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FAIRFAX v. SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania


April 26, 2004.

WILLIAM L. FAIRFAX
v.
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA et al.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: HERBERT HUTTON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff William L. Fairfax filed a forty-one page pro se complaint against the School District of Philadelphia; Paul Vallas, the CEO of the School District; Andrew Rosen, Chief Counsel of the School District; Herbert Kaufman, an administrator in charge of professional personnel for the School District; Management & Training Corporation ("MTC") and three of its employees, Alvin Boardly, Mae Stephens, and Kelly Hale.

Presently before the Court are the School District's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted (Docket No. 8) and Plaintiff's response thereto (Docket Nos. 12 & 14).

  I. BACKGROUND*fn1

  Plaintiff is a former teacher with the School District and has also worked in the School District's Homebound Program. On December 1, 1988, Plaintiff was bitten on his lower left leg by a dog while working in the Homebound Program. The next day, Plaintiff submitted a Serious Incident Report to the School District. Plaintiff claimed that the school principal gave him personal illness cards to be completed instead of marking his absence as an employment injury in violation of Workers' Compensation procedures. Plaintiff also claimed that the School District failed to provide "placards" that informed employees to refer to Workers' Compensation procedures for injuries on the job.

  Plaintiff next asserts that he was coerced into returning prematurely to work without medical clearance on February 7, 1989. Plaintiff worked until May 7, 1989 when pain forced him to again leave work. Plaintiff claims that the School District then withheld his pay and that, after a Workers' Compensation hearing, the School District was ordered to reinstate his compensation. See May 30, 1991 Order from Martin Burman, Pl.'s Ex. K. In October 1991, Plaintiff apparently entered into a third party settlement agreement with the School District for the amount of $100,500. As part of the agreement, the School District's net recovery of the Workers' Compensation lien was approximately $27,000. Plaintiff alleges that the lien amount was determined without a hearing.

  Over the next several years, Plaintiff pursued various claims against the School District. In 1992, the Honorable Raymond Broderick dismissed Plaintiff's suit against inter alia the School District and Kaufman, which arose out of Plaintiff's Workers' Compensation claims. See Fairfax v. Pascuzzi, No. 92-1638, 1992 WL 346457 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 13, 1992). Judge Broderick also denied Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. See Fairfax v. Pascuzzi, No. 92-1638, 1993 WL 228838 (E.D. Pa. June 28, 1993). In December 1993, Judge Broderick dismissed Plaintiff's suit against the School District, its Superintendent, and various doctors for violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Plaintiff had alleged a conspiracy between private parties and the Superintendent of the School District to deprive him of his state Workers' Compensation benefits. See Fairfax v. Magueri, No. 93-4008, 1993 WL 523675 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 14, 1993).

  On January 17, 1993, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granted the School District's motion for summary judgment against Plaintiff in a suit that alleged discrimination. Three years later, Plaintiff again brought claims against the School District, this time alleging race, gender, and disability discrimination arising from the School District's denial of Plaintiff's request to return to full service from retirement. Plaintiff also alleged that the School District's decision to deny his request was in retaliation for his filing a previous discrimination complaint against the School District. This Court granted summary judgment in favor of the School District as to all of Plaintiff's claims. See Fairfax v. School Dist. of Phila., No. 96-5914, 1997 WL 256974 (E.D. Pa. May 16, 1997).

  In the meantime, in December of 1995, Plaintiff found employment with MTC. He was terminated in August of 2000. Plaintiff alleges that the School District conspired to have him removed from his job with MTC in retaliation for his previous litigations with the School District.

  After his termination from MTC, in January 1, 2002, Plaintiff began to work as an investigator of discrimination complaints at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"). Plaintiff was terminated on July 1, 2002 for unsatisfactory performance. Plaintiff alleged that his termination was the result of age, race, and gender discrimination. In a hearing held on January 8, 2003, Plaintiff settled the matter with the PHRC.

