017, Amerihealth filed a Motion to Dismiss. Dixon thereafter filed an Amended Complaint on June 26, 2017. Amerihealth filed a Motion to Dismiss Dixon's Amended Complaint on June 30, 2017.


         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to respond to a pleading by filing a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must allege facts that “‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A complaint 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) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A district court first identifies those factual allegations that constitute nothing more than “legal conclusions” or “naked assertions.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. Such allegations are “not entitled to the assumption of truth” and must be disregarded. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The court then assesses the remaining “‘nub' of the plaintiff['s] complaint-the well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegation[s]”-to determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id.


         Dixon asserts disparate treatment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims under § 1981 and the PHRA. Amerihealth moves to dismiss all claims. The Court first addresses Amerihealth's argument that Dixon did not exhaust her administrative remedies under the PHRA and then considers each claim in turn.

         A. PHRA Exhaustion

         Amerihealth first argues that Dixon's PHRA claims should be dismissed because (1) she failed to allege that she exhausted her administrative remedies and (2) her allegations of discriminatory treatment are insufficient to support a claim for discrimination and retaliation under the PHRA.[1]

         “To bring suit under the PHRA, an administrative complaint must be filed with the [Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission] within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination.” Mandel v. M & Q Packaging Corp., 706 F.3d 157, 164 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing 43 Pa. Stat. § 959(h)). Plaintiffs can satisfy the administrative complaint requirement of the PHRA by “check[ing] the box on the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] charge form indicating that the charge should be filed with both agencies, ” thereby dual-filing a charge of discrimination. Woodson v. Scott Paper Co., 109 F.3d 913, 925 (3d Cir. 1997); see also Rhoades v. Young Women's Christian Ass'n of Greater Pittsburgh, No. 09-1548, 2010 WL 4668469, at *5 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 9, 2010) (“Courts in this Circuit interpreting the worksharing arrangement have held that where a plaintiff timely files a complaint with one agency, either the EEOC or the PHRC, coupled with a request for dual filing, then the complaint is deemed filed with both agencies as of that date.”).

         In this case, Dixon alleges that she “filed a charge of discrimination alleging race discrimination in the workplace.” Am. Compl. ¶ 15. As an attachment to her response to the Motion to Dismiss, Dixon submits a signed and stamped form titled “Information for Complainants & Election Option to Dual File with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.” Resp. to Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. B.[2] Based on the submission of that form, the Court concludes that Dixon dual filed her charge ...

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