SANTAI v. FRED BEANS FORD, INC. et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER THAT THE MOTION TO DISMISS SANTAI'S CLAIMS UNDER PHRA IS DENIED; ETC.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE HARVEY BARTLE, III ON 8/16/11. 8/16/11 ENTERED AND E-MAILED.(jl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
FRED BEANS FORD, INC., et al.
August 16, 2011
Plaintiff Cherie Santai brings this action under Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 P.S. §§ 951-963,
against defendants Fred Beans Ford, Inc., Fred Beans Hyundai,
Fred Beans (Beans), and Elizabeth Beans Gilbert (Gilbert) for
employment discrimination based on her sex and pregnancy.
claims she was illegally terminated as the Service Manager at
Fred Beans Ford, Inc.1
Before the court is the motion of
individual defendants Beans and Gilbert for judgment on the
pleadings on all claims against them under Rule 12(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Beans and Gilbert contend that plaintiff Cherie Santai
cannot prevail against them on her claim for employment
1. In her complaint, Santai specifically alleges that she worked
at Fred Beans Hyundai but reported directly to Beans, the owner
and Chief Executive Officer of Fred Beans Ford, Inc. At present,
the relationship between Fred Beans Hyundai and Fred Beans Ford,
Inc. is unclear from the record but is irrelevant to the instant
discrimination because Title VII provides no individual
These defendants also argue that Santai's claim under
the PHRA must fail because she did not adequately plead
accomplice liability and because the Act provides no liability
for direct discrimination by individuals.
Finally, in the event
that the court finds that Santai may proceed in her suit against
them under the PHRA, Beans and Gilbert request that the court
decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over these claims
because they present a novel question of state court law.
For purposes of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(c),
the movant must "clearly establishe that no material issue of
fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law".
Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221
(3d Cir. 2008) (citing Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc.,
863 F.2d 289, 290-91 (3d Cir. 1988)).
In reviewing a Rule 12(c)
motion, we must take all well-pleaded facts as true and draw all
reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
A plaintiff must simply state sufficient factual matter
to make it plausible that her claim is true.
See Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); accord Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. ---, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009).
A complaint must
"give a defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal
A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
Id. at 570.
Thus, the allegations must do
more than raise a "'mere possibility of misconduct.'"
UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal,
129 S. Ct. at 1950).
Santai alleges that she was terminated from her
position as a service manager at a Fred Beans car dealership
because she had become pregnant.
She further alleges that she
reported directly to defendant Beans, the owner and Chief
Executive Officer of the company, and that Beans and Gilbert, the
Vice President of the company, made regular statements to her
implying that her position had been adversely affected by her
Santai contends that Beans and Gilbert demoted Santai
to a lesser position based on her pregnancy and then required
Santai to assist with the hiring and training of her replacement,
Robert Engle, a male.
Santai timely filed allegations with the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Commission (PHRC) and the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
On September 15, 2009, the PHRC
made a "Finding of Probable Cause" that defendants had unlawfully
discriminated against Santai by terminating her based on her sex
Thereafter, Santai received "right to sue"
letters from both the PHRC and the EEOC and thereafter filed this
She brings claims for violation of the pregnancy
discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 (count 1), violation of the pregnancy discrimination
provisions of the PHRA (count 2), and violation of the sex
discrimination provisions of the PHRA (count 3).
Defendants Beans and Gilbert first maintain that
Santai's claim against them under Title VII must fail because
only employers and not individuals may be found liable for
employment discrimination under that law.
See Sheridan v. E.I.
DuPont de Nemours and Co., 100 F.3d 1061, 1078 (3d Cir. 1996).
Santai concedes that Title VII does not provide for liability
against individuals and has withdrawn her claims against
defendants Beans and Gilbert under that statute.
will grant their motion as to Santai's claims under Title VII.
Defendants Beans and Gilbert also contend that Santai's
claims under the PHRA are fatally flawed.
Although they concede
that they are supervisory employees who could be liable under the
PHRA for aiding and abetting employment discrimination under
§ 955(e), Beans and Gilbert contend that the complaint does not
make allegations specific to aiding and abetting and, thus,
Santai cannot prevail.
They also assert that the PHRA
establishes individual liability only for failure to prevent
discrimination and not for the type of direct discriminatory acts
which Beans and Gilbert are alleged to have committed.
Section 955(e) of the PHRA states that it is an
unlawful discriminatory practice "[f]or any person, employer,
employment agency, labor organization or employee, to aid, abet,
incite, compel or coerce the doing of any act declared by this
section to be an unlawful discriminatory practice."
43 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 955(e) (emphasis added).
Our Court of Appeals has held
that individuals can held liable for claims for aiding and
abetting brought under the PHRA.
See Dici v. Pennsylvania, 91
F.3d 542, 552 (3d Cir. 1996).
Defendants argue that Santai's complaint does not plead
a valid claim under § 955(e) because she has not specifically
cited the section number or used the phrase "aiding and
abetting." Moreover, they maintain that, even if Santai's claims
are pled with adequate specificity, they must fail because
§ 955(e) does not provide a basis of liability against individual
defendants for direct discriminatory action but only for failure
to prevent or remedy discrimination.
While Santai concedes that she did not use the words
"aiding and abetting" or cite to the specific section of the
PHRA, she counters that she has pleaded sufficient facts to give
notice to defendants Beans and Gilbert of a claim for accomplice
liability under this provision of the PHRA.
