United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 23, 2005.
VICKIE SMITH, Plaintiff
CENTRAL DAUPHIN SCHOOL DISTRICT, BARBARA HASSON, YVONNE HOLLINS, and RICHARD MAZZATESTA, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SYLVIA RAMBO, Senior District Judge
Before the court is Defendants' motion to dismiss. (Doc. 7.)
The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is ripe for
disposition. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will
be Granted in part and Denied in part.
Plaintiff Vickie Smith is a teacher in the Central Dauphin
School District ("School District"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) In 2001,
Plaintiff began to experience health problems. (Id. ¶ 9.)
During the course of investigating the cause of her health
problems, Plaintiff became aware that mold in the School
District's buildings was having an adverse effect on air quality
in these buildings. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 12.) Plaintiff asserts that the
School District was aware of these problems and had not disclosed
this information to the public, the teachers, the staff, or the
students. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff notified state agencies of the
problem, and disclosed this information to persons affected by
the school buildings. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 20.) Plaintiff alleges that as a result of her speaking out to
"state agencies and others," Defendants refused to hire her as an
assistant coach on two occasions, once in June or July of 2003,
and again in June or July of 2004. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) This
position would have afforded her additional compensation. (Id.
¶ 16.) Plaintiff had previously held this assistant coaching
position before she had complained about the mold in the school
buildings. (Id. ¶ 18.) Furthermore, Plaintiff contends that the
head coach of that sport had requested Plaintiff for the
assistant coaching position before it was denied her. (Id.)
Plaintiff also asserts that Defendants took other personnel
actions against her. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant Hasson directed the human resources personnel to place
Plaintiff on medical leave without her permission. (Id. ¶ 26.)
On May 17, 2005, Plaintiff filed her initial Complaint against
Defendant School District and Defendants Hasson, Hollins and
Mazzatesta ("The Individual Defendants") pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants retaliated against her for
speaking out on matters of public concern. Plaintiff filed an
Amended Complaint on May 24, 2005 to correct minor technical
errors. Defendant Barbara Hasson was the superintendent of the
School District during the times Plaintiff was subjected to the
retaliatory actions. (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff contends that Hasson
participated in and ratified the retaliatory actions against her.
(Id.) Defendant Yvonne Hollins was a director of secondary
instruction and an assistant superintendent of the School
District. (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiff asserts that Hollins carried
out the retaliatory actions. (Id.) Defendant Richard Mazzatesta
was an employee of the School District, and is alleged to have
ratified the refusal to hire Plaintiff as an assistant coach.
(Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff also filed a pendant state law claim
pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 P.S. § 951.
Plaintiff seeks damages for emotional distress, attorney's fees,
special damages, and punitive damages. (Am. Compl. ¶ 9.)
Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss on July 15, 2005,
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
II. Legal Standard: Motion to Dismiss
In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule
12(b)(6), the court is required to accept as true all of the
factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable
inferences that can be drawn from the face of the complaint.
Worldcom, Inc. v. Graphnet, Inc., 343 F.3d 651, 653 (3d Cir.
2003). "The complaint will be deemed to have alleged sufficient
facts if it adequately put[s] the defendant[s] on notice of the
essential elements of the plaintiff's cause of action." Nami v.
Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996). The court will not
dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim "unless it
appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of
facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief."
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Port Auth. of New
York & New Jersey v. Arcadian Corp., 189 F.3d 305, 311 (3d Cir.
"To decide a motion to dismiss, courts generally consider only
the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to
the complaint and matters of public record." Pension Benefit
Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d
Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). Additionally, the court may
consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant
attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's
claims are based on the [attached] document[s]." Id. Moreover,
"documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically
attached to the pleading may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l
Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002).
However, the court may not rely on other parts of the record in
making its decision. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien &
Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).
Finally, in the Third Circuit, a court must grant leave to
amend before dismissing a complaint that is merely deficient.
See, e.g., Weston v. Pennsylvania, 251 F.3d 420, 428 (3d Cir.
2001); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000).
