Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pedro v. City Fitness LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 30, 2018

CARMENCITA MARIA PEDRO, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY FITNESS, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Slomsky, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Carmencita Maria Pedro, proceeding pro se, brings this suit against Defendants City Fitness, LLC; 2101 South Street Fitness, LLC; 1148 Wharton Street Fitness, LLC; 400 Walnut Street Fitness, LLC; Fit Perx, LLC; City Fitness Management, Inc.; Bombay Yoga Company; Kenneth Davies; Carl Geiger; Stephanie Hicks; Jeff Quinn; C. Richard Horrow, Esquire; Kathryn Blessington; Ruben Diaz; Kristen Symballa; Evin Ford; Janet Harris-Ford; Gail Kotel; Marie Hilferty; Harrison Treegoob; Edita Zlatic-Stuckey; Maxwell Stuckey; Stephanie Stoyer; and Anne Rogers.[1] (Doc. No. 58.) She alleges wrongdoing committed against her during her association with City Fitness. (Id.)

         In Count I of seven counts in the Second Amended Complaint (SAC), Plaintiff alleges violations of the Equal Pay Act; Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”); 42 U.S.C. § 1981; the Pennsylvania Equal Pay Law; and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) against City Fitness, Kenneth Davies, Carl Geiger, Stephanie Hicks and Jeff Quinn. (Id. at 126-27.)

         In Count II, Plaintiff alleges Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”); Title VII; 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and the PHRA against all Defendants. (Id. at 128-31.)

         In Count III, Plaintiff alleges Misclassification as an Independent Contractor under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act; and violations of the FLSA; Title VII; 42 U.S.C. § 1981; the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act; the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act; and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law against City Fitness, Kenneth Davies, Stephanie Hicks, Jeff Quinn and C. Richard Horrow, Esquire. (Id. at 131-33.)

         In Count IV, Plaintiff alleges Wrongful Demotion and Wrongful Termination under the ADEA; and violations of Title VII; 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and the PHRA against City Fitness; Kenneth Davies; Carl Geiger; Stephanie Hicks, Jeff Quinn; C. Richard Horrow, Esquire; Harrison Treegoob; Marie Hilferty; Ruben Diaz; Gail Kotel; Janet Harris-Ford; Evin Ford; Kathryn Blessington; Kristen Symballa; Stephanie Stoyer; Edita Zlatic-Stuckey; Maxwell Stuckey; and Anne Rogers. (Id. at 133-36.)

         In Count V, Plaintiff alleges Post-Employment Retaliation and Tortious Interference with Business Relationships against City Fitness; Kenneth Davies; Carl Geiger; Stephanie Hicks; Jeff Quinn; C. Richard Horrow, Esquire; Harrison Treegoob; Marie Hilferty; Ruben Diaz; Gail Kotel; Janet Harris-Ford; Evin Ford; Kathryn Blessington; Kristen Symballa; Stephanie Stoyer; Edita Zlatic-Stuckey; Maxwell Stuckey; and Anne Rogers. (Id. at 136-39.)

         In Count VI, Plaintiff alleges Defamation and Tortious Interference with Business Relationships against City Fitness; Kenneth Davies; Carl Geiger; Stephanie Hicks; Jeff Quinn; C. Richard Horrow; Harrison Treegoob; Marie Hilferty; Ruben Diaz; Gail Kotel; Janet Harris-Ford; Evin Ford; Kathryn Blessington; Kristen Symballa; Stephanie Stoyer; Edita Zlatic-Stuckey; Maxwell Stuckey; and Anne Rogers. (Id. at 140-43.)

         Finally, in Count VII, Plaintiff alleges Unlawful Publication of Confidential Compensation records against City Fitness; Kenneth Davies; Carl Geiger; Stephanie Hicks; Jeff Quinn; C. Richard Horrow; Harrison Treegoob; Marie Hilferty; Ruben Diaz; Gail Kotel; Janet Harris-Ford; Evin Ford; Kathryn Blessington; Kristen Symballa; Stephanie Stoyer; Edita Zlatic-Stuckey; Maxwell Stuckey; and Anne Rogers. (Id. at 143-47.)

         Defendants have filed three Motions to Dismiss the SAC in its entirety. (Doc. Nos. 60-61, 81.) The Motions are ripe for disposition.[2]

         II. BACKGROUND[3]

         In August 2010, City Fitness's 200 Spring Garden Street fitness club hired Plaintiff Carmencita Maria Pedro, a woman of Puerto Rican ancestry, as a Group Exercise Instructor. (Doc. No. 58 at 13 ¶ 4.) Plaintiff was hired as an independent contractor, and signed an agreement acknowledging that status. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7; Doc. No. 60, Ex. B.)

