Sexual Harassment & Sex Discrimination: Employee’s Complaint Provides Sufficient Details to Survive a Motion to Dismiss

When employment discrimination cases are filed in federal court, some defendants file a Motion to Dismiss as a matter of course, arguing that the Plaintiff’s Complaint does not provide sufficient facts to support a cause of action under the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009).

In a recent case, Hillegas v. County of Bedford, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51294 (W. D. Pa. April 10, 2013)(Gibson, J.), the court directly addressed the sufficiency of the facts plead in a sexual harassment and sex discrimination case. The plaintiff, a female lieutenant for the Bedford County Prison, alleged that the Warden would treat men more favorably than women by choosing only male correctional officers over female officers to perform certain jobs, ignoring female officers by turning his back to them when they spoke to him, repeatedly opining that “the Prison was not a place for women” and disciplining female officers for certain incidents, but not disciplining male officers for the same. The employee filed a Complaint alleging sexual harassment, and hostile work environment and the defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the Complaint fails to allege facts sufficient to state a claim for which relief can be granted. While the Defendant contended that the Plaintiff did not detail each incident sufficiently, the Court denied the Motion holding Plaintiff need not include “detailed factual allegations” and the complaint does allege specific examples with dates where Plaintiff was threatened or disciplined by her supervisor. The Court found that a hostile work environment occurs over time and “cannot be said to occur on any particular day and further details of Plaintiff’s factual allegations may be found once discovery is conducted. The Court also found that the Plaintiff sufficiently plead a sexual discrimination claim by raising a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence to support findings that:(1) Plaintiff suffered intentional discrimination because of her sex; (2) the discrimination was pervasive and regular; (3) the discrimination detrimentally affected Plaintiff; (4) the discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person of the same-sex in that position; and (5) the existence of respondent superior liability.

When filing a federal court Complaint in employment litigation it is important to be as specific as possible as to the facts surrounding the claims, however, it is important to note that there are occasions where certain key facts may not be known and can only be ascertained though the discovery process as recognized by the Court in Hillegas.

For more information on sexual harassment, see http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-2130161.html. For more information on sex discrimination see http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-2130157.html

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Filed under Hostile Work Environment, Sex / Gender Discrimination, Sexual Harassment

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