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Traphagan v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 14, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP's ("PwC") Partial Motion to Dismiss, seeking the dismissal of Count II in the Amended Complaint, which claims violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) (Filing No. 18). After four years of employment with PwC, Plaintiff Chayah Traphagan ("Ms. Traphagan") was terminated from her position as a certified public accountant. In January 2016, Ms. Traphagan brought this action against PwC, asserting claims for violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VJI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e ("Title YD"). PwC promptly filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss the Equal Pay Act claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). PwC seeks dismissal of Count U on the basis that Ms. Traphagan has not alleged the basic facts to support an Equal Pay Act claim and has alleged facts that establish an impenetrable defense to such a claim. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS PwC s Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the Amended Complaint and draws all inferences in favor of Ms. Traphagan as the non-moving party. See Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Ms. Traphagan is a certified public accountant and began working for PwC in October 2010 as a tax associate. She worked in this position until her termination from PwC in October 2014. PwC is an international financial firm, providing financial services to clients, including tax services. PwC has an office in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ms. Traphagan began her employment with PwC in its Indianapolis office.

         From the beginning of her employment, Ms. Traphagan received positive employee reviews and was praised for her work. She always met or exceeded PwC s expectations. However, she began to feel that she was being discriminated against because of her gender, early in her employment. She noticed that her immediate supervisor spoke to her in a rude and derogatory manner. (Filing No. 15 at 2.)

         Approximately one year after Ms. Traphagan began working at PwC, a younger white male with less experience and education than Ms. Traphagan was hired in her department in the same position as Ms. Traphagan. Ms. Traphagan and this male employee shared the same supervisors. Throughout the new employee's training, he received training benefits that were denied Ms. Traphagan. He was given experiences and responsibilities that better positioned him for raises, bonuses, and upward advancement. He also received job assignments that had been promised to Ms. Traphagan. "[T]he male employee received raises and bonuses as a result of these experiences that Ms. Traphagan did not have an opportunity to receive." (FilingNo. 15 at 3.) When she began noticing the different treatment, Ms. Traphagan complained to the human resources department. (Id. at 2.) Upper level management acknowledged the different treatment afforded the new male employee, but nothing was done to address the issue. (Id. at 3.)

         Ms. Traphagan became pregnant in the fall of 2012, resulting inher supervisor taking away some important accounts on which she was working. (Id.) Her supervisor also did not give promised job assignments to her that would have allowed her to work directly with clients and helped her to advance in the company. Ms. Traphagan's supervisor cited her pregnancy as the reason for taking away the accounts and failing to give her certain job assignments. Because of these actions by her supervisor, Ms. Traphagan again complained to the human resources department, and they agreed that she had been discriminated against. (Filing No. 15 at 3.)

         However, in response to her complaint, PwC retaliated against Ms. Traphagan while she was on maternity leave by reassigning her to the PwC office located in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Id.) The human resources department informed Ms. Traphagan that she could work from home and would not have to commute from Indianapolis to Cincinnati, yet Ms. Traphagan began to be criticized for not being in the Cincinnati office. In an effort to appease PwC, Ms. Traphagan began travelling to Cincinnati and living in a hotel room four days a week, but she felt that PwC had set up the situation so that she would fail. PwC became overly critical of Ms. Traphagan's work performance. (Id.) She was chastised and disciplined for actions that were commonplace in the office, and she was disciplined for not being in the office. (Id)

         "Ms. Traphagan was told by management that her pay was lower because the Cincinnati group was not as profitable as the Indianapolis office, " and "[e]ven though Ms. Traphagan was one of the most productive workers in the office, she was terminated in October 2014." (Filing No. 15 at 3-4.)

         After filing a charge of discrimination and receiving a notice of right to sue from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ms. Traphagan filed her Complaint against PwC on January 18, 2016. On April 5, 2016, she amended her Complaint to focus her suit against PwC on the Equal Pay Act and Title VQ claims (Filing No. 15). On April 19, 2016, PwC promptly filed its Answer to the Amended Complaint and simultaneously filed its Partial Motion to Dismiss.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint that has failed to "state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Bielanski, 550 F.3d at 633. However, courts "are not obliged to accept as true legal conclusions or unsupported conclusions of fact." Hickey v. O'Bannon, 287 F.3d 656, 658 (7th Cir. 2002).

         The complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court explained that the complaint must allege facts that are "enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not required, mere "labels, " "conclusions, " or "formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action" are insufficient. Id.; see also Bissessurv. Ind. Univ. Bd. of Trs.,581 F.3d 599, 603 (7th Cir. 2009) ("it is not enough to give a threadbare recitation of the elements of a claim without factual support"). The allegations must "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Stated differently, the complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Hecker v. Deere & Co.,556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation and quotation marks omitted). To be facially plausible, the complaint must ...

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