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Poe-Smith v. Epic Health Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 8, 2017


          Patrick C. Gallagher, CURLEY, DODGE, & FUNK, LLC, Dover, DE Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Lauren E.M. Russell, YOUNG CONAWAY STARGATT & TAYLOR, LLP, Wilmington, DE Jacqueline R. Barrett and Phillip R. Combs, OGLETREE, DEAKTNS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART, P.C., Philadelphia, PA Attorneys for Defendants Epic Health Services, Inc. and Epic Health Services (DE), LLC.


          STARK, U.S. District Judge

         Presently before the Court is Defendant Epic Health Services, Inc.'s ("Epic") motion to dismiss. (D.I. 17)[1] For the following reasons, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the motion.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND[3]

         Anita Poe-Smith is employed by Epic as a home health aide. (See D.I. 16 at ¶ 6) In February 2015, she was assigned by Epic to work for a client residing in the home of Leo and Sherrie Weigand. (See Id. at ¶ 12) From February 2015 until May 2015, Mr. Weigand sexually harassed Ms. Poe-Smith by directing sexual innuendos and inappropriate comments toward her. (See Id. at ¶¶ 13-14) Ms. Poe-Smith alleges that Mr. Weigand's inappropriate behavior culminated on May 12, 2015, when Mr. Weigand physically assaulted her. (See Id. at ¶¶ 25-29) According to Ms. Poe-Smith, Mr. Weigand "bought her a maid's costume while on vacation" and "told her she would have to model it." (Id. at ¶ 27) When Ms. Poe-Smith left the room, Mr. Weigand followed her, and "then pushed Ms. Poe-Smith with his open palms on her shoulder blades with full force, " causing her to "f[a]ll forward, bending at the waist. He then smacked her on her buttocks." (Id. at ¶ 28)

         Ms. Poe-Smith reported the incident to Epic on May 15, 2015. (See Id. at ¶ 34) Ms. Poe- Smith admits that, before that date, she "did not complain to Epic about Mr. Weigand's harassment of her." (Id. at ¶ 20) Nevertheless, Ms. Poe-Smith alleges that Epic should have been aware of Mr. Weigand's behavior based on his interactions with a supervisor at Epic, as well as the Weigands' history with other home healthcare services. (See Id. at ¶¶ 18, 21-24) In particular, "Mr. Weigand had been calling [Ms. Poe-Smith's supervisor] Meghan Williams on the telephone and sexually harassing her during the same time that Ms. Poe-Smith was working in Mr. Weigand's home." (Id. at ¶ 22) Additionally, Mr. Weigand called Ms. Williams to ask whether he could give Ms. Poe-Smith gifts, such as a pedicure. (See Id. at ¶ 38)

         In the days after Ms. Poe-Smith reported Mr. Weigand's behavior, Epic offered her a new assignment. (See Id. at ¶ 48) Ms. Poe-Smith declined the offer because the job started at 7:30 a.m. and was an hour from her home. (See id.) After that initial offer, Epic continued to give her "offers for assignments that were only two to three hours sporadically or serving as a back-up aide, " but Epic also "assured Ms. Poe-Smith there were plenty of cases and plenty of new cases coming in every day." (Id. at ¶ 49) On May 29, 2015, Epic offered Ms. Poe-Smith another full-time assignment, which she also turned down. (See Id. at ¶ 50) Then, in June 2015, Ms. Poe-Smith accepted a full-time assignment from Epic. (See Id. at ¶ 51)

         In March 2016, Ms. Poe-Smith submitted a Charge of Discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against all four defendants - Epic Health Services, Inc., Epic Health Services (DE), LLC, Leo Weigand, and Sherrie Weigand - which the EEOC dismissed. (See Id. at ¶¶ 8-9) Following the dismissal, Ms. Poe-Smith brought the present action, alleging, among other things, that Epic discriminated against her on the basis of sex (Count I) and retaliated against her for reporting Mr. Weigand's sexual harassment (Count II). (See D.I. 16 at¶¶ 53-69) Epic moved to dismiss both counts. (D.I. 17) The Court heard oral argument on February 15, 2017. (D.I. 29)


         Evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires the Court to accept as true all material allegations of the complaint. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1420 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, the Court may grant such a morion to dismiss only if, after "accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, and viewing them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, plaintiff is not entitled to relief." Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 481-82 (3d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         However, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).'" Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads 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, 678 (2009). At bottom, "[t]he complaint must state enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [each] necessary element" of a plaintiff s claim. Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter School Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The Court is not obligated to accept as true "bald assertions, " Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted), "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, " Schuylkill Energy Res., Inc. v. Pa. Power & Light Co., 113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir. 1997), or allegations that are "self-evidently false, " Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 69 (3d Cir. 1996).

         III. ...

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