         Beginning on November 1, 2010, Plaintiff taught the “Silver Sneakers” class at 200 Spring Garden Street. (Doc. No. 58 at 16 ¶ 32.) In January 2012, City Fitness had opened a fitness club at 2101 South Street. At some point, Plaintiff made a request to teach yoga classes there. (Id. at 19 ¶¶ 61-63.) Defendant Geiger denied her request, allegedly stating, “[y]ou know, the demographic in that neighborhood is very white-bred and I just don't think you would fit in.” (Id. ¶¶ 64-65.) Nevertheless, by June 2012, Plaintiff began teaching classes at the South Street location. (Id. at 20 ¶ 71.) In August 2012, Defendant Geiger hired Plaintiff as the Group Exercise Manager. (Id. at 21 ¶ 91.) Plaintiff earned an extra $150 per pay period for this position. (Id. at 22 ¶ 93; Doc. No. 60, Ex. C.)

         On May 1, 2013, Plaintiff allegedly met with Defendants Hicks and Geiger regarding her status as an independent contractor. (Doc. No. 58 at 39 ¶¶ 229-233.) No change in her status occurred. (Id. ¶ 237.)

         From November 1, 2010 until December 31, 2010, Plaintiff was paid $30 for teaching each Silver Sneakers class. (Id. at 17 ¶ 39.) On January 1, 2011, the pay rate for class instructors was reduced to $25 a class. (Id. at 17-18 ¶¶ 47-49.) George Goodritz, a Jewish male, was unhappy with the pay decrease and resigned from his position with City Fitness. (Id. at 18 ¶¶ 54-55.) City Fitness replaced Goodritz with Johnathan Sneed, as African-American male over the age of 50. (Id. ¶¶ 56-57.)

         On October 1, 2013, after Plaintiff had taught classes at the South Street location for more than a year, Plaintiff was allegedly told by Defendant Geiger that she would no longer teach the Silver Sneakers class at the South Street location “because the demographic [there] is more white.” (Id. at 28 ¶ 143.) Defendant Geiger told Plaintiff she could continue teaching the Silver Sneakers class until he could find a “suitable replacement.” (Id. at 29 ¶ 145.) On or about October 2, 2013, Goodritz was rehired to teach the Silver Sneakers class at the South Street location for $35 a class. (Id. ¶ 151; id. at 31 ¶ 159.) The pay rate for other instructors remained at $25 a class. (Id. at 17 ¶ 48.) A month after Plaintiff was terminated for reasons discussed infra, City Fitness implemented a new, seniority-based pay structure for all employees. (Id. at 56 ¶ 375.) Under the new pay structure, the most senior yoga teachers and group exercise instructors were paid a fixed rate of $35 a class. (Id. at 57 ¶ 377.)

         On December 10, 2013, Plaintiff was informed that her job responsibilities were being reduced because of complaints received from club members and other instructors. (Id. at 47 ¶ 300; id. at 60 ¶ 409.) Specifically, the following complaints were submitted in writing:

         On November 13, 2013, Edita Zlatic-Stuckey and Maxwell Stuckey, named Defendants, complained,

First time taking Fusion class; my husband signed us up for the hardcore class that took place in yoga studio. Fusion-yoga part instructor walked in the studio and picked on me for having shoes on. I tried to apologize that I wasn't aware what was going on since it was my first time but she dismissed me. Extremely unprofessional and condescending throughout the class. Aggressive tone, not explaining sequences, had to leave class in the middle. Considering canceling my membership.

(Doc. No. 60, Ex. D.)

         On November 19, 2013, Edita Zlatic-Stuckey made another complaint:

The night after I wrote my last form[, Carmencita] ambushed my husband and I at the Whole Food Store trying to resolve the issue in the middle of the store. She told us that it was our fault for signing up for the class w[ithout] knowing what the format of the class is and that the class is not designed to be welcoming. I'm concerned that she is one of the managers reading this form[] and stalking us in public. If this is not resolved I will have to cancel my membership.

(Id. at Ex. E.)

         On November 20, 2013, Kristen Symballa, a named Defendant, wrote: “Carl [Geiger], I have some issues/concerns surrounding yoga and specifically a conflict with Carmencita. Please call me. Me as well as other members have been complaining and are concerned.” (Id. at Ex. F.)

         She subsequently complained,

Carmencita has a yoga class scheduled after a class I was subbing for, for Metro Kids. We were finishing up and were running actually ahead of the scheduled time. Carmencita interrupted my class to “set up” for Power Yoga. I told Carmencita we would be done in 5 min[utes]. She waited at the door with her arms crossed. I looked over and she said, “OK! Like now!” in a loud voice. It was extremely rude and unnecessary. This is just one issue that I had w[ith] Carmencita. She also was a no show for 2 of my yoga tryouts, and texted me at 12 a[m], saying I was supposed to sub a class and was a no show. I was never on the sub list and would not have agreed because I did not work in Philadelphia on that scheduled day.