"Dismissal without leave to amend is justified only on the
grounds of bad faith, undue delay, prejudice, or futility."
Alston v. Parker, 336 F.3d 229, 236 (3d Cir. 2004).
Defendants' motion to dismiss raises several arguments. First,
Defendants argue that Plaintiff cannot show a deprivation of her
constitutional rights, as she had no property interest in the
assistant coaching position. Second, Defendants argue that
Plaintiff's allegation of retaliation is insufficient as a matter
of law. Specifically, Defendants contend that Plaintiff has not
engaged in a protected activity, has not suffered an adverse
employment action, and has not alleged that Defendants' actions
were motivated by Plaintiff's alleged protected activity. Third,
Defendant School District argues that Plaintiff's claim for
punitive damages against it should be dismissed based on
municipal immunity. Fourth, the Individual Defendants argue that
the punitive damages claim against them should be dismissed
because they were not sued in their individual capacity, and
because Plaintiff failed to plead the correct motive required for a claim for punitive
damages to be maintained under § 1983. Fifth, the Individual
Defendants argue that the § 1983 claims should be dismissed
against them because they are entitled to the defense of
qualified immunity. Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's
state law claim under the PHRA should be dismissed because
Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. The
court will address each of these arguments in turn.
A. Legal Sufficiency of the First Amendment Retaliation
1. Deprivation of a Constitutional Right
Section 1983 states, in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State
or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects,
or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United
States or other person within the jurisdiction
thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges,
or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws,
shall be liable to the party injured in an action at
law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for
redress . . .
42 U.S.C. § 1983. To prevail in an action under § 1983, a
plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) a violation of a right secured by
the Constitution and the laws of the United States and (2) that
the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under
color of state law. Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798
, 806 (3d Cir.
2000); Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682
, 685 (3d Cir. 1993).
Defendants' first argument is that Plaintiff cannot show that
she was deprived of a constitutional right because she does not
have a property interest in the assistant coaching position.
(Defs.' Br. in Supp. 6-8.) Thus, according to Defendants, they
did not violate her rights by refusing to appoint her to the
position after she made her statements about the safety conditions in the
School District's buildings. (Id. at 6-8.) Defendants' argument
misconstrues the nature of Plaintiff's § 1983 claim.
Plaintiff's claim is that Defendants retaliated against her for
speaking out on matters of public concern, and this retaliation
violated her constitutional rights. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 15.) The
alleged violation of her rights is not the deprivation of the
assistant coach position, as Defendants contend. Plaintiff's
claim is not based upon due process; rather, it is a claim of the
deprivation of her First Amendment right of expression that
occurred when Defendants allegedly punished Plaintiff for
engaging in protected speech. Thus, Defendants' reliance on
Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972) and Carter v.
City of Philadelphia, 989 F.2d 117 (3d Cir. 1993) is unfounded.
These cases involved procedural due process claims and not First
Amendment retaliation claims. See Roth, 408 U.S. at 569-70;
Carter, 989 F.2d at 120.
To require a plaintiff to show a property interest in one's own
employment in order to sustain a First Amendment retaliation
claim would eviscerate the protection that the First Amendment
affords public employees. Such a rule would prevent at-will
public employees from speaking out on matters of public concern,
as their lack of property interest in their own positions leaves
them open for unfettered retaliation. This may have been the law
over a century ago; Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, sitting on the
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, observed that "[a]
policeman may have a right to talk politics, but he has no
constitutional right to be a policeman." See Connick v. Myers,
461 U.S. at 143-146 (quoting McAuliffe v. Mayor of New Bedford,
155 Mass. 216, 27 N.E. 517 (1892)). Now, however, courts recognize that the First Amendment protects speech by
public employees on public issues; notably, the Supreme Court has
said public speech "`occupies the highest rung on the hierarchy
of First Amendment values.'" Connick, 461 U.S. at 145 (quoting
Carey v. Brown, 447 U.S. 455, 467 (1980)). Thus, there is no
need to establish a property interest in one's own job in order
to receive First Amendment protection for speech on issues of
public concern. See Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 597-98
(1972) (holding that a lack of contractual or tenure right to
re-employment is immaterial to First Amendment retaliation
claim). Accordingly, the court will deny Defendants' motion with
respect to this issue.
