C. Sufficiency of Allegations in the Complaint
Defendants contend that the allegations of a Title VII violation in the complaint are so vague and conclusory that they cannot formulate a responsive pleading, and they argue that the Title VII claim therefore should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Federal Rule 8(a)(2) requires that the complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Generally, this rule is liberally construed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(f); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). Because of the increasingly large number of civil rights complaints filed in federal courts, however, the Third Circuit has required the "plain statement of the claim" under Rule 8(a)(2) to set forth specific factual allegations in support of the claim for relief. See Curtis v. Everette, 489 F.2d 516, 520-21 (3d Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 416 U.S. 995, 94 S. Ct. 2409, 40 L. Ed. 2d 774 (1974); Esser v. Weller, 467 F.2d 949 (3d Cir. 1972) (per curiam); Gittlemacker v. Prasse, 428 F.2d 1, 6 (3d Cir. 1970); Kauffman v. Moss, 420 F.2d 1270, 1275-76 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 846, 27 L. Ed. 2d 84, 91 S. Ct. 93 (1970); Rodes v. Municipal Authority of Borough of Milford, 409 F.2d 16, 17 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 396 U.S. 861, 24 L. Ed. 2d 114, 90 S. Ct. 133 (1969); Negrich v. Hohn, 379 F.2d 213 (3d Cir. 1967). Although this rule was formulated in suits brought under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, it has also been applied to cases under Title VII of the 1964 Act. See Marshall v. Electric Hose and Rubber Co., 65 F.R.D. 599, 603-06 (D. Del. 1974); cf. Nishiyama v. North American Rockwell Corp., 49 F.R.D. 288, 293-94 (C.D. Cal. 1970). The specific pleading rule does not require the plaintiff to plead all the evidence in support of her claim; it merely requires the pleading of allegations sufficient to assure the court that the claim has some basis in fact. See Valley v. Maule, 297 F. Supp. 958, 960-61 (D. Conn. 1968), quoted with approval in Kauffman, supra, at 1276 n. 15. If the claim merely parrots the language of the Civil Rights Act or sets forth a theory of recovery with no factual allegations in its support, dismissal is proper. Nishiyama, supra, at 293; see Jones v. McElroy, 429 F. Supp. 848, 863, (E.D. Pa. 1977); Milburn v. Girard, 429 F. Supp. 865, 868-869, (E.D. Pa. 1977).
For a Title VII claim, the factual allegations must show that plaintiff is a member of a class entitled to protection under the Act and that she was treated differently in her employment from persons otherwise similarly situated who are not members of the class. Potter v. Goodwill Industries of Cleveland, 518 F.2d 864, 865 (6th Cir. 1975) (per curiam); see Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, § 703(a), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). With respect to defendant EPPI, the complaint does satisfy these requirements. Plaintiff alleges that she was discriminated against in her allocation of staff, facilities, and equipment; seniority and retirement credit classification; performance ratings; and job discharge. She asserts that this discrimination occurred "because of her female sex" (Complaint paras. 16, 18; see also id. P 21), the implication being that male research assistants were treated differently. Sex is a protected classification under § 703(a) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a).
Although plaintiff's factual allegations are not as explicit as is desirable, in conjunction with the EEOC determination letter attached to the complaint they do meet the minimum degree of specificity necessary to inform EPPI of the charge against it and to assure the court that the claim has some basis in fact. Beyond this threshold level, the proper remedy for a vague complaint is a motion for a more definite statement under Federal Rule 12(e), not a motion to dismiss. Cf. Conley, supra, 355 U.S. at 47-48.
The main allegation in the complaint against defendants Watson and Borislow is para. 16:
"During the term of her employment, EPPI, Dr. Watson, and Dr. Borislow discriminated against plaintiff by denying her adequate supporting staff, facilities, and equipment, because of her female sex."
Paragraph 18 of the complaint also alleges that "Dr. Borislow played a primary role" in discriminatorily giving plaintiff low performance ratings. Without the added support of the EEOC determination letter, these factual allegations barely meet the specificity requirement. The allegations tie Watson and Borislow to EPPI's allegedly discriminatory conduct, but I am left with considerable doubt whether they sufficiently allege specific conduct on the part of Watson and Borislow themselves which can form a basis for a Title VII claim against them. Reading the allegations in the context of the entire complaint, however, I conclude that there is at least some factual basis for a claim against Watson and Borislow and therefore will deny their motion to dismiss for lack of specificity.
The allegations against the other defendants are considerably different. The only allegation which specifically mentions SERB is in para. 17, which, after stating that EPPI wrongfully classified plaintiff as a part-time employee and thereby caused her to forfeit a portion of her seniority and retirement credits, asserts, "Defendant SERB has accepted these errors." Except for the opening paragraphs identifying the parties, the Department of Public Welfare, Beal, Daly, and Witmer are not mentioned in the complaint at all. Since there are no specific factual allegations of sex discrimination by these defendants, I shall dismiss the Title VII claims as to them for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, without prejudice to plaintiff's right to amend the complaint to sufficiently allege facts supporting Title VII claims against them. As noted in Part I.A. of this opinion, there is some question whether there is Title VII jurisdiction over the claims against these defendants. If plaintiff amends her complaint to conform to the specific pleading rule, she will be entitled to discovery relevant to that question.
II. Claims under the 1871 Act and the Fourteenth Amendment
A. Liability of EPPI, SERB, and the Department under the 1871 Act
Two counts of plaintiff's complaint are based upon the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985. Section 1983 provides:
"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceedings for redress."