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Grimm v. Crane Room Grille, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 9, 2019




         Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 14, filed by Defendant Crane Room Grille, Inc. Defendant seeks to dismiss the entire Complaint, ECF No. 1, with prejudice due to Plaintiffs untimely filing of her charge with the EEOC, Plaintiffs untimely filing of her Complaint, and Plaintiffs failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs Complaint survives the dismissal sought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the Motion to Dismiss is denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and Pennsylvania's common law. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Put simply, Plaintiff alleges that, as a woman, she was subjected to a hostile work environment by her supervisor while employed by Defendant. Plaintiff also alleges that she was constructively discharged and that Defendant was negligent in the supervision and retention of her supervisor. (Id.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Kostv. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3dCir. 1993). In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court is not opining upon whether the plaintiff will be likely to prevail on the merits; rather, when considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and views them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. U.S. Express Lines Ltd. v. Higgins, 281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002). While a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must provide more than labels and conclusions. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" and "sufficient to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. "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) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         Our Court of Appeals has instructed that "a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps," Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786-87 (3d Cir. 2016), explaining:

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, 809 F.3d at 786-87. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will ... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual allegations to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" of the elements of the claim for relief. Trzaska v. L'Oreal USA, Inc., 865 F.3d 155, 162 (3d Cir. 2017); see Connelly, 809 F.3d at 789.

         III. Discussion

         A. Plaintiffs Filing of a Charge with the EEOC

         Under the appropriate statute, Plaintiff must have filed her charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days from the date of the alleged harm. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1) (extending time to file from 180 to 300 days when a plaintiff initially institutes proceedings-or cross claims-with a state agency). The date of the alleged harm is August 16, 2017 (Compl. ¶ 36), rendering a deadline to file with the EEOC of June 12, 2018.

         In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she filed a charge with the EEOC regarding her allegations under Title VII on June 11, 2018. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff attaches to her Complaint a copy of a fax transmission from Plaintiffs counsel to the EEOC Pittsburgh Office, with a fax cover sheet showing a date of June 11, 2018. (Compl. Ex. 1, ECF No. 1-2, at l.)[1] Defendant asserts that it has been "unable to obtain any of the official documents from Plaintiffs filing with the EEOC, which should show the date she filed." (ECF No. 15, at 4 (emphasis added).) Rather, Defendant alleges that it "verified through the EEOC that the charge was actually filed on June 15, 2018."[2](Id.) The difference between June 11, 2018, and June 15, 2018, is crucial, as the operative date will determine whether Plaintiffs charge of discrimination was timely filed with the EEOC.

         Plaintiff argues that the EEOC's regulations allow a postmark to serve as an acceptable indication of the date of filing, citing 29 C.F.R. § 1626.7. Plaintiff urges this Court to apply that "post mark rule" to the date indicated on her own fax cover letter. Although our Court of Appeals has not ruled on this issue, Plaintiff relies on the Seventh Circuit's holding that "confirmation of a fax sent to the EEOC is 'strong evidence of receipt' on the part of the agency." (ECF No. 16, at 2 (quoting Laouini v. CLM Freight Lines, ...

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