Pepperidge Farm Asks Court to Deny Third Amended Complaint in Employment Lawsuit

Pepperidge Farm on Monday responded to the third amended complaint of Stephanie Dickens, its employee in the Florida Middle District Court. It filed an answer and defense to the the first count alleging retaliation under the Florida Private Whistleblower’s Act (FPWA) and a motion to dismiss the other claims including gender discrimination and Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) retaliation. 

This is the third complaint filed by Dickens, who claimed that while working for Pepperidge Farm in Florida, where she had worked since 2009, she was unjustifiably reprimanded and demoted after reporting a cockroach infestation in a gluten tank. The alleged retaliatory actions included a five-day suspension, denial of transfer and promotion requests, and half the salary she previously made. Dickens claimed that the company did not discipline male employees similarly. The court has dismissed some claims ruling that they were not factually supported or there were not sufficient dates to show that the claims were timely. The plaintiff filed her third amended complaint on March 8. 

In the present motion to dismiss, Pepperidge Farm related the history of the lawsuit, including that the third amended complaint as agreed by the parties only altered allegations “to support the existence of diversity jurisdiction.” The defendant argued that the counts of gender discrimination and retaliation are “still fatally flawed.” 

The company reiterated in its motion that the claims are time-barred because Dickinson reportedly did not demonstrate that she had attempted to use administrative remedies before filing the lawsuit. “Plaintiff filed her Charge of Discrimination well after the applicable deadline expired, and, even if the Charge of Discrimination was timely (which it is not)  the  Charge of  Discrimination failed to state any alleged facts to support a retaliation claim altogether,” the motion stated. 

The defendant claimed that Dickinson was given the Production Helper position, which she presented as a demotion, in lieu of termination because she had been given “multiple disciplinary warnings and suspensions for unsatisfactory performance” and that she was given a Roll Panner position after a bid in August 2019. 

Pepperidge Farm asked for the counts of discrimination and retaliation under the FCRA to be dimssed with prejudice. In response to the claim of retaliation under the FPWA, the defendant said that “the alleged activity, policy, or practice of Defendant that Plaintiff alleges to have objected to or refused to participate in did not constitute an actual violation of any law, rule, or regulation.” Additionally, the defendant reported that the plaintiff did not communicate any violations of laws or illegal activity to the defendant or use “corrective opportunities” provided by Pepperidge Farms to its employees. 

In its response to the complaint, Pepperidge Farms asked the court to dismiss the complaint and award it attorney’s fees. The plaintiff is represented by Printy & Printy, P.A., and Pepperidge Farm by Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP.