United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge.
Kierstin Gilbert ("Gilbert") commenced this action
against her employer asserting claims of race discrimination
and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17, and the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa.
Stat, and Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 951-963.
(See Doc. 12). Defendant Milton Hershey School
("Milton Hershey") moves to dismiss Gilbert's
amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). (Doc. 14). For the reasons that follow, the court
will grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.
Factual Background & Procedural History
Hershey operates a hair salon to accommodate the needs of its
students. (Doc. 12 ¶¶ 13-14). The salon is located
on Milton Hershey's campus and is called the Spartan
Styles Shop ("Spartan Styles" or "the
salon"). (Id.) Gilbert was hired by Milton
Hershey to work at the salon as a part-time hair stylist on
or about April 4, 2012. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12). As
a part-time stylist, Gilbert is permitted to work four days
per week, for a maximum of twenty hours. (Id. ¶
15). Gilbert is African American and her direct supervisor,
Tiffany Renninger ("Renninger"), is Caucasian.
(Id. ¶¶ 10, 18-19). Six other part-time
stylists work at the salon and are supervised by
Renninger-five are African American and one is Caucasian.
(Id. ¶¶ 19-20, 40).
asserts that African American female students were
"denied proper hair care services and hair care
products" at Spartan Styles at the direction of Milton
Hershey. (See id. ¶¶ 28-30). Gilbert
further avers that this discrimination toward the students
limited Gilbert's ability to perform her job and her
access to materials. (Id.) Gilbert first discussed
her concerns about the "disparate treatment" of
African American female students with Renninger and Tiffany
Guimond (Renninger's boss), but her concerns were
ignored. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32, 36). In September
2013, Gilbert complained in writing about the issue to
Elliott Robinson, Vice President of Administration at Milton
Hershey. (Id. ¶¶ 36, 50).
avers that Milton Hershey took "adverse actions"
against her after she complained about the inadequacy of
services provided to African American female students at the
salon. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 47). Specifically,
Gilbert alleges that she was denied a promotion to
"Designated Manager." (Id. ¶¶
41, 47). Gilbert avers that she was fully qualified for the
position, but Renninger promoted Danielle Linebaugh
("Linebaugh"), the only Caucasian part-time
stylist. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46, 85-86). As
"Designated Manager, " Linebaugh worked additional
hours, received additional training, and had more duties at
the salon. (Id. ¶¶ 42-44, 52-53). Gilbert
argues that Linebaugh was the "least qualified" for
this position but was promoted because she is Caucasian.
(Id. ¶¶ 87-88).
and the other African American stylists met with Renninger on
January 8, 2014, to discuss Linebaugh's promotion.
(Id. ¶ 55). On January 30, 2014, Gilbert
complained to Milton Hershey's human resources department
about Linebaugh's promotion. (Id. ¶ 48).
Approximately five weeks later, Gilbert received a
performance evaluation with negative comments. (Id.
¶ 59). According to the allegata, Gilbert's
evaluation included negative comments because she complained
about "discriminatory policies." (Id.
¶ 60). In contrast, Gilbert's prior performance
evaluation in August 2013 contained only positive comments.
(Id. ¶ 61).
filed charges with the United States Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on August 6, 2014.
(Docs. 14-2, 17-6). She dual-filed her charges with the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC").
(Doc. 14-2). The EEOC sent Gilbert a right-to-sue letter on
May 23, 2016, (Doc. 14-1), which Gilbert received on June 1,
2016, (Doc. 12 ¶ 2). On August 29, 2016, Gilbert
commenced the instant action. (Doc. 1). She subsequently
filed an amended complaint alleging race discrimination and
retaliation under Title VII and the PHRA. (Doc. 12). Milton
Hershey moves to dismiss the amended complaint in its
entirety under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
(Doc. 14). The motion is fully briefed and ripe for
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for
the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When
ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe
the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the
complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief."
Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d
Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd.,
292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)).
notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide
"the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips,
515 F.3d at 232 (alteration in original) (quoting Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To
test the sufficiency of the complaint, the court conducts a
three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp.,
629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step,
"the court must 'tak[e] note of the elements a
plaintiff must plead to state a claim."'
Id. at 130 (alteration in original) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next,
the factual and legal elements of a claim must be separated;
well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, while mere legal
conclusions may be disregarded. Id. at 131-32;
see Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11
(3d Cir. 2009). Once the court isolates the well-pleaded
factual allegations, it must determine whether they are
sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief."
Iqbal 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. A claim is
facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts "that
allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Iqbal 556 U.S. at 678.
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(c) classifies a statute of
limitations claim as an affirmative defense that must be pled
in an answer to the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c).
Nevertheless, the court may dismiss a complaint as
time-barred under Rule 12(b)(6) if "the time alleged in
the statement of a claim shows that the cause of action has
not been brought within the statute of limitations."
Robinson v. Johnson, 313 F.3d 128, 135 (3d Cir.
2002); see Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran &
Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.l (3d Cir. 1994). This
deficiency must be apparent on the face of the pleading.
See Rycoline Prods., Inc. v. C & W Unlimited,
109 F.3d 883, 886 (3d Cir. 1997).
should grant leave to amend before dismissing a curable
pleading in civil rights actions. See Fletcher-Harlee
Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247,
251 (3d Cir. 2007); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp,
293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002). Courts need not grant leave
to amend sua sponte in dismissing non- civil rights
claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fletcher-Harlee
Corp., 482 F.3d at 252- 53, but leave is broadly
encouraged "when justice so requires, "
Hershey asserts two principal arguments in support of its
motion to dismiss: first that Gilbert's amended complaint
is time-barred, and second that Gilbert's allegations,
even accepted as true, fail to ...