Victory in Gender Discrimination and Retaliation Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reinstated the gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit of Stember Cohn & Davidson-Welling client Sandra Connelly, finding that the lower court improperly dismissed Ms. Connelly’s claims.

Ms. Connelly was the only female truck driver employed by Lane Construction Corporation at its Pittsburgh facility. She contends that she was discriminated against based on her gender, sexually harassed, and retaliated against for complaining. She reported harassment by her male coworkers to her supervisors and called the company’s ethics line. After she complained, she was laid off before any other union truck driver. She was not recalled the following year when Lane brought back all of the male drivers, including those with less seniority than her. The district court dismissed Ms. Connelly’s case, holding that her claims of gender discrimination and retaliation were not sufficiently pleaded. The district court also ruled that her claim of retaliation was not plausible because the failure to rehire her occurred almost a year after her last complaint.

The Third Circuit’s decision to vacate the lower court’s decision reiterates an important legal standard that has been eroded somewhat in recent years. In considering whether a case can survive a motion to dismiss, a court should consider only whether the plaintiff has pleaded facts that, when taken as true, state a claim of discrimination that is “plausible on its face.” Put another way, the court reaffirmed that it does not matter if the court thinks an employee will not prevail; an employee only has to assert a claim that is plausible on its face. In addition, the Court acknowledged the reality that retaliation can occur well after an employee engages in protected activity.

Click here to read the decision.