  On October 16, 2003, Plaintiff initiated the instant lawsuit, alleging various civil rights and due process violations for the Defendant's handling of the 1988 dog bite incident. In an exceedingly sparse brief, the School District now moves to dismiss all the claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

  II. LEGAL STANDARD

  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. See Holder v. City of Allentown, 987 F.2d 188, 194 (3d Cir. 1993). When considering a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint and any reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them. See, e.g., H.J. Inc. v. Northwestern Bell Tel. Co., 492 U.S. 229, 249-50 (1989); Doe v. Delie, 257 F.3d 309, 313 (3d Cir. 2001); Lake v. Arnold, 232 F.3d 360, 365 (3d Cir. 2000). Claims by pro se litigants may be dismissed only "if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." McDowell v. Delaware State Police, 88 F.3d 188, 189 (3d Cir. 1996); see Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Further, pro se litigants must "abide by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and when confronted by motions to dismiss must articulate reasons why the motions should not be granted." Nanya-Nashut ex rel Kevin Hand v. Bank One, National Association Trustee, No. 03-4022, 2003 WL 22120263, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 9, 2003) (Kelly, S.J.) (citations omitted).

  III. DISCUSSION

  A. Count I

  Plaintiff alleges violations of §§ 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 793 and 794 respectively, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VI"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000(d) et seq. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the School District mislabeled the paperwork related to his 1988 injury as a "Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation" matter instead of a "federal Workers' Compensation" matter. Plaintiff argues that this was the catalyst for all his subsequent problems with the School District.

  Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("RA § 503"), 29 U.S.C. § 793, requires that certain federal contracts contain a provision requiring the contract to "take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities." The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated that no private cause of action exists under RA § 503. See Beam v. Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., 679 F.2d 1077 (3d Cir. 1982). Accordingly, Plaintiff cannot bring a claim under this section.

  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("RA § 504") provides in relevant part that:

No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall . . . solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. . . .
29 U.S.C. § 794(a). To prevail under RA § 504, Plaintiff must establish that (1) he is handicapped within the definition of the Act, (2) he is otherwise qualified for the position sought or would be qualified if the defendant made reasonable modifications to the program, (3) he was excluded solely because of his handicap, and (4) the program or activity in question receives federal funds. See Wagner v. Fair Acres Geriatric Center, 49 F.3d 1002, 1009 (3d Cir. 1995); Gresh v. Berks Co., No. 00-5697, 2002 WL 1635394, at *7 (E.D. Pa. July 18, 2002); Saunders v. Horn, 959 F. Supp. 689, 697 (E.D. Pa. 1996). Further, Plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case under the Rehabilitation Act. See Foremanye v. University of Pa., No. 96-3597, 1996 WL 684242, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 21, 1996). Plaintiff has failed to state a viable claim under RA § 504. Plaintiff's chief complaint here is that the School District mislabeled his paperwork, and not that he was denied a position solely because of a disability.

  Title VI prohibits race discrimination in any program or activity receiving federal funds. Title VI states that

No person . . . shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
42 U.S.C. § 2000(d). "Title VI forbids the use of federal funds . . . in programs that intentionally discriminate on racial grounds [and] also in those endeavors that have a disparate impact on racial minorities." Guardians Ass'n v. Civil Serv. Comm'n of New York, 463 U.S. 582, 589 (1983). Here, Plaintiff has failed to allege what conduct of the Defendants in mislabeling the paperwork, if any, constituted racial discrimination. Plaintiff has also failed to allege that he received different treatment from that received by other similarly-situated individuals.

  Accordingly, Count I is dismissed.

  B. Count II

  This Court construes Count II as asserting claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., and the Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974 ("EEOA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq. Plaintiff appears to allege that, throughout his appeals of his Workers' Compensation claims and the litigations before Judge Broderick and this Court, the School District blocked all his attempts to obtain a fair result.

