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Nkwenti-Zamcho v. Pennsylvania College of Technology

March 3, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure



On October 27, 2005, plaintiff Emmanuel Nkwenti-Zamcho filed a four-count complaint in the Middle District of Pennsylvania against his employer Pennsylvania College of Technology ("Penn College"). Counts I and III of the complaint allege hostile work environment claims based on national origin in violation of federal and state law. Counts II and IV of the complaint allege claims for racial discrimination under federal and state law.

On December 27, 2005, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The matter is now ripe for our review.

For the following reasons we will grant defendant's motion to dismiss in part. Plaintiff's requests for punitive damages in connection with his PHRA claims are dismissed.


I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must view all allegations in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). In ruling on a motion to dismiss the court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000). A complaint should be dismissed only if the court, from evaluating the allegations in the complaint, is certain that under any set of facts relief cannot be granted. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Markowitz v. Northeast Land, Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1994).

The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) "streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a "dispositive issue of law." Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed "without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one." Id. at 327.

II. Statement of Relevant Facts

The following facts are taken from the plaintiff's complaint, with all inferences taken in a light most favorable to plaintiff. Plaintiff Emmanuel NkwentiZamcho is currently employed by defendant Penn College as an Assistant Professor of International Business and Business Ethics. Nkwenti-Zamcho has been continuously employed by defendant since August 1997. Plaintiff is a black male and a naturalized citizen of the United States. Nkwenti-Zamcho was born in Cameroon, West Africa and speaks English with a British accent due to his national origin.

On September 20, 2002, Edward Henninger, Dean of the School of Business, sent plaintiff an e-mail that chastised him about the teaching of a Customer Relations course that had been taught by plaintiff and others as a Consumer Behavior course without a formal curriculum name change. In a meeting with the dean plaintiff explained that the change in the content of the course had been done prior to the dean's employment with the approval of the department. The dean was infuriated with plaintiff and told his colleagues that he would teach Nkwenti-Zamcho a lesson for teaching the class. Plaintiff asserts that thereafter the dean abused his authority and engaged in a pattern of harassment.

At the beginning of the 2002 fall semester plaintiff decided to prepare himself for promotion to Associate Professor. This required that he obtain many more recent student evaluations. In order to obtain more student evaluations plaintiff consulted with the dean. The dean agreed to have the student evaluations done and further asked if he could also observe the plaintiff's classes. Plaintiff agreed and the dean attended at least one class in the Fall and made suggestions which plaintiff later incorporated into his teaching.

In January 2003 plaintiff submitted his application for promotion. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff met with the dean. The dean informed plaintiff that he would be scheduling visits to the plaintiff's classes. In February 2003 the dean attended two of plaintiff's classes. After observing plaintiff teach affirmative action in a Business Ethics class the dean informed plaintiff that he disagreed with his approach to the subject. The dean said that plaintiff should have approached the material as a moral issue and not as a matter of fact or law. The dean scheduled another observation of plaintiff's teaching in March 2003. Following this class, the dean's review criticized plaintiff in several ways including the diction and intonation of his speech. In April 2003 Nkwenti-Zamcho learned that he had been unsuccessful in his application for promotion and that one of the main reasons given was a lack of endorsement from the dean. On May ...

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