(Id. at Ex. G.)

         On November 21, 2013, Anne Rogers, a named Defendant, complained,

I took Carmencita's class [at] 6 on the 21st. I have been spinning for years [and] was incredibly disappointed with the way the instructor teaches. She often arrives late and unprepared for class. There are long pauses between the songs while she scrolls through her list for the next song to use. When members have complained to her about the class, rather than listening, she becomes defensive [and] hostile, excusing her poor effort [and] lack of preparation as a different style of teaching, which is a load of [expletive].

(Id. at Ex. H.)

         Janet Ford, another named Defendant, complained,

My major problem is that she is very rude and lacks human understanding. She talks to people like they are bad behaving children. I will have to leave my class here at City Fitness because I can't bear up under such VERBAL ABUSE. If you get rid of her, let me know. I will gladly come back to teach my class.

(Id. at Ex. I.)

         In response to her teaching responsibilities being reduced, Plaintiff “objected to and opposed the demotion.” (Doc. No. 58 at 53 ¶ 352.) She was insubordinate and refused to accept the change. (Doc. No. 60 at 35.) On December 16, 2013, City Fitness terminated Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 356.) On December 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. (Id. ¶ 354; Doc. No. 60, Ex. J.) The only parties named as Respondents in that Charge were City Fitness, LLC and South Street Fitness, LLC. (Doc. No. 60, Ex. J.) Although the Charge of Discrimination is dated December 19, 2013, the SAC states that on December 16, 2013, the date Plaintiff was terminated, she sent an e-mail to Davies, Geiger, Hicks and Quinn informing them that she “filed” a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. (Doc. No. 58 at 53 ¶ 355.)

         On December 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants City Fitness, LLC; South Street Fitness, LLC; 2101 South Street Fitness, LLC; Kenneth Davies; Carl Geiger; Stephanie Hicks; and Jeff Quinn. Pedro v. City Fitness (E.D. Pa. Dec. 23, 2013) (2:13-cv-07566-JHS), ECF No. 1. On February 10, 2014, the Honorable William H. Yohn, Jr., to whom this case was originally assigned, entered an Order requiring Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint. Id. at ECF No. 2.[4] When Plaintiff failed to comply with that Order, on June 3, 2014 Judge Yohn entered an Order dismissing Plaintiff's claims without prejudice for failure to prosecute. Id. at ECF No. 6.

         On March 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis under the current docket number. (Doc. No. 1.) That motion was granted and the Complaint was filed on September 14, 2015. (Doc. Nos. 2-3.) On March 8, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiff an extension until April 7, 2016 to file an Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 7.) On April 11, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiff another extension of time to file an Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 10.) That Order provided that Plaintiff had until April 30, 2016 to file the Amended Complaint and that no further extensions would be granted. (Id.) On May 2, 2016, after failing to comply with the Court's April 11, 2016 Order, Plaintiff requested another extension of time to file an Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 12.) On May 17, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiff another extension of time to file an Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 13.)

         On May 31, 2016, Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 14.) On July 25, 2016, Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Doc. Nos. 21, 23.) A hearing on the Motions was held on August 26, 2016. (Doc. No. 30.) On September 1, 2016, the Court entered an Order permitting Plaintiff to file a motion to strike documents sourced from her unemployment compensation records. (Doc. No. 31.) Plaintiff filed that motion on October 4, 2016 (Doc. No. 33), and the Court denied it by Order dated February 7, 2017 (Doc. No. 40). Plaintiff filed an appeal of that Order to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Doc. No. 47) and this Court placed this case in suspense pending the outcome of the appeal (Doc. No. 48).

         On July 10, 2017, the Court of Appeals dismissed Plaintiff's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 53.) This Court then issued an Order removing the matter from suspense and granting Plaintiff leave to file a SAC as requested by Plaintiff (Doc. No. 55), which she filed on August 9, 2017 (Doc. No. 58). By Order dated August 10, 2017, this Court denied Defendants' initial Motions to Dismiss the Amended Complaint without prejudice as moot. (Doc. No. 59.) On August 23, 2017, Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss the SAC Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Doc. Nos. 60-61.) On October 2, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition. (Doc. Nos. 64-65.) On October 16, 2017, Defendants filed a Reply. (Doc. No. 68.) On March 13, 2018, an attorney entered his appearance on behalf of individual Defendants Edita Zlatic-Stuckey and Maxwell Stuckey, and filed a Motion to Dismiss on that same date. (Doc. No. 81.) Plaintiff has not filed a response to this Motion.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a pleading to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although this standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' . . . it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). While pro se litigants are held to less stringent standards and their pleadings are to be “liberally construed, ” they still must adhere to the basic standards of Rule 8. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) therefore tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a).