  Title VII states:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer 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 individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. . . .
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). Plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination by showing that (1) he belongs to a protected class; (2) he applied and was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants; (3) despite his qualifications, he was rejected; and (4) the circumstances of plaintiff's rejection give rise to an unlawful discrimination. See Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). Here, Plaintiff is an African-American male and thus satisfies the protected class criteria. However, Plaintiff has failed to make the remaining elements for a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination. In Count II, Plaintiff does not allege that he applied for a position with the School District. Rather, Plaintiff alleges that the School District has somehow interfered with all his previous claims and litigations.

  The purpose of the EEOA is to ensure that "all children enrolled in public schools are entitled to equal educational opportunity without regard to race, color, sex, or national origin." 20 U.S.C. § 1701(a)(1); see Khan v. Educational Comm'n for Foreign Medical Graduates, No. 00-1701, 2000 WL 1763671, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 2000). Plaintiff has not alleged that he was denied an educational opportunity.

  Accordingly, Count II is dismissed.

  C. Count III

  Count III alleges violations of due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the School District misled him into submitting Personal Illness forms. According to Plaintiff, these forms were not necessary when an employee is injured on the job. Further, Plaintiff asserts that the School District prevented him from obtaining a fair hearing before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ("PLRB").

  Collateral estoppel, also known as issue preclusion, "prevents the relitigation of issues that have been decided in a previous action." Hawksbill Sea Turtle v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, 126 F.3d 461, 474 (3d Cir. 1997). Collateral estoppel is appropriate if four factors are met: (1) the issue to be precluded is identical to that involved in a prior action; (2) the issue was actually litigated; (3) there was a valid and final judgment; and (4) the determination was essential to the prior judgment. See Burlington N.R.R. Co. v. Hyundai Merch. Marine Co., 63 F.3d 1227, 1231 (3d Cir. 1995); Weber v. Henderson, 275 F. Supp.2d 616, 620 (E.D. Pa. 2003). Plaintiff's due process claims have already been thoroughly addressed in a prior litigation. See Fairfax v. Pascuzzi, 1992 WL 346456; Fairfax v. Pascuzzi, 1993 WL 228838. Accordingly, Plaintiff is collaterally estopped from raising any claim that involves the School District's alleged interference with his PLRB hearing. As such, Count III is dismissed.

  D. Count IV

  Count IV alleges a claim of age discrimination. Plaintiff alleges that the School District conspired with MTC to have him terminated from his job at MTC in August of 2000. The Court interprets Plaintiff's claim as that of a civil conspiracy to violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 28 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.

  The United States Supreme Court has expressly stated that no cause of action exists for conspiracy to violate Title VII. See Great Amer. Fed. Savs. & Loan Assoc. v. Novotny, 442 U.S. 366 (1979). This rationale has also been applied to conspiracy claims brought under the ADEA. See, e.g., Bennett v. Independence Blue Cross, No. 92-4249, 1993 WL 65812 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 12, 1993) (dismissing claims of civil conspiracy to violate the ADEA); Jones v. Baskin, Flaherty, Elliott and Mannino, P.C., 738 F. Supp. 937 (W.D. Pa. 1989) (granting summary judgment in favor of employer on plaintiff's claim for conspiracy to violate ADEA). Thus, Plaintiff's claim for civil conspiracy must be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

  E. Count V

  In Count V, Plaintiff asserts that the School District, in causing his termination from his MTC job, has violated the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 6101 et seq. The ADA prohibits "discrimination on the basis of age in programs or activities receiving Federal financial aid." 42 U.S.C. § 6101. Before Plaintiff may bring suit under this statute, Plaintiff must exhaust his administrative remedies. See 42 U.S.C. § 6104(e); Glantz v. Automotive Serv. Ass'n of Pa., No. 91-5630, 1991 WL 270017, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 1991); Rannels v. Hargrove, 731 F. Supp. 1214, 1221 (E.D. Pa. 1990). Here, Plaintiff has failed to show to the Court that he exhausted his administrative remedies and, accordingly, the claim under § 6101 will be dismissed.

