United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
April 26, 2004.
WILLIAM L. FAIRFAX
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).
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
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.
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).
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
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
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
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.
For the reasons set forth above, the School District's motion
to dismiss for failure to state a claim is granted in its
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.