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Young v. Smithfield Farmland Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

September 27, 2017

VICKIE L. HOSKINS YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
SMITHFIELD FARMLAND CORP., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Danny C, Reeves, United States District Judge.

         This matter is pending for consideration of the defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Rule 1');">12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. [Record No. 5] The matter has been fully briefed and the Court has considered the parties' respective positions. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny defendants motion to dismiss.

         I.

         Plaintiff Vickie Young (“Young”) is a former employee of Defendant Smithfield Farmland Corporation “(Smithfield”). She was hired to work at Smithfield's facility in Middlesboro, Kentucky, in October 2009. [Record No 1');">1-1');">1, ¶ 9] Young initially was assigned to the packing department, but in 201');">10 her position and duties changed when she was approved to be a Clerk in the Maintenance Shop. [Id. at ¶¶ 9-1');">10] Young continued her employment in the Maintenance Shop until she was terminated in 201');">15. [Id. at ¶ 1');">10]

         Young alleges that, during her last year of employment with Smithfield, she was supervised by Joanie Bloomer (“Bloomer”). She claims that Bloomer subjected her to gender discrimination by treating her male co-workers more favorably regarding vacation time, criticisms of work, reprimands, and scheduling. [Id. at ¶ 1');">11');">1] Young also alleges that, during her time in the Maintenance Shop, she was repeatedly subjected to offensive verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature from Smithfield managers and co-workers. [Id. at ¶ 1');">19] She contends that during the last two years of her employment, mechanic supervisor and maintenance manager Daniel Leach (“Leach”) made unwanted sexual advances and made clear that certain job benefits were conditioned on her acceptance of his advances. [Id. at ¶¶ 28-29]

         Finally, Young asserts that Smithfield retaliated terminating her employment after she complained to the human resources office regarding gender discrimination and hostile work environment and threatened to file a complaint with the EEOC. [Id. at ¶¶ 48-49]

         II.

         Under Rule 1');">12(b)(6) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, the Court must look to the complaint and determine whether it states a claim for which relief is available. The pleading “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The factual contentions must be sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and permit the Court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain more than an “unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action'” is insufficient. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         III.

         A. KCRA Sex Discrimination Claim

         Young alleges in Count I that she was subjected to a pattern and practice of gender discrimination in the term, conditions, and privileges of employment as compared to similarly-situated male employees, who were treated more favorably. [Record No. 1');">1-1');">1, ¶ 1');">11');">1] Section 344 of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (“KCRA”) makes it unlawful for an employer to “fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of the individual's race, color … [or] sex.” Ky. Rev. Stat. 344.040(1');">1)(a). Because the KCRA was enacted to implement the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1');">1964, its language is “virtually identical” to that of Title VII. Jefferson Cnty. v. Zaring, 1');">1 S.W.3d 583');">91');">1 S.W.3d 583, 586 (Ky. 2002); see also Gragg v. Somerset Tech. Coll., 373 F.3d 763, 768 (6th Cir. 2004); Lewis v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 590 Fed. App'x 467, 469 (6th Cir.) Thus, the same analysis applies to discrimination claims under title VII and the KCRA. See Id.

         To establish a prima facie case for sex discrimination under the KCRA, a plaintiff must demonstrate that she: (1');">1) is a member of a protected class; (2) was subjected to an adverse action; (3) was qualified for the job; and that (4) another similarly situated employee, not in the protected class, was treated more favorably. Kirkland v. James, 657 F. App'x 580, 584 (6th Cir. 201');">16) (citing Jackson v. VHS Detroit Receiving Hosp., Inc., 1');">14 F.3d 769');">81');">14 F.3d 769, 776 (6th Cir. 201');">16). These elements represent “an evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement.” Keys v. Humana, Inc., 684 F.3d 605, 609 (6th Cir.) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, 51');">10, 1');">122 S.Ct. 992, 1');">152 L.Ed.2d 1');">1 (2002)). However, the Court must still assess whether the plaintiff alleges “sufficient ‘factual content' from which a court, informed by its ‘judicial experience and common sense, ' could ‘draw the reasonable inference, ' Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79, that Smithfield “discriminate[d] against [Young] with respect to her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of [her] race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Keys, 684 F.3d at 61');">10 (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1');">1)) (emphasis in original).

         Smithfield contends that Young has not pleaded facts sufficient to show adverse employment action (i.e., that she received less favorable treatment than similarly situated male employees, and that she was subjected to intentional discrimination on the basis of her gender). However, Young asserts sufficient factual allegations from which this Court can draw a reasonable inference of a plausible claim that Smithfield discriminated against her with respect to her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of her sex. See Keys, 684 F.3d at 61');">10. The Complaint contains allegations that are neither speculative nor conclusory. Instead, the pleading contains factual allegations that state a plausible claim for relief. It alleges, that over the last year of Young's employment, Smithfield had a pattern or practice of gender discrimination in the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It also provides details of specific instances where Young alleges she was treated differently than her male counterparts, provides facts of the adverse actions complained of, and provides the name of the key supervisor who is alleged to have committed the discrimination. In summary, Young has pleaded sufficient facts in her Complaint which give Smithfield “fair notice of the basis for [Young's] claims.” Swierkiewicz 534 U.S. at 51');">14.

         B. Hostile Work ...


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