United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. Carlson, United States Magistrate Judge
Statement of Facts and of the Case
preliminary litigation in federal court now turns on
construing the heightened pleading standards announced by the
United States Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), which eschew pleadings that
are no more than “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements
of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements” and instead enjoin courts to:
[B]egin by identifying pleadings that because they are no
more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of
truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a
complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.
When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court
should assume their veracity and then determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Iqbal at 679.
is, however, a temptation which lurks within these heightened
pleading standards. In some instances these pleading
standards, which were designed to curb litigation-based
formulaic assertions of claims, can lead to the opposite
result, motions to dismiss which argue that well-pleaded
facts are simply talismanic recitals of a cause of action,
and reasonable inferences are mere conclusory statements.
is in this case.
case began as a pro se Title VII workplace
retaliation lawsuit. The operative pleading in this case is
now the plaintiff's second amended complaint. (Doc. 27.)
Liberally construed, Romanaskas' second amended complaint
alleges that the plaintiff was employed by Earthbox since
2007. (Id., ¶11.) In 2013, Romanaskas allegedly
observed an Hispanic supervisor engaging in aggressive and
discriminatory behavior targeting African-American employees.
(Id., ¶¶13-16.) Romanaskas voiced his
concerns regarding racial discrimination to Earthbox
management in late May or early June, 2013. (Id.,
¶17.) According to Romanaskas after raising these
concerns he “was asked to leave the room.”
alleges that he was not alone in raising these concerns.
Romanaskas also insists that he was not the only employee
terminated for voicing concerns regarding racially
discriminatory workplace practices. According to Romanaskas,
a co-worker, Sherry Kneller, witnessed similar discriminatory
conduct and was also terminated for voicing her concerns.
alleges that in early August 2013, he was ordered by an
Earthbox manager, Frank DiPaolo, not to communicate with
Earthbox's Human Resources department regarding his
workplace concerns. (Id., ¶20.) Romanaskas was
then terminated on August 19, 2013, and was initially told
that the reason for his termination was that he communicated
concerns to the Human Resources department when he was
ordered not to do so. (Id., ¶21.) Romanaskas
alleges that one year later Earthbox altered its
justification for his termination to cite a
non-discriminatory, and non-retaliatory basis for its
actions. (Id.) Romanaskas also alleges that emails
documenting his complaints of discrimination in the workplace
were deleted by Earthbox after his abrupt termination.
against the backdrop of these well-pleaded factual
allegations that we consider the legal sufficiency of
Romanaskas' workplace retaliation claim. For its part,
Earthbox vigorously denies and assails Romanaskas'
allegations, flatly contending that they are not true and
that the plaintiff was fired for workplace misconduct.
Earthbox advances these arguments with great passion, but the
arguments also necessarily invite us to foray beyond the
pleadings themselves, something we may not do when
considering a motion to dismiss. Instead, with our scrutiny
confined to the well-pleaded facts set forth in the second
amended complaint, we find that those well-pleaded facts set
forth a legally sufficient claim.
we recommend that this motion to dismiss be denied.