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KANIA v. ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA

July 28, 1998

JESSIE I. KANIA
v.
ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA and SACRED HEART CHURCH



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HUTTON

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 HUTTON, J.

 July 28, 1998

 Presently before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 6), Plaintiff's Opposition (Docket No. 8), Defendants' Reply (Docket No. 9), and Plaintiff's Sur-Reply (Docket No. 10). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion is denied.

 I. BACKGROUND

 At a September 7, 1995 meeting, Father Francis A. Barszczewski announced to his staff that henceforth the official language of Sacred Heart Church ("the Church") would be English, and that all employees must cease speaking the Polish language during business hours. This Motion requires the Court to decide whether, in the context of this case, the Church's "English-only" policy amounted to national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (1994) ("Title VII"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 955(a) (1997) (the "PHRA").

 Plaintiff Jessie I. Kania is a Polish-American woman who worked for the Church as a housekeeper between December 10, 1990 and October 17, 1995. Although the Complaint does not state so directly, it is evident that Kania is fluent in both English and Polish. It is also evident that, at least until September 7, 1995, Kania spoke Polish on the job from time to time.

 Father Barszczewski announced the English-only policy on September 7, and again on September 29. Minutes of the September 7 meeting reflect Barszczewski's reasons for establishing the rule: "[Barszczewski] said it is offensive and derisive to speak a language which others do not understand. Staff must mirror/show the way for the parish, especially since [Barszczewski] is asking the rest of the parish (organizations, councils, groups, etc.) to do the same." (Pl.'s Opposition Ex. B at 2). Kania represents that the English-only policy was a blanket rule that applied at all times during business hours, including when the Church's employees were at lunch, on break, and in non-public areas. She claims that no legitimate business reason existed for the imposition of the policy.

 Shortly after Barszczewski announced the policy, Kania communicated her objection to Barszczewski's secretary, Cathy Vickery. Kania complained that she believed the language restriction violated the law, and that Barszezewski did not have the right to prevent her from speaking her native language at work. A few weeks later, on October 17, 1995, Barszczewski fired Kania for the stated reason that she had failed to clean Barszczewski's room at the Church. In her Complaint, Kania alleges that this explanation was a pretext for terminating her due to her opposition of the English-only policy.

 After exhausting her administrative remedies, and receiving a right to sue notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on August 29, 1997, Kania filed her Complaint on November 20, 1997. In Count I, Kania charges the Church with discriminating against her on the basis of her national origin, and terminating her in retaliation for opposing the English-only policy, all in violation of Title VII. In Count II, Kania states an identical claim under the PHRA. Defendants now move to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted, arguing that the Church's policy did not amount to national origin discrimination as a matter of law.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Standard of Review

 In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. See Rocks v City of Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). It may only grant the motion if, after viewing the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief" under the applicable law. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957); ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994).

 B. National Origin Discrimination

 Title VII provides that it is unlawful for an employer

 (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such ...


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