The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, District Judge
On November 5, 1999, Martin Nelson filed suit against the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare/County Board of Assistance
and Feather Houston, Secretary of the DPW. Defendant DPW is a
state agency that provides cash assistance, food stamps, and social
services to Pennsylvania residents. Plaintiff is a legally blind
individual who has worked at the DPW since 1970. Plaintiff claims that
throughout his employment defendants have repeatedly failed to provide
him with reasonable accommodations in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132 et seq., the
Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 953 et seq. He has also filed suit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff's suit arises from the following facts: plaintiff is an
Income Maintenance Case Worker who has consistently received favorable
work evaluations from his supervisors at the DPW. While working, he uses
the aide of a part-time reader in order to be more efficient. Plaintiff
must compensate his aide directly and then await reimbursement from the
DPW, an arrangement that he argues causes him to suffer a tax burden as
well as unwarranted out-of-pocket expenses. Plaintiff must also train and
hire these aides without defendants' assistance. In addition to these
alleged failures by the defendants to provide reasonable accommodation in
the workplace, plaintiff also points to defendants' refusal to supply him
with updated computer software. Without such software, plaintiff
apparently cannot access his employer's current training policies,
procedures, manuals, and computerized materials. His work is also
allegedly impeded by defendants' decision not to provide him with
training manuals and seminar materials in braille. Plaintiff asserts that
this lack of access to professional materials has disadvantaged him
vis-à-vis his sighted peers.
Plaintiff has filed suit under both federal and state law. He is
seeking an array of damages as well as injunctive relief for defendants'
allegedly unlawful discrimination and retaliation. In response,
defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and
12(b)(6). Defendants maintain that plaintiff's suit is barred by the
Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that plaintiff's
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must accept as true
all of the allegations set forth in the complaint and must draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Ford v.
Schering-Plough Corp., 145 F.3d 601, 604 (3d Cir. 1998). Dismissal of
plaintiff's claim is appropriate only if plaintiff "can prove no set of
facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Id.
(quotations omitted). The court need not, however, accept conclusory
allegations or legal conclusions. Morse v. Lower Merion School District,
132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).
Defendants have also moved under Rule 12(b)(1), which allows the court
to dismiss a suit for want of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). This motion permits a party to raise the issue of Eleventh
Amendment immunity at the earliest stage of litigation. In Blanciak v.
Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690 (3d Cir. 1996), the Third Circuit
Court of Appeal noted that "the Eleventh Amendment is a jurisdictional
bar which deprives federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction." Id. at
694 n. 2 (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman,
465 U.S. 89, 98-100 (1984)). The Blanciak court added that Rule 12(b)(1)
was the proper means of raising the issue of whether the Eleventh
bars federal jurisdiction. Id. There are two types of
Rule 12(b)(1) motions. The first type, a facial attack, challenges only the
court's subject matter jurisdiction. The second type, a factual attack,
allows the court to question the plaintiff's facts after the defendant
files an answer. See Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. and Loan Ass'n,
549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). As defendants have not filed an
answer, their motion is necessarily a facial attack.
It is unclear what standard of review governs facial attacks made via
Rule 12(b)(1) motions. The Third Circuit has "cautioned against treating
a Rule 12(b)(1) motion as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and reaching the merits
of the claims" because "the standard for surviving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion
is lower than that for a 12(b)(6) motion." Gould Elecs. Inc. v. United
States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000) (citation omitted).
Nonetheless, the Third Circuit has also held that, when considering a
facial attack under Rule 12(b)(1), "the trial court must accept the
complaint's allegations as true." Turicentro, S.A. v. Am. Airlines Inc.,
303 F.3d 293, 300 n. 4 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing NE Hub Parrtners, L.P. v.
CNG Transmission Corp., 239 F.3d 333, 341 & n. 7 (3d Cir. 2001).
Accordingly, when evaluating defendants' Rule 12(b)(1) motion, I will
accept as true plaintiff's alleged facts. Moreover, since Rule 12(b)(1)
has a more forgiving standard of review than that for Rule 12(b)(6), it
logically follows that I should draw all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff's favor when considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion.
Plaintiff has filed a complaint listing six counts against defendants.
Plaintiff's causes of action are premised on three federal statutes and
two state law claims. The federal statutes are the ADA, the
Rehabilitation Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The state laws are the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Pennsylvania common law action
for Assumpsit. While the Commonwealth is a defendant in all six counts,
Commissioner Houston is named only for those counts involving state law
and § 1983.
In lieu of an Answer to plaintiff's Amended Complaint, defendants have
made two motions to dismiss. Defendants' 12(b)(1) motion asserts that
plaintiff lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the Eleventh Amendment
completely bars his suit against the state and those state agents who are
sued in their official capacity. Defendants' 12(b)(6) motion argues that
if the court does have subject matter jurisdiction, then plaintiff's suit
should be dismissed because it fails to state a claim. I shall address
each motion separately.
A. Rule 12(b)(1): Subject Matter Jurisdiction and the Eleventh Amendment
Although the States thus enjoy general immunity from suit by private
individuals regardless of where they reside, there are three exceptions
to the Eleventh Amendment's prohibition of private lawsuits against the
States. First, the States may waive their immunity and consent to be
sued. See Alden, 527 U.S. at 755. Second, Congress may abrogate the
States' immunity so long as it "both unequivocally intends to do so and
acts pursuant to a valid grant of constitutional authority." Bd. of Trs.
of the Univ. of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 363 (2001). Third, the
federal courts can issue an injunction against a state officer if there
is evidence of ongoing violations of federal law and the injunction will
afford a plaintiff prospective relief from the illegal state action. See
Alden, 527 U.S. at 757; Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 73
(1996); see also Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 159-60 (1908).
Plaintiff has responded to defendants' 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss by
asserting that all three of these exceptions permit his suit to go
forward. I shall consider defendants' motion by evaluating whether ...