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Robben v. HCL America, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 1, 2019




         I. Recommendation

         For the reasons stated herein, it is respectfully recommended that the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 17) filed on behalf of defendant Lego Systems, Inc. (“LEGO”) be denied.

         II. Report

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff Kimberly Robben initiated this action with the filing of a Complaint (ECF No. 1) on September 25, 2018. On January 29, 2019, she filed her First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) (ECF No. 16), the operative pleading. Defendant HCL America, Inc. filed an answer on February 12, 2019. (ECF No. 19). Defendant LEGO has filed the now pending motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 17), with brief in support (ECF No. 18). Plaintiff has filed a brief in opposition (ECF No. 22) and LEGO has filed a reply. (ECF No. 26). The matter is now ripe for disposition.

         The allegations in the FAC are as follows. In May 2016, Plaintiff was contacted by a recruiter from IDC Technologies, Inc. (“IDC”), Meenakshi Gusain (“Gusain”) who represented to Plaintiff that she was “recruiting on behalf of Defendant HCL and Defendant LEGO for a full-time ‘Business Analyst' position.” (FAC at ¶¶ 22-23). Plaintiff alleges LEGO was a single or joint employer with HCL. (FAC at ¶ 16). After reviewing the job requirements, Plaintiff “determined she was qualified for the Business Analyst position, ” and on May 9, 2016 applied for the position by responding to the IDC recruiter's email and submitted her résumé along with three letters of recommendation. (FAC at ¶¶ 25-26). IDC recruiter Gusain then purportedly notified Plaintiff she had been selected for an interview and that Nisha Khanna Verma would conduct the interview by Skype. (FAC at ¶¶ 27, 29). Gusain sent Plaintiff a link to Verma's LinkedIn page for Plaintiff to review prior to the interview. (FAC at ¶ 29). Verma's LinkedIn profile stated that her title was Digital Producer, LEGO Group. (FAC at ¶30). Gusain also shared with Plaintiff an e-mail address for Verma which contained a domain name for HCL. (FAC at ¶ 30).

         Plaintiff claims the business analyst position reported to Ms. Verma, who was HCL's senior program manager working with LEGO. (FAC at ¶ 24). Ms. Verma interviewed Plaintiff on or about May 18, 2016. (FAC at ¶ 31). Ultimately, Plaintiff was not selected for the position. (FAC at ¶ 38). Plaintiff alleges she was not selected “because of her age” and a substantially younger person was hired instead. (FAC at ¶¶ 38, 41).

         On June 2, 2016, Gusain sent Plaintiff an e-mail, which, according to Gusain, contained Plaintiff's interview “feedback” from Gusain's “client.” (FAC at ¶34.) In that e-mail, Gusain informed Plaintiff that her “client[‘s]” feedback about Plaintiff was as follows:

Kim Robben: Good candidate from experience, knowledge perspective. However I am not sure about her team fit from kerins [sic] perspective as she is an elderly lady with lot of experience but not sure how she will it [sic] into the team. I will talk to kerin about it.

(FAC at ¶ 34). Upon information and belief, “kerin”, as referenced in Gusain's June 2, 2016 e- mail to Plaintiff, refers to Kerin Smollen. (FAC at ¶36.) On her LinkedIn profile, Kerin Smollen indicates that she held the position of “Department Head: Content Management, User Experience & Creative Technology” with LEGO from June 2015 until December 2017. (FAC at ¶ 36).

         Plaintiff was 57 years old at the time Defendants failed to hire her. (Id. at ¶41.) At Count I she asserts claims of age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as amended by the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. (“ADEA”), and at Count II she asserts a claim pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §951, et seq. (“PHRA”).

         C. Standard of Review

         To survive dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “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 reviewing court must “determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is proper where the factual allegations of the complaint conceivably fail to raise, directly or inferentially, the material elements necessary to obtain relief under a legal theory of recovery. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561. Thus, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated, with the court accepting all well-pleaded facts as true and disregarding all legal conclusions. Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). Under this standard, civil complaints “must contain more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” ...

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