2. First Amendment Retaliation
Finding that Plaintiff need not establish a property interest
to be eligible for First Amendment protection, the court moves to
Defendants' argument that Plaintiff's allegation of retaliation
is insufficient as a matter of law. "Public employees have a
First Amendment right to speak freely on matters of public
concern." Curinga v. City of Clairton, 357 F.3d 305, 309 (3d
Cir. 2004); See also Watters v. City of Philadelphia,
55 F.3d 886, 891 (3d Cir. 1995) ("[J]udicial vigilance is required to
ensure that public employers do not use their authority to
silence discourse on matters of public authority."). Analysis of
a First Amendment retaliation claim is a three-part inquiry.
Watters, 55 F.3d at 891. First, the speech must be on a matter
of public concern. Baldassare v. New Jersey, 250 F.3d 188, 194
(3d Cir. 2001). Second, the plaintiff must show that the
protected activity was a substantial or motivating factor in the
alleged retaliatory action. Id. Finally, if the employee
satisfies the first two conditions, the employer may rebut by
establishing that it would have taken the adverse employment
action regardless of whether the employee had engaged in the protected speech. Id. The first
element is a question of law, while the latter two are questions
of fact. Curinga, 357 F.3d at 310.
Furthermore, in order for retaliatory conduct to be actionable
under § 1983, the conduct must be sufficient "`to deter a person
of ordinary firmness' from exercising his First Amendment
rights." Suppan v. Dadonna, 203 F.3d 228, 235 (3d Cir. 2000)
(quoting Bart v. Telford, 677 F.2d 622, 625 (7th Cir. 1982)).
Only adverse employment actions will give rise to a First
Amendment retaliation claim. Merkle v. Upper Dublin Sch. Dist.,
211 F.3d 782, 801 (3d Cir. 2000).
Defendants contend that Plaintiff failed to allege that she
engaged in a protected activity. (Defs.' Br. in Supp. 10.) In
addition, Defendants assert that Plaintiff did not suffer an
adverse employment action when Defendants refused to hire her as
an assistant coach. (Id. at 15.) Furthermore, Defendants argue
that Plaintiff failed to allege that her protected activity
caused Defendants to refuse to appoint her to the assistant
coaching position. (Id. at 12.) For these reasons, Defendants
argue that Plaintiff's claim of First Amendment retaliation is
insufficient as a matter of law. (Id. at 8.) The court will
discuss each of these arguments in turn.
a. Engaging in a Protected Activity
For an employee's speech to deserve protection from
retaliation, the speech must be on a matter of public concern,
and "the employee's interest in expression on this matter must
not be outweighed by the interest of the . . . employer in
promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs
through its employees." Watters, 55 F.3d at 892 (citing Waters
v. Churchill, 511 U.S. 661 (1994)). Speech that addresses issues
of political, social or community concerns will be considered a
matter of public concern. Connick, 461 U.S. at 146. Also
relevant to the determination of public concern is the content,
context, and form of the statements, "as determined by the whole record." Id. at 147-48. To
establish context, the court must determine whether the protected
speech is not "confined merely to the public office where the
speaker is employed." Holder v. City of Allentown,
987 F.2d 188, 195 (3d Cir. 1993) (citing Connick, 461 U.S. at 148-49).
Defendants assert that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint does not
establish the context or form of her protected statements.
