Pepperidge Farms Secures Partial Dismissal of Worker’s Employment Lawsuit

According to an order issued last Friday, the plaintiff who allegedly reported a roach infestation to her supervisor at a Pepperidge Farm Incorporated’s processing plant will be allowed to proceed as to one of her three claims for gender discrimination and retaliation. The Middle District of Florida court overseeing the suit ruled that the Florida Civil Rights Act (FRCA) counts lacked the requisite factual support to survive the defendant’s dismissal motion.

The dispute dates back to 2019 when the plaintiff filed suit against her employer for the backlash she purportedly experienced after reporting the pest infestation in one of the company’s wheat gluten tanks. Specifically, she claims that she was demoted and her requests for transfer and promotion denied after she reported the February 2018 incursion.

The plaintiff’s two previous complaints were dismissed without prejudice. Her third amended complaint’s two FRCA claims, the defendant argued, failed to establish that she first exhausted her administrative remedies and that she stated a claim for relief.

Last week’s opinion determined that based on the incomplete factual record, the court could not rule on whether the plaintiff timely filed obligatory charges with the state or federal employment discrimination oversight body. According to the ruling, letters attached to the complaint indicate that she may have filed her administrative complaint within the one year timeframe, and therefore the court could not dispense with the claims on that basis.

The court agreed with Pepperidge Farm however that the revised complaint was fact-bare with regards to the purported acts of discrimination committed against the plaintiff. Though the court’s prior order instructed the employee to allege additional facts regarding the incidents, including the relevant dates, the operative pleading did not do so.

As such, the court dismissed the two FRCA claims with prejudice, leaving the plaintiff’s retaliation under the Florida Private Whistleblower Act to proceed. The plaintiff is represented by Printy & Printy, P.A. and Pepperidge Farm by Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP.