The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER
Plaintiff, Steven Murray ("Murray" or "Plaintiff"), has brought this action against defendants, Gencorp, Inc. ("Gencorp") and Reneer Films, Corp. ("Reneer") seeking damages for wrongful discharge in count I of the complaint; relief pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 P.S. §§ 951, et. seq., in count II; damages for libel/slander in count III; and punitive damages in count IV. Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss counts I and IV pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and Motion for a More Definite Statement of count III pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). For the following reasons, the 12(b)(6) Motion is granted for counts I and IV, and the 12(e) Motion is granted for count III.
Plaintiff alleges the following facts. Plaintiff was hired by defendants to perform physical labor on April 23, 1980 and maintained employment with defendants until July 2, 1993. During plaintiff's thirteen (13) year employment with the defendants, he suffered from a physical condition which periodically caused him to miss full or half days of work. These missed days were caused because plaintiff was receiving medical treatment for his condition or due to severe pain caused by this condition. When plaintiff missed work, he either gave prior notice to defendants or provided explanation to defendants as soon as possible. Further, plaintiff's condition required that, at times, he be assigned to "light-duty." These "light-duty" assignments were outside of plaintiff's normal job description. Plaintiff received high evaluations on his work, both in his regularly scheduled tasks and when he was assigned to light duty. On June 27, 1993, plaintiff's condition was diagnosed as a non-work related acute, severe discitis of the lumbar spine with associated muscle spasms. Upon diagnosis, plaintiff informed defendants of this condition. Plaintiff was subsequently fired on July 2, 1993, which he claims was due to fear that he would be injured and file a worker's compensation claim.
I. Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motion
In considering a 12(b)(6) motion, a court must primarily consider the allegations contained in the complaint, although matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to the complaint may also be taken into account. Pension Benefit Guaranty, Corp. V. White Consolidated Industries, Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court must accept as true all of the allegations in the pleadings and must give the plaintiff the benefit of every favorable inference that can be drawn from those allegations. Schrob v. Catterson, 948 F.2d 1402, 1405 (3d Cir. 1991); Markowitz v. Northeast Lance Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). A complaint is properly dismissed only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of its claim which would entitle it to relief. Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988).
A. Count I: Wrongful Discharge
As stated supra, Defendant contends that plaintiff's count I, which alleges a cause of action for wrongful discharge, should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant maintains that the PHRA is the exclusive remedy for a wrongful discharge claim unless there are separate facts upon which to base a common law cause of action. Defendant argues that plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim should be preempted by the PHRA because there are no separate facts upon which to base a common law cause of action.
Plaintiff responds that count I states a cause of action for wrongful discharge under the public policy exception. Plaintiff claims that he was fired due to fear that he would be injured and file a worker's compensation claim, which, Plaintiff alleges, violates public policy. Plaintiff acknowledges that there is no case law to support his claim that fear of filing a worker's compensation claim constitutes a common law cause of action for wrongful discharge. (Pl.s Mem. at 4). Instead, Plaintiff argues that a firing in retaliation for filing a worker's compensation claim represents a viable common law cause of action for wrongful discharge and asks that this Court extend the doctrine to also allow a common law claim for wrongful discharge when the firing is based on fear of filing a worker's compensation claim. (Pl.s Mem. at 4). For the following reasons, we decline to do so.
Pennsylvania adheres to the at-will employment doctrine, which recognizes that "an at-will employee may be terminated for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all." Krajsa v. Keypunch, Inc., 424 Pa. Super. 230, 622 A.2d 355, 358 (Pa. Super. 1993). Under Pennsylvania law, there is no common law cause of action for wrongful discharge of an at-will employee except in narrow circumstances where public policy is violated. Bruffett v. Warner Communications, Inc., 692 F.2d 910 (3d Cir. 1982); Paul v. Lankenau Hospital, 524 Pa. 90, 569 A.2d 346 (Pa. 1990); Clay v. Advanced Computer Applications, Inc., 522 Pa. 86, 559 A.2d 917 (Pa. 1989); Geary v. United States Steel Corp., 456 Pa. 171, 319 A.2d 174 (Pa. 1974); Yetter v. Ward Trucking Corp., 401 Pa. Super. 467, 585 A.2d 1022 (Pa. Super. 1991)(finding that "to survive a challenge of failure to state a cause of action, complaint must establish violation of a public policy"). To successfully plead a common law cause of action under the public policy exception, the public policy claimed to be violated must be expressly recognized in "legislation; administrative rules, regulation, or decision; [or] judicial decision." Yetter, 585 A.2d at 1026; see also Shick v. Shirey, 456 Pa. Super. 668, 691 A.2d 511, 513 (Pa. Super. 1997)(stating one "must point to a clear public policy articulated in the constitution, in legislation, an administrative regulation, or a judicial decision" to meet exception)(citations omitted)). If this public policy exception is not met, there is no common law cause of action, and the PHRA will preempt the wrongful discharge claim. See Sola v. Lafayette College, 804 F.2d 40, 42 (3d Cir. 1986); McManus v. Corestates Bank, N.A., 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1682, 1994 WL 50311 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 15, 1994); Keck v. Commercial Union Insurance, Co., 758 F. Supp. 1034 (M.D. Pa. 1991); Clay, 559 A.2d at 919.
Plaintiff alleges that he was fired due to defendants' fear that he was an employment risk who "may be injured at work and result in an award of worker's compensation and medical bills." (Pl.'s Mem. at 4). Plaintiff argues that this allegation implicates the public policy expressed in the Workers' Compensation Act, which, he argues, has been recognized as a ...