(Defs.' Br. in Supp. 11.) Specifically, Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint failed to allege the date, time, and place of these
protected activities. (Id.) Thus, Defendants argue that
Plaintiff's claim is insufficient as a matter of law. (Id.) The
First, Plaintiff asserts that her speech involved allegations
of health and safety problems with Defendant School District's
buildings. This is a topic of great concern to the community,
especially to those families whose children attend the schools in
the district. Second, Plaintiff contends that she contacted
"state agencies and others" and spoke to "the public in general,
to other teachers," and "to staff and students." (Id. ¶¶ 14,
20.) Although Plaintiff does not state the exact date and time of
the protected speech, the court believes this is unnecessary at
this stage of the proceeding. Because Plaintiff contends that the
retaliation occurred as a result of her speech, one can infer
that the speech occurred before the retaliation. The place of the
speech is relevant only where the speech may be confined to the
office where the speaker was employed. By contacting state
agencies and the general public, Plaintiff directed her speech to
individuals outside the public office in which she was employed.
Therefore, the court believes that Plaintiff has plead adequately
that she engaged in a protected speech activity, and that she
directed her activity to individuals beyond her place of
employment. Accordingly, the court will deny Defendants' motion
with respect to this issue. b. Adverse Employment Action
To establish a First Amendment retaliation claim, the plaintiff
must also assert that an adverse employment action was taken
against her. See Merkle, 211 F.3d at 801. Courts have found
that retaliatory conduct constitutes an adverse employment action
when the employer makes decisions related to hiring, rehiring,
promotion, transfer, or recall. Brennan v. Norton,
350 F.3d 399, 419 (3d Cir. 2003). "On the other hand, courts have declined
to find that an employer's actions have adversely affected an
employee's exercise of his First Amendment rights where the
employer's alleged retaliatory acts were criticism, false
accusations, or verbal reprimands." Id. (internal quotation
Here, Defendants contend that their refusal to hire Plaintiff
as an assistant coach does not constitute an adverse employment
action. They argue that failure to hire her as an assistant coach
did not affect her position as a teacher, as the action neither
affected her eligibility for salary increases nor changed her
responsibilities as a teacher. (Defs.' Br. in Supp. 16.)
Plaintiff may not have suffered an adverse employment action
with regard to her teaching position.*fn1 However, whether
Plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action with respect to
her teaching position is not relevant to the question of whether
Plaintiff suffered such adverse action with respect to the assistant coaching position. Defendants are also employers with
respect to that position. The position is compensated, and
Plaintiff had held that position in the past. Plaintiff alleges
that Defendants either participated in or ratified the refusal to
hire Plaintiff to the assistant coaching position. A refusal to
hire or rehire is considered an adverse employment action
sufficient to sustain a claim of retaliation. Mt. Healthy City
Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 283 (1977);
Robinson v. City of Pittsburgh, 120 F.3d 1286, 1300 (3d Cir.
1998). Thus, Plaintiff has alleged an adverse employment action
sufficient to withstand dismissal and the court will deny
Defendants' motion with respect to this issue.
Plaintiff must also allege that her protected speech was a
"substantial or motivating factor" in the employer's decision to
engage in the alleged retaliatory action. Suppan,
203 F.3d at 235. Defendants argue that Plaintiff did not allege that her
speech activity was a substantial or motivating factor. (Defs.'
Br. in Supp. 12.) The court disagrees. Plaintiff states that
"[b]ecause the plaintiff contacted state agencies, and others,
about her belief that certain school buildings were unsafe and
unhealthy, the plaintiff suffered retaliation at the defendant's
hands in a number of egregious ways." (Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) "It is
generally a question of fact whether a retaliatory campaign of
harassment has reached the threshold of actionability." Suppan,
203 F.3d at 233. At this point, because causation is a question
of fact, the court cannot determine whether Plaintiff can show
causation. However, Plaintiff has adequately pled causation, and
as such the court will not dismiss her claim on this issue.
B. Punitive Damages With respect to Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages,
Defendants make two arguments. (Defs.' Br. in Supp. 17.) First,
Defendants assert that Plaintiff cannot recover against Defendant
School District because municipal defendants are immune from such
damages under § 1983. (Id.) Plaintiff concedes this point.
(Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n 6.) Thus, the court will grant Defendants'
motion to dismiss on this issue. Second, Defendants contend that
Plaintiff cannot recover punitive damages against the Individual
Defendants because Plaintiff sued them in their official
capacities. (Id. at 18.) Defendants argue that the claims
against the Individual Defendants are based on their capacities
as officials in the school district, and as a result these claims
"constitute claims against these individuals in their official
capacities." (Id.) Plaintiff responds that this is neither a
correct nor a "common sense interpretation of the complaint."
(Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n 6.)
A complaint need not state explicitly whether defendants are
sued in their individual or personal capacity. See Gregory v.
Chehi, 843 F.2d 111, 119 (3d Cir. 1988) (stating that court must
"interpret the pleading" to ascertain intent). Where a complaint
is unclear as to whether defendants are sued in their official or
individual capacities, the court looks to both the complaint and
the "course of the proceedings" to determine the liability the
plaintiff seeks to impose. Melo v. Hafer, 912 F.2d 628, 635 (3d
Cir. 1990) (citing Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n. 14
(1985)). That a defendant's activities were done while performing
his job is not dispositive; rather, this fact supports only the
position that a defendant was acting under color of state law.
Id. at 636. Before finding that a defendant is sued in his
individual capacity, the court considers whether the pleadings
offer the defendant adequate notice that his personal assets are
at stake in the proceeding. Id. at 636 n. 7. Here, the Amended Complaint, while not specifically indicating
whether it seeks to sue the Individual Defendants in their
individual capacity, nonetheless indicates that intention. First,
the Amended Complaint sued the School District and Defendants
Hasson, Hollins, and Mazzatesta for joint and several liability.
(Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) Had Plaintiff intended to sue defendants in
their official capacities, seeking joint and several liablity
would make little sense, as the suit would be equivalent to a
suit directly against the school district. See Atchinson v.
District of Columbia, 73 F.3d 418, 425 (D.C. Cir. 1996).
Furthermore, Defendants seek to assert a qualified immunity
defense. (Defs.' Br. in Supp. 20.) A qualified immunity defense
may only be maintained by defendants sued in their individual
capacity. See Melo, 912 F.2d at 636; Atchinson,
73 F.3d at 425. This indicates that Defendants were aware of Plaintiff's
intention to sue them in their individual capacities. For this
reason, the court believes the Individual Defendants had adequate
notice that they were being sued in their individual capacity.
As a second argument in support of dismissing Plaintiff's
punitive damages claim, the Individual Defendants assert that
punitive damages against them are improper because Plaintiff
failed to allege that their actions were motivated by an evil
intent. (Br. in Supp. 19.) Punitive damages may be awarded in a §
1983 action only where "the defendant's conduct is shown to be
motivated by evil motive or intent, or when it involves reckless
or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of
others." Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 56 (1983).
Plaintiff contends that "the defendants were unlawfully
motivated by a desire to prevent the public from learning how
they had unlawfully kept information from students and parents,
while they demonstrated a blatant disregard for the rights and health of Vicki Smith. . . ." (Am. Compl. ¶ 19.) This
statement, while not specifically using the words "evil intent"
or "reckless or callous indifference," Smith, 461 U.S. at 56,
nonetheless assert that Defendants intentionally disregarded
Vicki Smith's federally protected rights. This is sufficient to
survive Defendants' motion to dismiss. Because Plaintiff has sued
the Individual Defendants in their individual capacity, and
because Plaintiff has properly pled that Defendants acted with
the requisite motivation, the court will not dismiss Plaintiff's
claim for punitive damages against the Individual Defendants.
C. Qualified Immunity for the Individual Defendants
Defendants assert that the claims against the Individual
Defendants should be dismissed based on their qualified immunity.
(Defs.' Br. in Supp. 20.) Government officials enjoy qualified
immunity "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly
established constitutional or statutory rights of which a
reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald,
457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). In deciding whether a defendant may
successfully assert qualified immunity, the court must determine
whether reasonable officials could believe that their conduct was
not unlawful even if it was in fact unlawful. Larsen v. Senate
of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 154 F.3d 82, 94 (3d Cir.