  Alternatively, the ADA has been interpreted as proscribing "only discrimination in the provision of services by government funded programs, and not discrimination in the employment practices of such programs." Tyrrell v. City of Scranton, 134 F. Supp.2d 373, 382 (M.D. Pa. 2001). Consequently, since Plaintiff seeks relief from alleged employment discrimination, his ADA claim must be dismissed.

  F. Count VI

  Plaintiff alleges that the School District failed to notify its employees that it received federal funding, in violation of 19 U.S.C. § 2275. Section 2275 is a provision under the Trade Act of 1974 ("Act"), 19 U.S.C. § 2101 et seq. The Act provides "unemployment compensation, training, job search, relocation, allowances and other benefits to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of competition from imports." Hampe v. Butler, No. 03-1438, 2004 WL 736871, at *1, ___ F.3d ___ (3d Cir. April 7, 2004); 19 U.S.C. § 2291-98. Section 2275, entitled "benefit information for workers" requires the Secretary of Labor to provide information and assistance regarding such benefits, training, and services. This statute is inapplicable to Plaintiff. Moreover, Plaintiff does not allege that he lost his job because of competition from imports. Accordingly, Count VI is dismissed.

  G. Count VII

  Plaintiff alleges a violation of his rights under the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. First, Plaintiff asserts that the School District conspired with his friends and acquaintances to prevent him from obtaining favorable rulings. Second, Plaintiff asserts that the School District and MTC conspired to wrongfully terminate him from his position at MTC. Lastly, Plaintiff asserts that the School District interfered with his employment as an investigator for the PHRC by pressuring him to settle his claims of age, gender, and race discrimination against the PHRC.

  The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and conditions of involuntary servitude. See City of Memphis v. Greene, 451 U.S. 100, 120 (1981); Pollock v. Williams, 322 U.S. 4, 17-18 (1944); Dolla v. Unicast Co., 930 F. Supp. 202, 206 (E.D. Pa. 1996); Atta v. Sun Co., Inc., 596 F. Supp. 103, 104-05 (E.D. Pa. 1984). The term "involuntary servitude" means

 

a condition of servitude in which the victim is forced to work for the defendant by the use or threat of physical restraint, or by the use or threat of coercion through law or the legal practice. This definition encompasses those cases in which the defendant holds the victim in servitude by placing the victim in fear of such physical restraint or injury or legal coercion.
United States v. Kozminski, 487 U.S. 931, 952 (1988). The essential ingredient of involuntary servitude is "the inability to avoid continued service." Atta, 596 F. Supp. at 105 (citations omitted).

  Here, Plaintiff has not alleged that the School District compelled him to work against his will. Further, there are no allegations from which a factfinder could conclude that the School District exercised physical force, or threatened to use such force, to force Plaintiff to remain on the job. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Thirteenth Amendment claim is dismissed.

  H. Count VIII

  Lastly, Plaintiff broadly asserts a violation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. In support of his claim, Plaintiff references his 1988 injury through his third party settlement with the School District in 1991.

  The purpose of the IDEA is to "ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living." 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d) (emphasis added). Before a plaintiff can bring a claim for an IDEA violation, he must exhaust his administrative remedies, including a local due process hearing and an appeal to the state educational agency. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f).

  Plaintiff has not stated a claim under the IDEA. At best, Plaintiff attempts to reassert his belief that, since his 1988 injury, the School District has obstructed his attempts to obtain justice. Accordingly, Count VIII is dismissed.

  IV. CONCLUSION

  For the reasons set forth above, the School District's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is granted in its entirety.

  An appropriate Order follows. ORDER

  AND NOW, this _____ day of April, 2004, upon consideration of Defendant School District of Philadelphia's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted (Docket No. 8) and Plaintiff's response thereto (Docket Nos. 12 & 14), and for the reasons set forth in the accompanying Memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's Motion is GRANTED.

  IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's Complaint against the Defendant School District of Philadelphia is DISMISSED.


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