United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
TRINA J. BOWEN, Plaintiff
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY and BENEFITS ADMINISTRATIVE COMMITTEE, PLAN ADMINISTRATOR OF NATIONWIDE-SPONSORED HEALTH AND WELFARE EMPLOYEE BENEFITS PLAN, Defendants
the Court are Defendants Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
(“Nationwide”) and Benefits Administrative
Committee, Plan Administrator of Nationwide-Sponsored Health
and Welfare Employee Benefits Plan (“BAC”)'s
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 9) Count II of Plaintiff Trina J.
Bowen (“Plaintiff”)'s Amended Complaint (Doc.
No. 2), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
For the reasons provided herein, the Court will deny
initiated the above-captioned action by filing a complaint
against Defendants in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin
County, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2018. (Doc. No. 1
¶ 1.) Nationwide removed the case to the Middle District
of Pennsylvania on January 4, 2019. (Doc. No. 1.) On January
10, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, asserting a
claim for benefits and related relief under Section 502 of
The Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(1)(B),
1132(a)(3) (“Count I”), and for discrimination
and retaliation under Section 510 of ERISA (“Count
II”) (Doc. No. 2), arising out of Nationwide's
alleged wrongful termination of Plaintiff, and BAC's
subsequent denial of severance benefits and ERISA rights.
January 24, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the
discrimination and retaliation claims under ERISA at Count II
of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 9),
accompanied by a brief in support of the motion to dismiss
(Doc. No. 10). Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the
motion to dismiss on February 6, 2019, approximately two (2)
weeks later. (Doc. No. 11.) On February 19, 2019, Defendants
filed a reply brief. (Doc. No. 12.) Accordingly, the motion
has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.
Factual Background 
was hired by Nationwide on October 26, 1987, and worked for
Nationwide until her termination on October 6, 2017. (Doc.
No. 2 ¶ 10.) During Plaintiff's roughly thirty (30)
year career with Nationwide, she consistently received
positive feedback and favorable performance evaluations.
(Id. ¶ 11.) On March 2, 2017, Plaintiff and her
supervisor, Mr. Comparato, were working with defense counsel
to settle a workers' compensation case. (Id.
¶ 12.) Mr. Comparato and Plaintiff realized that the
case would require more than the $50, 000 settlement
authority previously extended to defense counsel, and,
without Plaintiff's involvement, Mr. Comparato authorized
and approved a settlement around $75, 000. (Id.
¶¶ 13-14.) In response to the ultimate settlement,
Plaintiff asked Mr. Comparato if the additional settlement
authority he authorized had been documented, to which he
stated that it had. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff
alleges that on March 6, 2017-the very next day-Mr. Comparato
issued a “bogus” write-up to her, which he
emphasized that no one in the company knew about.
(Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff and Mr. Comparato met on
March 9 to discuss the write-up, and during this meeting, Mr.
Comparato stated that Plaintiff was not keeping up with her
workload. (Id. ¶ 19.) In response, Plaintiff
offered to take a salary reduction and a demotion to
“Loss Time I” or a Medical Only Desk, an idea
rejected by Mr. Comparato. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.)
6, 2017, Plaintiff emailed Mr. Comparato for a ninety-day
(90) update, and Mr. Comparato responded that same day.
(Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff emailed Mr. Comparato the
next day, June 7, 2017, for clarification about his June 6
email, their March 9 meeting, and his March 6 notice.
(Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) In his response email, Mr.
Comparato reaffirmed that his June 6 communication to
Plaintiff was only a continuation of the March notice.
(Id. ¶ 24.) However, on August 1, 2017, Mr.
Comparato allegedly issued a misnamed final notice that was a
second unwarranted notice. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.)
The notice stated that Plaintiff had forty-five (45) days, or
until September 15, 2017, to improve her performance.
(Id. ¶ 26.) Further, Plaintiff was advised that
the Human Resources (“HR”) Department was aware
of Mr. Comparato's first unofficial notice on March 6.
(Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) Plaintiff met for a
consultation with Mr. Welch of the HR Department in an
attempt to communicate her concerns regarding her treatment
by Mr. Comparato, but Mr. Welch did not offer her any options
or solutions to address her concerns. (Id.
¶¶ 28-29.) Plaintiff was able to reduce her
caseload, and Mr. Comparato's forty-five (45) day
deadline passed without any disciplinary action or criticisms
of Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 30, 32.)
October 6, 2017, Mr. Comparato, accompanied in the office by
another manager and on the phone by Mr. Welch, informed
Plaintiff that she had been terminated and issued her a
termination letter. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.) On May
1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a claim with the BAC under the
Nationwide Severance Pay Plan (the “Plan”)
seeking severance benefits of $30, 415.81. (Id.
¶ 35.) BAC denied Plaintiff's claim, and Plaintiff
appealed that denial by letter dated July 2, 2018.
(Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) By letter dated July 30,
2018, BAC upheld its original decision to deny severance
benefits to Plaintiff based on, in part, the fact that
Plaintiff's separation from employment was an
“Involuntary Termination” rather than a
“Job Elimination, ” the latter of which would
have entitled Plaintiff to benefits. (Id. ¶
alleges that Defendants acted arbitrarily and capriciously in
denying severance benefits to her through their allegedly
improper determination that Plaintiff's separation from
employment was an “Involuntary Termination, ”
rather than a “Job Elimination” occurring as part
of a contemporaneous reduction in force. (Id.
¶¶ 38-41.) Plaintiff alleges that Nationwide acted
in bad faith in denying severance benefits to her and,
furthermore, that the severance claims process lacks
fundamental fairness and due process. (Id.
motion filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint's factual
allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). A complaint must contain “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant fair
notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(interpreting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). Generally, a court
considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must determine whether the complaint
contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
with the Supreme Court's rulings in Twombly and
Iqbal, the Third Circuit requires district courts to
engage in a two-art analysis when reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion: (1) first, a court should separate the factual and
legal elements of a claim, accepting well-pleaded factual
matter and disregarding legal conclusions; (2) second, a
court should determine whether the remaining well-pled facts
sufficiently demonstrate that a plaintiff has a
“plausible claim for relief.” Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Facial plausibility exists
when the plaintiff pleads factual content ...