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Powdrill v. Smoke BBQ Taqueria

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh.

July 12, 2019

MATTHEW POWDRILL, Plaintiff,
v.
SMOKE BBQ TAQUERIA, Defendant,

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MARILYN J. HORAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUGDE.

         Plaintiff, Matthew Powdrill ("Powdrill") brings the within action for damages related to a Title VII retaliation claim against Defendant, Smoke BBQ Taqueria ("Smoke BBQ"). Pending before the Court is Smoke BBQ's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (ECF No. 5). Upon review of the Complaint (ECF Nos. 1, 1-2), Smoke BBQ's Motion to Dismiss and Brief in Support (ECF No. 6), Powdrill's Brief in Opposition (ECF No. 11), Smoke BBQ's Reply Brief (ECF No. 15), and for the following reasons, Smoke BBQ's Motion to Dismiss is granted.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Matthew Powdrill ("Powdrill") is a citizen of Pennsylvania and an African American male. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 3; ECF No. 1-2 at ¶ 4). In 2015, Defendant Smoke BBQ Taqueria, a restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ("Smoke BBQ") employed Powdrill as a prep cook. (ECF No. 1-2 at ¶¶ 2-3, 5). In June 2017, Powdrill filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ("EEOC") based upon race discrimination, and the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue on or about July 13, 2017. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 9, 11).

         Sometime thereafter, Smoke BBQ's owner, Jeff Petruso ("Petruso"), and Powdrill's supervisor, Kate, met with Powdrill to discuss the EEOC Charge. Id. at ¶ 12. At the meeting, when Powdrill attempted to discuss his EEOC Charge, Petruso became angry and stressed to Powdrill that he and his employees were not racist. Id. at ¶¶ 13-14. Petruso then sent Powdrill home for the day. Id. at ¶ 15.

         On October 21, 2017, Powdrill was giving advice to a new cook at Smoke BBQ on how to work more efficiently, when his coworkers, Mike and Rusty, yelled at him to "just shut the fuck up and do what you need to do[.]" Id. at ¶¶ 16-18. Powdrill alleges that he responded to Mike by telling him "you don't need to get into my face to speak with me." Id. at ¶ 19. Four days later, Petruso and Kate approached Powdrill with a write up for threatening Mike. Id. at ¶¶ 20- 21. Powdrill refused to sign the write up, believing it was in retaliation to the EEOC Charge he had filed in June 2017. Id. at ¶ 23. Powdrill then asked his supervisor, Kate, whether she would investigate the allegations made against him. Id. at ¶ 25. Kate allegedly responded by telling Powdrill "no I don't care about that. I'm tired of your shit. Sign this or we're done here." Id. at ¶ 26. After Powdrill again refused to sign the write up, he was terminated from Smoke BBQ, less than one week after his ninety-day window to file suit lapsed per the EEOC's Notice of Right to Sue. Id. at ¶¶ 27-28. The Employee Warning Notice, which Powdrill refers to as a "write-up," states in part as follows:

By signing this form, you confirm that you understand the information in this warning. You also confirm that you and your manager have discussed the warning and a plan for improvement. Signing this form does not necessarily indicate that you agree with this warning.

(ECF No. 6-1).

         II. Standard of Review

         When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must "accept all factual allegations as true, 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." Eid v. Thompson, 740 F.3d 118, 122 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). "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 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544? 570 (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." Id.

         Although the plausibility standard "does not impose a probability requirement," Bell Atlantic Co. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007), it does require a pleading to show "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant 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.

         The Third Circuit has held that district courts should perform a two-part analysis when presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the court should consider only factual allegations, not legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, accepting all factual allegations as true, the court "must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief.5" Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). To survive a motion to dismiss, a pleading party need only "put forth allegations that raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements." Id. at 213.

         III. Discussion

         Smoke BBQ contends that Mr. Powdrill fails to sufficiently plead a retaliation claim because he voluntarily abandoned his job rather than acknowledge receipt of a written warning, which cannot give rise to a constructive ...


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