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Matu-Dadie v. Wernersville State Hospital

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2018





         Plaintiff Elizabeth Matu-Dadie initiated this employment discrimination action against her former employer Defendant Wernersville State Hospital pursuant to Tile VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The Hospital has filed a Motion to Dismiss, asserting that Matu-Dadie did not sufficiently allege that her termination was a result of discrimination. The Hospital argues that Matu-Dadie failed, inter alia, to identify the decision-maker who terminated her or to assert how, especially in light of the Hospital's stated reasons for her termination, that her termination was due to racial or national origin discrimination. Having found that the Complaint failed to state a claim, it is dismissed without prejudice and Matu-Dadie is given leave to amend.


         In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, this Court must "accept all factual allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Phillips v. Cnty. 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)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Only if "the '[f]actual allegations . . . raise a right to relief above the speculative level'" has the plaintiff stated a plausible claim. Id. at 234 (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 540, 555 (2007)). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Id. (explaining that determining "whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief. . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense"). The defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that a plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citingKehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).


         Defendant Wernersville State Hospital is an inpatient treatment facility serving individuals with mental illness. Compl. 18, [2] ECFNo. 3. Matu-Dadie was hired on September 12, 2016, as an Aide Trainee on probationary status. Id. at 19. She was removed from this position effective March 10, 2017, prior to the expiration of her probationary status. Id. at 3, 19. In the removal letter dated March 9, 2017, the Hospital stated that the reason for termination was twofold: (1) Negligent Individual Abuse because Matu-Dadie allegedly walked away from her observation assignment, leaving a patient unattended despite orders to "maintain a constant line of sight of the patient;" and (2) Non-Physical Individual Abuse for an incident with two co-workers after Matu-Dadie allegedly left the patient unattended and allegedly argued with her co-workers about leaving her assignment in an inappropriate and disruptive manner that caused a commotion that could be heard down the hall. Id. at 13, 19-20.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Matu-Dadie failed to state a claim of race discrimination.

         A prima facie case of employment discrimination requires the plaintiff to show that: (1) she belongs to a protected class; (2) she was qualified for the position; (3) she was subject to an adverse employment action; and (4) the circumstances raise an inference of discriminatory action. Sarullo v. United States Postal Serv., 352 F.3d 789, 797-98 (3d Cir. 2003). However, at the motion to dismiss stage, the plaintiff "need only put forth allegations that raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 213 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotations omitted). Thus, while a plaintiff need not convince the court of any of these elements, she cannot merely state that she was terminated due to race or national origin because "[t]hat is a conclusory assertion and will not suffice. Instead, [s]he must plead facts that plausibly connect [her race or] national origin to [her] discharge." Santos v. IronMt. Film & Sound, 593 Fed.Appx. 117, 119 (3d Cir. 2014) (concluding that the plaintiffs naked assertion that he was discharged because he is Honduran failed to state a claim).

         The central focus in a discrimination case is "whether the employer is treating 'some people less favorably than others because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.'" Furnco Constr. Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 577 (1978) (quoting Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 335 n.15. (1977)). However, Matu-Dadie failed (1) to allege that someone similarly situated was treated more favorably, (2) to present any allegations of discriminatory statements made by any supervisor at the Hospital who was involved with the decision to terminate her, and (3) to offer any evidence of discriminatory motive to support her allegations. See Groeber v. Friedman & Schuman, P.C., 555 Fed.Appx. 133, 135 (3d Cir. 2014) (concluding that the plaintiffs subjective belief that race played a role in the employment decisions was not sufficient to establish an inference of discrimination).

         The Complaint merely alleges that the Hospital used false allegations (two infractions) to terminate the employment of Matu-Dadie, who is black and from Kenya, and that she was fired three days before the expiration of her probationary status. Compl. 3. There are no allegations as to who filed the infractions or who made the decision to terminate her employment. Although she alleges that her second-shift manager, Andrew, wanted to terminate her employment, she does not allege that he actually had the authority to make such a decision or offer any evidence to suggest that the decision was race-based. Rather, Matu-Dadie makes one unsupported statement that her second shift manager was known "to go after staff he does not like, especially African-Americans." Id. at 8, 24. There are also no allegations that Matu-Dadie was qualified for the position, nor any factual allegations from which this Court could reasonably make such an inference in light of her probationary status and the alleged infractions made against her. Matu-Dadie's remaining allegations regarding racial animus, which are discussed in the section below, are not attributed to any employee of the Hospital, let alone someone with the authority to terminate her employment.

         For all these reasons, the race discrimination claim is dismissed without prejudice and Matu-Dadie is granted leave to amend.

         B. Matu-Dadie failed to state a hostile work ...

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