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Smeltzer v. Eaton Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 20, 2018




         Defendant Eaton Corporation (“Eaton”) filed a motion (ECF No. 13) to dismiss the First Amended Complaint (the “Amended Complaint”) filed by plaintiff James Smeltzer (“Smeltzer”) in its entirety, with prejudice. After Smeltzer's lawyer withdrew (ECF No. 25) and the 90-day stay to find new counsel expired, Smeltzer filed a pro se response in opposition to the motion. (ECF No. 26). The motion is ripe for disposition.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The Amended Complaint contains very few factual allegations. Smeltzer began his employment with Eaton on April 1, 2005. (ECF No. 11 ¶ 5). Eaton employed Smeltzer for ten years as a lead engineering technician. Smeltzer was a good employee with favorable job reviews and little to no disciplinary action. (ECF. No. 11 ¶ 6).

         In May 2014, Smeltzer was advised that there would be no overtime or requests for overtime without pre-approval from his manager. (ECF No. 11 ¶ 10). After receiving this instruction, Smeltzer submitted a 40-hour a week time card to his manager for approval and submission to payroll. (ECF No. 11 ¶ 14).

         At some point, the payroll department stopped waiting for submission of the weekly timecard, and began to draw time directly from employees' personal electronic accounts. (ECF No. 11 ¶ 18). Eaton acknowledged that there was a flaw in its system, of which it was unaware. (ECF No. 11 ¶ 19; Ex. 2). Smeltzer was unaware of the flaw and nothing was said to Smeltzer “for approximately a year.” (ECF No. 11 ¶¶ 22, 24).

         Eaton's payroll department issued Smeltzer's paychecks based on the time Smeltzer placed in his electronic account, which included his overtime, instead of the 40-hour a week time card he submitted to his manager. (ECF No. 11 ¶ 23). During this approximately one-year period, Smeltzer received overtime pay. (ECF No. 11 ¶¶ 23, 24, 26). Smeltzer continued to record his actual time in his personal electronic account. (ECF No. 11 ¶¶ 8, 9). Smeltzer did not seek or obtain approval to submit a claim for overtime, but believed that his supervisor knew or should have known that Smeltzer was working over 40 hours per week given the amount of time he was at the facility. (ECF No. 11 ¶ 13).

         Eaton discovered that Smeltzer was receiving overtime pay without manager pre-approval. “On or about June 26, 2015, ” Smeltzer was terminated for a violation of Eaton's Code of Ethics for allegedly falsifying documents to collect overtime pay. (ECF No. 11 ¶¶ 25, 27) .

         On June 26, 2017, Smeltzer filed a complaint against Eaton. On September 20, 2017, Eaton filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (ECF No. 3). Smeltzer filed an Amended Complaint, which mooted the original motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 11). Eaton renews its motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (ECF No. 13). Smeltzer filed a pro se response (ECF No. 26) and the motion is ripe for decision.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit described the standards and procedures that a district court must apply when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss:

A complaint may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” But a detailed pleading is not generally required. The Rules demand “only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' ” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, 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) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “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.; see also Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 262 n.27 (3d Cir. 2010). Although the plausibility standard “does not impose a probability requirement, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, it does require a pleading to show “more than a sheer possibility that a NGL has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint that pleads facts “merely consistent with a defendant's liability...stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.
Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps. First, it must “tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675. Second, it should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679; see also Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 224 (3d Cir. 2011) (“Mere restatements of the elements of a claim are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” (citation and editorial marks omitted)). Finally, “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786-87 (3d Cir. 2016). A complaint “need not establish a prima facie case in order to survive a motion to dismiss.” Id. Instead, to meet the post-Twombly pleading standard a complaint must set forth “enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s].” Id. at 789.

         III. L ...

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