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Knapp v. Susquehanna Village Facility Operations, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 24, 2019

WILMA KNAPP, Plaintiff,


          Robert D. Mariani, United States District Court Judge.

         I. Introduction and Procedural History

         On October 8, 2018, Plaintiff Wilma Knapp, on behalf of herself and other similarly situated plaintiffs, filed this class action lawsuit (Doc. 1) against Defendant Susquehanna Village Facility Operations, LLC, alleging that Defendant breached its contractual obligation when it unilaterally eliminated its employees' accumulated sick and vacation leave (Count I), and that, by breaching its contractual obligation, Defendant violated the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law ("WPCL") (Count II). (Id.). Pled in the alternative, Knapp's Complaint also alleges, based on Defendant's elimination of its employees' accumulated sick and vacation leave, promissory estoppel (Count III) and unjust enrichment (Count IV). (Id.).

         Susquehanna Village Facility thereafter filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint (Doc. 6), which is now before the Court. The issues have been fully briefed and Defendant's Motion is ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         II. Factual Allegations

         Knapp's Complaint (Doc. 1) alleges the following facts, which, for the purpose of resolving Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6), the Court takes as true:

         Defendant Susquehanna Village Facility Operations, LLC, operates nursing, assisted living, and rehabilitation facilitates throughout several states. (Doc. 1, at ¶ 5). Defendant operated a nursing home in Millersburg, PA, which employed over fifty individuals. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7). Plaintiff Wilma Knapp worked as a nurse at the Millersburg, PA Facility at an hourly pay rate of $26.66. (Id. at ¶ 12, 13).

         Defendant distributed an "Employee Guidebook" (see Doc. 1, Ex. A, at 11-36) to all employees. (Doc. 1, at ¶ 8). The Guidebook provided employees with an overview of Defendant's policies. (Id. at ¶ 8). Defendant "tried to make the guidebook as complete as possible" and expected employees to "familiarize [themselves] with its content without delay." (Id. at ¶ 8). Defendant's Guidebook states the following regarding its sick leave policy: "Sick leave is accrued at a rate equal to 10 days per year, there is no maximum cap for the number of sick days employees may carry-over and earn." (Doc. 1, at ¶ 9; Id., Ex. A, at 27). Defendant's Guidebook also states the following regarding its vacation leave policy: "You may carry over unused vacation days up to a maximum of two times your annual accrual amount." (Doc. 1, at ¶ 10; Id., Ex. A, at 26). Each pay period, the Susquehanna Village Facility Operations employees' pay stubs reflected the aggregate number of sick leave and vacation leave hours earned by and available to each employee. (Doc. 1, at ¶ 11).

         Knapp and other employees received the Guidebook and earned, accumulated, and used sick leave and vacation leave pursuant to the policies enumerated in the Guidebook throughout their employment with Susquehanna Village Facilities Operations. (Id. at ¶ 14). By mid-September 2017, Knapp had accumulated 1, 019 hours of sick leave and 120 hours of vacation leave. (Id. at ¶ 15). Knapp alleges that these hours carry a monetary value of approximately $30, 365.74. (Id.).

         Throughout her employment, Knapp understood that she was accumulating sick and vacation time pursuant to the policy articulated in the Guidebook based on "the tally of aggregate earned leave time appearing on [Knapp's] pay stubs and by Defendant's actual course of conduct in administering the leave program." (Id. at ¶ 16). Knapp relied on this understanding and, as a result, did not pursue other employment opportunities "because changing employers would result in the loss of many years of earned leave time that she understood would be available to her in her time of need." (Id. at ¶ 16).

         In 2017, Defendant informed Knapp and other employees that "their earned and accumulated leave time was being eliminated in order to facilitate Defendant's sale of the Millersburg Facility to a nursing home company called Priority Healthcare Group." (Doc. 1, at ¶ 17). Thereafter, each employee's accrued sick leave and vacation "was summarily and unilaterally wiped-out" and "no consideration was offered or paid." (Id. at ¶ 17). Knapp alleges that Defendant's unilateral elimination of its employees' earned and accumulated vacation and sick leave time enabled Defendant to sell the facility for a higher purchase price "than the price that would have been realized had Defendant's leave time liabilities been honored." (Id. at ¶ 18).


         A complaint must be dismissed under Federal Rule Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). The plaintiff must aver "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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

         "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations, alterations, and quotations marks omitted). In other words, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Covington v. Int'lAss'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d Cir. 2013) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). A court "take[s] as true all the factual allegations in the Complaint and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those facts, but... disregard[s] legal conclusions and threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ethypharm S.A. France v. Abbott Labs., 707 F.3d 223, 231 n.14 (3d Cir. 2013) (internal citation, alteration, and quotation marks omitted). Thus, "the presumption of truth attaches only to those allegations for which there is sufficient 'factual matter' to render them 'plausible on [their] face.'" Schuchardt v. President of the U.S., 839 F.3d 336, 347 (3d Cir. 2016) (alteration in original) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). "Conclusory assertions of fact and legal conclusions are not entitled to the same presumption." Id.

         "Although the plausibility standard 'does not impose a probability requirement; it does require a pleading to show 'more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.'" Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal citation omitted) (first quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; then quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). "The plausibility determination is 'a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" Id. at 786-87 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. 679).

         However, even "if a complaint is subject to Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a district court must permit a curative amendment unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 245 (3d Cir. 2008).

[E]ven when plaintiff does not seek leave to amend his complaint after a defendant moves to dismiss it, unless the district court finds that amendment would be inequitable or futile, the court must inform the plaintiff that he or she has leave to amend the complaint within a set period of time.


         IV. ...

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