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Klesser v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 17, 2019

CAROL KLESSER, Plaintiff,
v.
HEWLETT PACKARD ENTERPRISE COMPANY, a Delaware corporation, Defendant

          ORDER

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint [Docket No. 63]. The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Carol Klesser began working at Hewlett-Packard Company in July 1997. Docket No. 60 at 3, ¶ 11. After the company was split into two entities in 2015, she worked for defendant Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company until July 21, 2017, when she was terminated. Id., ¶ 12.

         Throughout her employment, plaintiff was never informed that her performance was less than satisfactory. Id., ¶ 15. She consistently received performance reviews indicating that she was performing at a satisfactory level or better. Id., ¶ 14. In December 2016, plaintiff received a performance review that she was doing a “great” job and that her team was “very valuable.” Id. at 6, ¶ 40. Plaintiff received company shares and a monetary bonus as a reward for her performance. Id.

         Also in December 2016, plaintiff was informed by her supervisor, Ms. Kelly Ducourty, that plaintiff's salary was “much lower” than the salaries of her male peers. Id., ¶ 41. Ms. Ducourty promised plaintiff that, in February, she would process an off-cycle pay increase to remedy the disparity. Id.

         In February 2017, Ms. Ducourty promoted Mr. Hedley Potts to supervise plaintiff and other individuals. Id., ¶ 43. Ms. Ducourty did not increase plaintiff's salary. Id., ¶ 44. On March 1, 2017, plaintiff informed Mr. Potts that Ms. Ducourty had promised her a raise because she was the lowest paid employee of the employees who directly reported to Mr. Potts. Id. at 7, ¶¶ 45-46. Other than plaintiff, all of Mr. Potts's direct reports were men. Id., ¶ 46. On or about March 16, 2017, plaintiff spoke with defendant's Human Resources Vice President, Ms. Seema Iyer, about Ms. Ducourty's promised raise. Id., ¶ 49. During this conversation, plaintiff questioned whether the pay discrepancy between herself and her male colleagues was based on her gender. Id., ¶ 50. She also questioned whether her “potential termination”[2] was based on her gender. Id., ¶ 51. Ms. Iyer informed plaintiff that there was no money for a raise, but assured plaintiff that she was not scheduled for a layoff because she was “too good” of a manager to be terminated. Id., ¶¶ 53-54.

         In mid-March 2017, Mr. Potts informed plaintiff that she had to find a new position. Id. at 8, ¶ 55. Mr. Potts stated that plaintiff had “been at the company too long and need[ed] to move on, ” as he was “looking for younger talent with a fresh set of eyes on things.” Id., ¶ 56. Mr. Potts told plaintiff that she had “until June to find something else” or she would “be laid off.” Id., ¶ 61. The next month, Ms. Iyer called plaintiff at her home to encourage her to leave the company. Id., ¶ 62. Plaintiff raised to Ms. Iyer her concerns regarding whether her treatment was based upon her gender or her age. Id. At the time, plaintiff was sixty-three years old. Id. at 11, ¶ 81.

         On July 5, 2017, Mr. Potts conducted plaintiff's mid-year performance review. Id. at 10, ¶ 72. Mr. Potts informed plaintiff that she was doing a great job and gave her a rating of “Driver-plus, ” indicating that, if she kept up her performance, she would be rated “Accelerating” at the end of the year. Id. On July 10, 2017, Mr. Potts notified plaintiff that her position had been eliminated and that she was terminated. Id., ¶¶ 74-75. After plaintiff's exit, she was replaced by a younger male employee. Id., ¶ 77.

         At the time of her termination, plaintiff was earning a base salary of $167, 472. Id. at 4, ¶ 20. The annual salary of one similarly situated male employee was at least $40, 000 more than plaintiff's salary, and two other similarly situated male employees earned at least $80, 000 more per year than plaintiff. Id. at 4, ¶¶ 21-22; at 5, ¶ 28.

         On November 22, 2017, plaintiff filed a lawsuit against defendant, raising claims under the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206(d), 215(a)(3) (“EPA”) . Docket No. 1. Upon plaintiff's motion, Docket No. 30, the Court administratively closed the case pending the conclusion of plaintiff's EEOC proceedings. Docket No. 31. The case was reopened on October 22, 2018. Docket No. 40.

         Plaintiff filed her amended complaint on February 7, 2019. Docket No. 60. She raises claims under the EPA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. (“ADEA”). See id. Plaintiff claims that, as a result of her efforts to oppose violations of these laws, she was terminated. Id. at 11, ¶ 87. She further alleges that, after she opposed these violations, the defendant withdrew its offer to pay her severance. Id. at 11, ¶¶ 85-86. On February 21, 2019, defendant filed a partial motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Docket No. 63. Plaintiff filed a response to the motion on March 14, 2019, Docket No. 64, to which defendant replied on March 28, 2019. Docket No. 66.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must allege enough factual matter that, taken as true, makes the plaintiff's “claim to relief . . . plausible on its face.” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 2012) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (internal quotation marks and alteration marks omitted); see also Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1190 (“A plaintiff must nudge [her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible in order to survive a motion to dismiss.” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570)). If a complaint's allegations are “so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, ” then plaintiff has not stated a plausible claim. Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1191 (quotations omitted). Thus, even though modern rules of pleading are somewhat forgiving, “a complaint still must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Bryson v. Gonzales, 534 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2008) (alteration marks omitted).

         III. ...


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