In her complaint,
Santai gave defendants notice of claims under the PHRA against
them as individuals and included numerous detailed factual
allegations setting forth the material points of the allegations
against Beans and Gilbert.
The complaint alleges specifically that Beans asked
Santai if having another child would interfere with her work
hours, that Beans and Gilbert regularly made statements to Santai
that her position had been negatively impacted by her pregnancy
without citing any negative performance, and that Beans and
Gilbert directly informed Santai that neither a pregnant woman
nor a new mother could hold the position of Service Manager.
complaint further asserts that Beans told Santai that he was
demoting her based on her pregnancy and warned her not to sue
based on that demotion.
It also states that Gilbert advised
Santai that she would need to move to a different position at the
company in anticipation that Santai might be unable to work while
Finally, the complaint alleges that Beans and Gilbert
directly made the decision to terminate Santai.
Santai has given defendants Beans and Gilbert fair
notice of the basis of her claim against them.
did not specifically cite § 955(e) or use the words "aiding and
abetting," her complaint is sufficient.
Section 955(e) is the
sole basis of individual liability in the PHRA.
complaint describes in detail all the actions of Beans and
Gilbert which Santai alleges as a basis of that liability.
Additionally, the "aiding and abetting" provisions of
the PHRA encompass the types of direct discriminatory acts by
supervisors which Santai's complaint describes.
recognizing that courts in our district have found § 955(e)
claims to encompass alleged direct acts of discrimination, Beans
and Gilbert have urge us to adopt the ruling of Judge Lancaster
of the Western District of Pennsylvania who found that direct
acts of discrimination would not constitute "aiding and abetting"
under the PHRA.
See Stepp v. Fairpoint Communications, Inc.,
Civ. A. No. 06-576, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88302, at *22-23 (W.D.
Pa. Nov. 30, 2007).
They contend that this reasoning is in line
with our Court of Appeals' decision in Dici v. Pennsylvania.
91 F.3d 542 (3d Cir. 1996).
In Dici, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
held that a non-supervisory employee could not be liable on an
aiding and abetting theory for his own direct acts of
See id. at 552-53.
In that case, the plaintiff
brought a claim against her alleged harasser as an accomplice in
addition to her claim against her employer.
The court rejected
this individual claim because it required that the employee have
a mens rea of intending to aid and abet his employer in a
violation of neglect.
Id. at 553.
It agreed with the court in
Tyson v. CIGNA Corp., 918 F. Supp. 836, 841 (D.N.J. 1996), that
"a non-supervisory employee who engages in discriminatory conduct
cannot be said to 'intend' that his employer fail to respond."
Dici, 91 F.3d at 553.
The instant case differs from Dici because the
individual defendants here, Beans and Gilbert, were Santai's
As the court in Tyson explained, non-supervisory
employees cannot be liable for aiding and abetting their
employer's discrimination through direct discriminatory acts
because they do not share the intent and purpose of their
See Tyson, 918 F. Supp at 840-41.
However, in our
view, a supervisory employee can be found to share the intent and
purpose of his or her employer and therefore can be found liable
under § 955(e) for direct acts of discrimination including the
ultimate decision to terminate an employee for an unlawful
Numerous other courts in our district have reached the
See, e.g. Bernhard v. Brown & Brown of Lehigh
Valley, Inc., 720 F. Supp. 2d 694, 705-06 (E.D. Pa. 2008); Davis
v. Levy, Angstreich, Finney, Baldante, Rubenstein & Coren, P.C.,
20 F. Supp. 2d 885, 887 (E.D. Pa. 1998); Wien v. Sun Company
Inc., Civ. A. No. 95-7646, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19220 (E.D. Pa.
Nov. 21, 1997); Glickstein v. Neshaminy School District, Civ. A.
No. 96-6236, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16317,*11-13 (E.D. Pa.
Oct. 22, 1997).
Here, Santai has alleged that Beans and Gilbert, on
behalf of defendant Fred Beans Ford, Inc., directly made the
decision to terminate her employment based on improper
discriminatory reasons for her employer.
In doing so, their
intent and purpose would be synonymous with the intent and
purpose of Santai's corporate employer.
Indeed, Beans and
Gilbert are alleged to hold the most senior management positions
at Fred Beans Ford and exert unfettered decision-making authority
on behalf of the company.
Accordingly, Beans and Gilbert may be
found liable for aiding and abetting discrimination under
§ 955(e) of the PHRA based on their own direct acts.
Defendants Beans and Gilbert have also urged us to
decline the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over these
claims in the interest of comity because the interpretation of
the PHRA's aiding and abetting provisions is a novel question of
This court has supplemental jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1367 "over all other claims that are so related to
claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they
form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of
the United States Constitution."
There is a presumption in favor
of exercising such supplemental jurisdiction over state law
claims based on "[c]onsiderations of judicial economy,
convenience and fairness to litigants."
West Mifflin v.
Lancaster, 45 F.3d 780, 788 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting United Mine
Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715 (1966)).
Beans and Gilbert have
provided no explanation to the court regarding how Santai's
claims against them are novel or complex, especially in light of
the numerous courts in this district which have exercised
supplemental jurisdiction in these circumstances.
There is no
valid reason to require Santai to pursue a claim based on nearly
identical facts in a separate state court proceeding.
Accordingly, we will deny the motion to dismiss Santai's claims
under the PHRA.
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