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IMBODEN v. CHOWNS COMMUNICATIONS

January 8, 2002

LINDA IMBODEN
V.
CHOWNS COMMUNICATIONS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kauffman, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

In this action, Plaintiff Linda Imboden alleges that Defendant Chowns Communications discriminated against her on the basis of her sex. The Complaint contains five causes of action: (1) violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.; (2) violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 955(a) et seq.; (3) negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress; (4) violation of the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment (PERA), Pa. Cons.Art. I § 28; and (5) violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA), 29 U.S.C. § 216 et seq. Defendant filed an Answer to the first, second, and fifth causes of action. Now before the Court is Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss the third and fourth causes of action. For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss the negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims will be granted and the Motion to Dismiss the PERA claim will be denied.

I. Background

On or about February 28, 2000, Defendant hired Plaintiff as a "general laborer and driver." (Compl. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff alleges that three of her supervisors discriminated against her on the basis of her sex by denying her "assistance by coworkers when loading heavy equipment and moving supplies" (Compl. ¶ 15), instructing her to "perform tasks alone that male employees perform in groups of two or more" (Compl. ¶ 16), making discriminatory remarks to her (Compl. ¶ 17), denying her work (Compl. ¶ 18), laying her off "while men with less seniority were not laid off" (Compl. ¶¶ 19, 21), and paying her less than "male employees with the same experience and who perform the same duties that she performed" (Compl. ¶ 20). Plaintiff also alleges that she was transferred "[i]n retaliation for complaining about sex discrimination" (Compl. ¶ 22) and that she was constructively discharged in March 2001 (Compl. ¶ 23).

According to the Complaint, on February 13, 2001, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was cross-filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). (Compl. ¶ 4.) The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on June 25, 2001. (Compl.Ex. A.) Plaintiff commenced this action by filing the Complaint on September 5, 2001.*fn1

II. Standard for Deciding a Motion to Dismiss

When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court may look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The Court must accept as true all well pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion will be granted only when it is certain that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved by the plaintiff. Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988).

III. Analysis

A. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim

Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress is barred by the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act (PWCA), 77 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 1 et seq. (Mem. Supp. Partial Mot. Dismiss at 3-4), and that Plaintiff has failed to allege the necessary elements of such a claim (Mem. Supp. Partial Mot. Dismiss at 7-8).

The PWCA provides that "[t]he liability of an employer under this act shall be exclusive and in place of any and all other liability to such employees . . . in any action at law or otherwise on account of any injury or death defined in [ 77 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 411] or occupational disease as defined in [ 77 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 27.1]." 77 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 481(a). "Injury," however, "shall not include an injury caused by an act of a third person intended to injure the employe because of reasons personal to him, and not directed against him as an employe or because of his employment." Id. § 411(1).

Thus, the general rule is that "[t]he exclusivity provision of [the PWCA] bars claims for `intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress [arising] out of [an] employment relationship.'" Matczak v. Frankford Candy & Chocolate Co., 136 F.3d 933, 940 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Dugan v. Bell Tel. of Pa., 876 F. Supp. 713, 723 (W.D.Pa. 1994)). Although there may be an exception, rooted in the language of § 411, for claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, see Durham Life Ins. Co. v. Evans, 166 F.3d 139, 160 (3d Cir. 1999) ("Cases interpreting Pennsylvania law are split on the propriety of allowing IIED claims for sexual harassment on the job."),*fn2 there is no such exception for negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. See, e.g., Danas v. Chapman Ford Sales, Inc., 120 F. Supp.2d 478, 488 (E.D.Pa. 2000). "Any claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress which arises out of an employment relationship is thus barred by the Act." Hoover v. Nabisco, Inc., No. CIV A 99-1452, 1999 WL 1073622, at *2 (E.D.Pa. Nov. 10, 1999).

Accordingly, Plaintiffs claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress is preempted by the PWCA ...


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