1998) (citing In re City of Philadelphia Litig., 49 F.3d 945
(3d Cir. 1995)). In the context of a First Amendment retaliation
claim, the court inquires "whether [the] officials reasonably
could believe that their motivations were proper even when their
motivations were in fact retaliatory." Id. Such a determination
requires a factual determination of the official's subjective
beliefs and motivations. Id. Thus, whether qualified immunity
defeats a First Amendment retaliation claim usually cannot be
determined on the face of the pleadings, unless the "legitimate basis for the actions [is] so
apparent that the plaintiff's allegations of retaliatory motive
could not alter the conclusion that . . . the defendants would
have been compelled to reach the same decision even without
regard for the protected First Amendment activity." Id. at 95.
The Individual Defendants assert that the Plaintiff's claims
against them fail as a matter of law because these Defendants
enjoy qualified immunity. First, they argue that because
Plaintiff has no property right in the coaching position,
Plaintiff cannot show that she was deprived of a clearly
established constitutional right. (Defs.' Br. in Supp. 21.)
Second, Defendants contend that even if Plaintiff could show that
she was deprived of a constitutional right, Plaintiff has not
alleged that the Individual Defendants understood that
Plaintiff's rights were being violated in denying her the
coaching position. (Id.)
Again, the Individual Defendants misconstrue the nature of a
First Amendment retaliation claim. As discussed above, Plaintiff
need not show a property right in the coaching position. See
infra at 6-7. As to Defendants' second argument, Plaintiff
alleges that the Individual Defendants retaliated against her for
speaking out on a matter of public concern. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27.)
She further alleges that Defendants had no other reason to take
their actions other than retaliation. (Id. ¶ 15.) For the
purposes of this motion, the court must accept these allegations
as true. These allegations, if true, may only be rebutted by a
showing that Defendants would have taken this action even in the
absence of the protected speech. See Mt. Healthy,
429 U.S. at 287. This cannot be determined at this stage of the litigation.
Thus, the court will deny the Individual Defendants' motion to
dismiss on the basis of qualified immunity. D. Plaintiff's Pennsylvania Human Relations Act Claim
Defendants allege that Plaintiff's claim under the PHRA should
be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The
PHRA bars employers from discriminating against employees based
on "race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national
origin or non-job related handicap or disability. . . ."
43 P.S. 955(a). Such discrimination can include termination or a refusal
to hire. Id. However, in order to pursue a claim in court, the
employee must exhaust the administrative remedies required by the
PHRA. See Burgh v. Borough Council of Borough of Montrose,
251 F.3d 465, 475-76 (3d Cir. 2001) (noting that a plaintiff may
proceed to court one full year after filing a charge before the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC")); Campanaro v.
Penn. Elec. Co., 626 A.2d 491, 492 n. 1 (Pa. Super. 1995). To
initiate a claim under the PHRA, a plaintiff must file an
administrative complaint with the PHRC within 180 days of the
alleged act of discrimination. 43 P.S. §§ 959, 962.
There is no allegation in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint that
Plaintiff has filed an administrative complaint with the PHRC, or
in any way exhausted her administrative remedies. Instead,
Plaintiff merely alleges that Defendants' actions violated her
rights under the PHRA. (Am. Compl. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff does not
dispute Defendants' allegation that Plaintiff has not exhausted
her administrative remedies.*fn2 Therefore, the court will
dismiss Plaintiff's PHRA claim. Because Plaintiff has failed to
exhaust her administrative remedies under the PHRA, it would be
futile to provide Plaintiff leave to amend her Amended Complaint
with respect to this issue. IV. Conclusion
For the reasons set forth above, the court will deny
Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amendment
retaliation claim. Furthermore, the court will deny Defendants'
motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages against
the Individual Defendants. However, the court will dismiss the
punitive damages claim against Defendant School District. In
addition, the court will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss
Plaintiff's PHRA claim. An appropriate order will issue. ORDER
In accordance with the accompanying memorandum of law, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1) Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is
2) Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for punitive
damages against Defendant Central Dauphin School District is
3) Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for punitive
damages against the remaining defendants is DENIED.
4) Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's state law claim
pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act is GRANTED
without leave to amend.
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