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Harris v. Carrier Corp.

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

March 23, 2017



          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Pamela Harris' Amended Complaint asserts five employment discrimination claims against Defendant Carrier Corporation (“Carrier”). [Filing No. 49.] Carrier has filed a Motion to Dismiss, asking the Court to dismiss four of those five claims. [Filing No. 52.] After Carrier's Motion to Dismiss was fully briefed, Ms. Harris filed a Statement of Claims pursuant to the parties' Case Management Plan, confirming that she now only is pursing three of those claims-sex discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliation claims. [Filing No. 73.] Because Ms. Harris is no longer pursuing her race and age discrimination claims, the Court denies as moot Carrier's request to dismiss those claims.[1] [Filing No. 52.] For the reasons detailed herein, the Court denies Carrier's request to dismiss Ms. Harris' disability discrimination and retaliation claims. [Filing No. 53.]


         Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) “requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a)(2)). “Specific facts are not necessary, the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         A motion to dismiss asks whether the complaint “contain[s] 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must accept all well-pled facts as true and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Active Disposal, Inc. v. City of Darien, 635 F.3d 883, 886 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court will not accept legal conclusions or conclusory allegations as sufficient to state a claim for relief. See McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011). Factual allegations must plausibly state an entitlement to relief “to a degree that rises above the speculative level.” Munson v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2012). This plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.


         Relevant Background

         The relevant background is set forth pursuant to the applicable standard of review, which requires the Court to accept all of Ms. Harris' well-pled allegations as true at this stage of the proceedings. The Court emphasizes that these allegations are considered true only for purposes of deciding the pending motion.

         Ms. Harris is an African American woman over the age of forty, who began her employment with Carrier as a machine repair apprentice on or about February 15, 2005. [Filing No. 49 at 2.] ¶ 2008, Ms. Harris was placed in a training program to obtain her certification as a Journeyman employee, and she has since been given the title of Journeyman by Carrier although she has not been given her actual certification and credentials as a Journeyman. [Filing No. 49 at 3.] Since 2008, Ms. Harris has worked in an otherwise all male, skilled trade position at Carrier. [Filing No. 49 at 3.] She has been subjected to repeated and persistent harassment by her male counterparts, including but not limited to, being told by her group leader that women should not be working in skilled trade positions; being subjected to false reports of rule and production standards violations, resulting in unwarranted disciplinary actions against her; being accused by her supervisor of “doing a man's job;” being given inappropriate work orders; being denied well-rounded training opportunities that were made available to male Journeymen; being assigned to work alone in hazardous conditions which were usually staffed by two or more employees; and being referred to by her Supervisor as his “girlfriend” even though Harris repeatedly told the Supervisor that she found the term offensive and asked him to stop. [Filing No. 49 at 3.] Ms. Harris reported these violations to Carrier's plant safety office and alleges that she was subjected to retaliation in the form of an unwarranted reprimand. [Filing No. 49 at 3.]

         Ms. Harris suffered an on-the-job shoulder injury that resulted in significant medical work restrictions, including no crawling or climbing, lifting restrictions, and push/pull restrictions. [Filing No. 49 at 3-4.] Ms. Harris was required to be off work for a prolonged period of time due to the injury. [Filing No. 49 at 4.] When she attempted to return to work, she was routinely assigned to tasks that violated her work restrictions. [Filing No. 49 at 4.] Ms. Harris reinjured her arm in July 2015, was placed on medical leave, and was tentatively scheduled to return to work on January 2, 2016. [Filing No. 49 at 4.] When she attempted to return to work, Carrier refused to provide her with either a job within her work remaining work restrictions or a reasonable accommodation for her disability. [Filing No. 49 at 4.] After several months, Ms. Harris was allowed to return to work as an Inspector. [Filing No. 49 at 4.] She continued to be subjected to harassment by male employees, including unwarranted and unjustified reprimands, denial of overtime, and further delays in obtaining her Journeyman credentials and certification. [Filing No. 49 at 4.]

         Ms. Harris filed two charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and she subsequently received right to sue letters. [Filing No. 49 at 2.] Ms. Harris filed a Complaint in federal court against Carrier on December 11, 2015, [Filing No. 1], and subsequently filed an Amended Complaint that is the operative pleading, [Filing No. 49]. In response, Carrier filed a Motion to Dismiss, which is now ripe for the Court's review. [Filing No. 52.]



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