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Genovese v. Harford Health and Fitnes Club, Inc.

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

May 29, 2013

MICHELLE LYNN GENOVESE et al.
v.
HARFORD HEALTH AND FITNES CLUB, INC. T/A THE ARENA CLUB et al.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM M. NICKERSON, Senior District Judge.

Pending is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint. ECF No. 14. The motion is fully briefed. Upon review of the pleadings and the applicable case law, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and that Plaintiffs' federal claims, Counts I, II, and III, will be dismissed and the remaining claims remanded to the state court.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Michelle Lynn Genovese was employed by Defendant Harford Health and Fitness Club, T/A The Arena Club (The Arena Club) from March 2010 to May 2011. Her last position at the Arena Club was that of Membership Representative and her supervisor was Defendant Kathy Wise, The Arena Club's Sales Manager. Although the Amended Complaint does not provide Plaintiff's age, her EEOC Charge attached to the Complaint, ECF No. 2-2, indicates that she was forty-five years old when her employment was terminated. Plaintiff was also pregnant at the time.

The critical incident related to this action took place on May 18, 2011, when Defendant Wise conducted a "contentious and hostile" meeting of the Sales Team. When Plaintiff became upset and attempted to leave the meeting, she was told by Wise to sit down. Plaintiff complied. Plaintiff alleges, however, that another woman who was significantly younger than her and not pregnant was permitted to leave the meeting shortly before Plaintiff attempted to leave. Plaintiff's employment was terminated later that day for purported insubordination. Plaintiff suffered a miscarriage shortly thereafter, the cause of which she attributes to the emotional and physical stress caused by the May 18, 2011, meeting.

Plaintiff and her husband, James John Genovese, [1] proceeding pro se, originally filed this suit in the Circuit Court for Harford County, Maryland. The Complaint named as Defendants: The Arena Club, Wise, two other Arena Club employees, and the attorney that represented The Arena Club in proceedings before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Without specifically identifying the statutory or other bases for these claims, the Complaint included counts for "Hostile Work Environment" (Count 1), "Disparate Treatment" (Count 2), "Reasonable Accommodation" (Count 3) "Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress" (Count 4) "Wrongful Termination" (Count 5) and several counts labeled simply "Fraud" (Counts 6-12). ECF No. 2. On the assumption that the Hostile Work Environment, Disparate Treatment, and Reasonable Accommodation claims were being asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621-34 (ADEA), Defendants removed the action to this Court, invoking this Court's federal question jurisdiction. ECF No. 1.

Defendants then filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 8. In response to that motion and with the consent of Defendants' counsel, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. ECF No. 13. In this First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs dropped the claims against the individual defendants, except for those against Wise, and the "Fraud" claims against all Defendants. The First Amended Complaint added, however, a claim for "Loss of Consortium." Defendants have moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint in its entirety.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A claim must be dismissed if the allegations in the complaint do not include enough facts to render that claim to relief "plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the legal framework of the complaint must be supported by factual allegations that "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. The Supreme Court has explained that "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to plead a claim. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678.

The plausibility standard requires that the pleader show more than a sheer possibility of success, although it does not impose a "probability requirement." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556. Instead, "[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." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 663. Thus, a court must "draw on its judicial experience and common sense" to determine whether the pleader has stated a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 664; see also Brockington v. Boykins , 637 F.3d 503, 505-06 (4th Cir. 2011).

III. DISCUSSION

For the three counts that potentially arise out of federal antidiscrimination statutes - the hostile environment, disparate treatment, and reasonable accommodation claims - the primary focus of the Court's inquiry is on Defendants' conduct, specifically, whether Defendants treated Plaintiff differently because of her pregnancy or age. In focusing on Defendants' conduct instead of the alleged outcome of that conduct, the Court in no way intends to diminish the tragedy of Plaintiff's miscarriage. While Defendants' conduct allegedly led to a very tragic outcome, the Court concludes that the First Amended Complaint fails to connect that conduct or outcome with any unlawful discriminatory intent.

A. Hostile Environment Claim

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that "[i]t shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer... to discriminate against any individual with respect to [her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of... sex." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). In amending Title VII, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) provided that "[t]he terms because of sex' or on the basis of sex' include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." Id . § 2000e(k). Thus, to establish a hostile work environment claim based on pregnancy discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must show that the offending conduct was (1) unwelcome, (2) based on the individual's pregnant status, (3) sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of... employment and create an abusive work environment, and (4) imputable to the employer. See Ocheltree v. Scollon Prods., Inc. , 335 F.3d 325, 331 (4th Cir. 2003) (en banc) (discussing a hostile ...


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