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King v. Integer/Medplast

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 28, 2019

AUBREY KING, Plaintiff,
v.
INTEGER/MEDPLAST, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Goldberg, J.

         Plaintiff, Aubrey King, brings this suit against his former employer Defendant Integer/Medplast, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”); 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”); and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951, et seq. (“PHRA”). Defendant seeks to dismiss Counts Three, Four, Six, and Eight of the Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will be granted as to the PHRA claims in Counts Three and Six, but denied as to the retaliation claim in Count Four and the § 1981 discrimination claim in Count Eight.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint:[1]

         In 2015, Plaintiff, a black male, was hired by Defendant as a machine operator. Within the first few years of his employment, Plaintiff became concerned that black employees appeared to be treated less favorably than white employees. For example, Plaintiff noted that Defendant, which hired temporary employees through staffing agencies, offered permanent employment to more white individuals than black individuals. Plaintiff also observed white employees receiving preferential status when it came to overtime opportunities and vacation requests. Finally, Plaintiff claimed that his wife, who was also employed by Defendant, was fired for objecting to racially offensive remarks directed towards her, but that no disciplinary action was taken against a white co-worker who used racial slurs and physically assaulted a black co-worker. In late 2017, Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging racial discrimination. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 11-17.)

         In November to December 2017, shortly after he filed the EEOC charge, Plaintiff applied for a more lucrative position with Defendant in its Die Crib department. Plaintiff claims that Defendant only employed one person of color in the Die Crib department and that both Plaintiff and another black applicant were interviewed for the position. Plaintiff alleges that the position was awarded to an external white applicant with no experience. (Id. ¶¶ 18-20.)

         Plaintiff filed a second EEOC Charge on August 15, 2018, after he was denied the Die Crib position. In September 2018, Plaintiff went to Human Resources (“HR”) to complain about the preferential treatment of white workers at the company. A few days later, Plaintiff was told he was being given his final warning for allegedly threatening HR regarding their hiring practices, and that his prior absences were no longer going to be excused. As a result of this conversation, Plaintiff allegedly suffered severe emotional distress that required immediate hospitalization. The next day, Plaintiff was fired based on Defendant's allegedly false accusation that he threatened someone while being helped by ambulance personnel. (Id. ¶¶ 32-36; Compl., ECF No. 2, at p.10.).)

         On December 3, 2018, Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed the current suit. On March 4, 2019, with the assistance of counsel, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint alleging the following causes of action: failure to promote on account of race in violation of Title VII (Count I); failure to promote on account of race in violation of § 1981 (Count II); failure to promote on account of race in violation of the PHRA (Count III); retaliation in violation of Title VII (Count IV); retaliation in violation of § 1981 (Count V); retaliation in violation of the PHRA (Count VI); termination on account of race in violation of § 1981 (Count VIII); and retaliatory termination in violation of § 1981 (Count IX).[2]

         Defendant filed the current Motion to Dismiss on March 25, 2019. Counsel for Plaintiff entered an appearance on April 5, 2019, and thereafter, on April 11, 2019, filed a response in opposition to Defendant's Motion.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). The United States Supreme Court has recognized that “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotations omitted). “[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” and only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-9 (2009). “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. at 678. A complaint does not show an entitlement to relief when the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Id. at 679.

         The Court of Appeals has detailed a three-step process to determine whether a complaint meets the pleadings standard. Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352 (3d Cir. 2014). First, the court outlines the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim for relief. Id. at 365. Next, the court must “peel away those allegations that are no more than conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. Finally, the court “look[s] for well-pled factual allegations, assume[s] their veracity, and then ‘determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). The last step is “‘a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         The court must construe the facts stated in the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). “Yet there are limits to our procedural flexibility. For example, pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013). Thus, even a pro se complaint must conform with the requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” or “naked assertions” that are devoid of “factual enhancement.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations omitted). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' will not do.” Id.

         III. ...


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