         The motion to dismiss standard under Rule 12(b)(6) is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662. After Iqbal it is clear that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 678; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. 544. “To survive dismissal, ‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Tatis v. Allied Interstate, LLC, 882 F.3d 422, 426 (3d Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Facial plausibility is “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Instead, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         Applying the principles of Iqbal and Twombly, the Third Circuit in Santiago v. Warminster Township, 629 F.3d 121 (3d Cir. 2010), set forth a three-part analysis that a district court in this Circuit must conduct in evaluating whether allegations in a complaint survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss:

First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Finally, “where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.”

Id. at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679). The inquiry is normally broken into three parts: “(1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

         A complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief, it must “show” such an entitlement with its facts. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008)). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (alteration in original) (citation omitted). The “plausibility” determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendants seek to dismiss the SAC in its entirety. (Doc. Nos. 60-61.) Each of Defendants' arguments in opposition to Plaintiff's claims will be addressed in turn.

         A. The SAC Fails to Comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2)

         Defendants argue that because the SAC is 145 pages long and contains 1, 000 individually numbered paragraphs as well as subparagraphs, this Court should require Plaintiff to file yet another Amended Complaint that complies with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2).[5] (Doc. No. 60 at 19.) As Defendants note, the SAC dwarfs other complaints that courts in this District have stricken for failure to comply with Rule 8. (Id. (citing Welsh v. Male, No. 05-cv-6838, 2007 WL 906182 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 22, 2007); Brejcak v. County of Bucks, No. 03-4688, 2004 WL 377675 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 28, 2004)).) In addition, the manner in which it is pleaded makes it difficult for any Defendants to meaningfully respond to the allegations. Therefore, it should be dismissed for failure to comply with Rule 8.

         Defendants' request will not be granted because, as will be noted infra, the Court is able to decipher the claims made in the SAC by reading it liberally and in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. But in so doing, the Court finds that the SAC fails to state claims upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6). In addition, for reasons discussed below, Plaintiff will not be granted leave to file another Amended Complaint.

         B. The SAC Fails to State a Claim Against Entities that Did Not Exist at the Time Her Association with City Fitness Ended

         In the SAC, Plaintiff names City Fitness Management, Inc.; 1148 Wharton Street Fitness, LLC; and 400 Walnut Street Fitness, LLC as Defendants. (Doc. No. 58.) As Defendants note, these entities did not exist at the time Plaintiff's association with City Fitness ended on December 16, 2013. City Fitness Management, LLC was not incorporated until August 24, 2015. (Doc. No. 60, Ex. K.) 1148 Wharton Street Fitness, LLC and 400 Walnut Street Fitness, LLC both were organized on July 1, 2014. (Id. at Ex. L.) Because these entities did not exist at the time Plaintiff's association with City Fitness ended on December 16, 2013, they cannot be liable for any action arising out of Plaintiff's association with City Fitness. Therefore, the SAC fails to state a claim against these entities and they will be dismissed as Defendants.[6]

         C. The SAC Fails to State a Claim Against C. Richard Horrow, Esquire

         In Count III of the SAC, Plaintiff alleges a claim of Misclassification as an Independent Contractor regarding her association with City Fitness. (Doc. No. 58 at 131-33.) She alleges that, among others, Horrow, whom Plaintiff identifies as the “tax and business attorney for Defendants, ” directed City Fitness to “misclassify its employees as independent contractors.” (Id. at 5; id. at 39 ¶ 232). Plaintiff further asserts that “DEFENDANT HORROW directed DEFENDANT CITY FITNESS to terminate [Plaintiff's] employment because she complained to the EEOC about discrimination.” (Id. at 42 ¶ 357.) She states that City Fitness “colluded with DEFENDANT HORROW[ and others] to exact revenge against MS. PEDRO for filing this lawsuit.” (Id. at 120 ¶ 930.)

         Defendants construe the SAC to allege that Horrow “was part of some sort of conspiracy to misclassify employees as independent contractors, ” referencing her allegations of collusion. (Doc. No. 60 at 21 & n.56.) They state that because Plaintiff affirmatively states that Horrow was acting in his capacity of attorney for City Fitness, he cannot be held liable in this action. (Id.) This is because pursuant to the Third Circuit decision Heffernan v. Hunter, conspiracy claims based on an attorney-client relationship must fail. (Id. at 20 (citing 189 F.3d 405, 413 (3d Cir. 1999).) In addition, Defendants allege that Horrow's communications with City Fitness occurred within the scope of his representation and therefore would be covered by attorney-client privilege pursuant to Rule 1.6 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. (Doc. No. 60 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.