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Wadley v. Kiddie Academy International, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 19, 2018



          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         Janasia Wadley sued her former employer Kiddie Academy of Langhorne, Kiddie Academy International, Inc. and Essential Brands, Inc. alleging gender discrimination (Count 1) and retaliation (Count 2) under Title VII and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Count 3). Wadley also brings comparable state law claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Counts 4 and 5). Finally, she asserts claims against her former supervisors Christina Recca, Ruchi Srivastava, and “Lisa” for individual liability under the PHRA (Count 6). All Defendants move to dismiss.[1] (Mot., ECF No. 10.) The Court grants the Motion with respect to Counts 1, 2 and 5 and Wadley may amend her Complaint in accordance with this Memorandum. The Court denies the Motion with respect to Counts 3 and 4.


         Wadley accepted a position as an infant teaching assistant at Kiddie Academy of Langhorne, a child daycare and learning facility, on July 8, 2016. (Compl. ¶ 20.) When Wadley went to Kiddie to complete forms prior to her designated July 25 start date, she told Director Christina Recca that she was pregnant and gave Recca a list of upcoming pregnancy related doctor appointments that she would need to attend. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) In the fall of 2016, Wadley's co-worker “Karen” began to “harass” Wadley about the way she filled out daily forms. (Id. ¶ 24.) One day while Wadley was rocking an infant to sleep, Karen told her to “get up off [her] butt and start doing something.” (Id. ¶ 27.) Wadley told Karen that she was pregnant and doing her job and Wadley later complained to Srivastava about Karen's “verbal attacks.” (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) Kiddie offered to switch her to a different classroom but Wadley declined the offer because she had already bonded with the infants and their parents and she did not want her hours to change. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.)

         At some point in late September 2016, Wadley also told Kiddie that she was prone to chronic urinary tract infections and that she previously suffered a miscarriage as a result of complications from such an infection. (Id. ¶ 48.) She provided a note from her doctor stating that she may need to use the restroom more frequently, explaining that doing so was necessary to decrease the chance she would contract a urinary tract infection, which could lead to a miscarriage. (Id. ¶¶ 46-48.)

         On October 13, 2016 at 7:30 a.m., Wadley was the only employee in a classroom with six children, despite Kiddie's policy requiring a 4 to 1 child to instructor ratio. (Id. ¶ 53.) Wadley called for assistance so that she could go to the bathroom. (Id. ¶ 49.) Lisa told Wadley that she was giving a tour of the facility but could relieve Wadley in twenty minutes. (Id. ¶ 50.) Forty minutes later, Lisa had not arrived so Wadley called her again. Lisa told Wadley that neither she nor Srivastava nor Recca could relieve Wadley. (Id. ¶¶ 51-55.) Shortly thereafter, another co-worker joined Wadley in the classroom to supervise the children. (Id. ¶¶ 56-58.) After waiting for over an hour for someone to cover for her, Wadley left the classroom to use the bathroom. (Id.) Later that day, Wadley met with Srivastava, Recca and Lisa, who then fired Wadley for leaving the classroom “out of ratio” when she used the bathroom. (Id. ¶¶ 64-65.) Wadley filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation with the EEOC on January 17, 2017, received a right to sue letter from the EEOC on October 24, 2017, and subsequently filed this lawsuit.


         To survive dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the 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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pled “allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that [a] defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[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.'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         When the complaint includes well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court “should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” See Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). However, this “presumption of truth attaches only to those allegations for which there is sufficient factual matter to render them plausible on their face.” Schuchardt v. President of the U.S., 839 F.3d 336, 347 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation and citation omitted). “Conclusory assertions of fact and legal conclusions are not entitled to the same presumption.” Id.


         Defendants seek to dismiss all counts against Kiddie Academy International and Essential Brands, contending that Wadley does not allege facts sufficient to establish that either of the entities can be liable under a joint employer or single employer theory.[2] They assert that Wadley worked only for Kiddie Academy of Langhorne. (Mot. at 5-7.) A joint employer relationship exists “when the two entities exercise significant control over the same employees.” Anderson v. Finley Catering Co., 218 F.Supp.3d 417, 421 (E.D. Pa. 2016) (citing Graves v. Lowery, 117 F.3d 723, 727 (3d Cir. 1997)). To determine whether the companies can both be held liable under the joint employer theory, courts consider: “1) [the] authority to hire and fire employees, promulgate work rules and assignments, and set conditions of employment including compensation, benefits, and hours; 2) day-to-day supervision of employees, including employee discipline; and 3) control of employee records, including payroll, insurance, taxes, and the like.” Id.

         Under the single employer theory, two nominally distinct companies can be treated as a single entity for purposes of the antidiscrimination laws if the two companies' affairs “are so interconnected that they collectively cause[ ] the alleged discriminatory employment practice.” Id. (citing Nesbit v. Gears Unlimited, Inc., 347 F.3d 72, 86 (3d Cir. 2003)). The court considers factors such as “(1) the degree of unity between the entities with respect to ownership, management (both directors and offers), and business functions (e.g., hiring and personnel matters), (2) whether they present themselves as a single company such that third parties dealt with them as one unit, (3) whether a parent company covers the salaries, expenses, or losses of its subsidiary, and (4) whether one entity does business exclusively with the other.” Id. at 422 (citing Nesbit, 347 F.3d at 87).

         Wadley conclusorily alleges that “Kiddie Academy of Langhorne Essential Brands, Inc. are single and joint employers of plaintiff.” (Compl. ¶ 9.) She further contends that Kiddie Academy of Langhorne “is a franchise” of Essential Brands. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Although courts within the Third Circuit have held that the contours of the “employment relationship can only be established by a careful factual inquiry” and have allowed pleadings with a “thin” factual record to survive a motion to dismiss, Wadley does not allege a single fact from which the Court can infer that any of the joint or single employer theory factors are present. See Thompson v. U.S. Airways, Inc., 717 F.Supp.2d 468 (E.D. Pa. 2010) (allegations that employees worked on the premises owned by the alleged joint employer and that the employer controlled decisions relating to compensation were sufficient to survive the motion to dismiss stage); Myers v. Garfield & Johnson Enterprises, Inc., 679 F.Supp.2d 598 (E.D. Pa. 2010) (allegations that the employee was covered by sexual harassment policies promulgated by the joint employer and that the employer required termination of employees under certain circumstances and participated in daily supervision were sufficient to survive the motion to dismiss stage); Harris v. Midas, No. 17-95, 2017 WL 5177668, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 8, 2017) (allegations that the employee was subject to the joint employer's workplace policies, ...

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