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) ...