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Rizzotto v. Quad Learning, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 27, 2019




         Plaintiff Kerry Rizzotto bring this suit against her former employer, Defendant Quad Learning, Inc. ("Quad"), and several individuals employed at Quad (collectively "Individual Defendants"), alleging Quad's termination of her employment violated various federal, state, and local non-discrimination statutes. Specifically, Plaintiff brings the following eight claims against all Defendants: (1) violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § §§621, et seq. ("ADEA"); (2) violation of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. § 626(f)(1) ("OWBPA"); (3) age discrimination in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 951, et seq. ("PHRA"); (4) retaliation in violation of the PHRA, id. at § 955(d); (5) aiding and abetting discrimination in violation of the PHRA, id. at § 955(e); (6) age discrimination in violation of the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, Phila. Code § 9- 1103 ("PFPO"); (7) retaliation in violation of the PFPO, id. at § 9-1103(1)(g); and (8) aiding and ., abetting discrimination in violation of the PFPO, id. at § 9-1103(1)(h). Now pending is Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim, -which will be granted in part and denied in part for the following reasons.


         "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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The district court must "construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Fowler v. VPMC Shady side, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). "[U]nder Rule 12(b)(6), the defendant has the burden of showing no claim has been stated." Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991).

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff is a 49-year-old New Jersey resident. In 2016, she took a job in Philadelphia as -an Associate Program Director for Quad, a Washington, D.C. corporation that specializes in international enrollment management. For the period relevant here, the Individual Defendants- LeRoy Pingho, Leigh Miller, Alyson Krawchuck, and Nick Geremia-were also Quad employees: Pingho was the Chief Executive Officer, Miller was the Senior Vice President for International Operations and Sales, Krawchuck was Plaintiffs manager, and Geremia was another Associate Program Director.

         In August 2017, Plaintiff met with the Individual Defendants, [2] who informed her that Geremia had been promoted to a new supervisory role. Plaintiff was never advised that there was a job opening for the position. Moreover, Quad promoted Geremia over Plaintiff, even though he lacked experience in the field and was less qualified for the position.

         When Plaintiff raised the issue of Geremia's promotion with the Individual Defendants, they threatened, ridiculed, berated, and yelled at her. The Individual Defendants also excluded Plaintiff from trainings, employee events, and vital meetings. As a result of Individual Defendants' conduct, Plaintiff felt humiliated, embarrassed, and emotionally distressed. On February 7, 2017, in an email to all Quad employees, Krawchuck informed Plaintiff that she had been terminated.

         On June 25, 2018, Plaintiff dual-filed charges of work place discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"). On August 5, 2018, the EEOC concluded its investigation and issued Plaintiff a Right-to-Sue Letter, which, consistent with the ADEA, provided Plaintiff ninety days to file a lawsuit on her federal claim. Plaintiff duly filed this suit on October 24, 2018.


         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs claims on a host of grounds, specifically that she: (1) released Defendant from liability; (2) failed to exhaust her administrative remedies for her PHRA and PFPO claims; (3) may not maintain claims under the PI IRA and PFPO against the Individual Defendants; (4) is not entitled to punitive damages on her ADEA and PHRA claims;, and, (5) is not entitled to compensatory damages for pain and suffering on her ADEA claim.[3]Defendant's arguments will be addressed in turn.

         A. Release

         Defendants assert that Plaintiffs claims are barred by the "Separation and Release of Claims Agreement" (the "Release") purportedly executed by Plaintiff upon her termination from Quad, which Defendants have attached to their motion to dismiss. Defendants' argument is unavailing, however, as the Court cannot consider the Release at this stage of the proceedings.

         When considering a motion to dismiss a court "may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings." U.S. Express Lines Ltd. v. Higgins,281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002). A limited exception to this general rule, however, is that "a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be considered."[4]Id. Here, the Release does not fall within the ambit of that exception because nowhere in the Complaint does Plaintiff cite or refer to the Release. Nor is the Release integral to the Complaint, as her claims are not "based upon" the document. Hartig Drug Co. Inc. v. Senju Pharm. Co.,836 F.3d 261, 273 (3d Cir. 2016). Rather, Plaintiffs discrimination claims are premised on her treatment in the work place and eventual termination, not a document that purportedly set forth the parties' rights after that termination. Id. at 274 ("[The court] cannot say that the [document] was integral to [plaintiffs] claims. It is integral only to the Defendants' attack on those claims."); New Legion Co., Inc. v. Thandi, 2018 WL 2121523, at *6 (E.D. Pa. May 8, 2018) (finding "release purportedly executed between the parties" and ...

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