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Purdy v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

September 14, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


Presently before the court is a motion by defendant Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission ("Commission"), to dismiss the Title VII and gross negligence claims brought by plaintiff Romaine Purdy ("Purdy"). The Commission's motion presents three arguments in support of dismissal. First, the Commission argues that Purdy failed to serve process within the time limits prescribed by Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Second, the Commission argues that Purdy failed to file her complaint within the time limits prescribed by Title VII. Finally, the Commission argues that Purdy's gross negligence claim is barred by the Pennsylvania Worker's Compensation Act. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Statement of Facts*fn1

Purdy was formerly employed by the Commission. (Doc. 1 ¶ 3.) Purdy alleges that from December, 2002 until June, 2003, she was subjected to acts of discrimination by the Commission and several of its employees on the basis of her race. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 10, 33.) These acts included: (1) prohibiting Purdy from viewing her daily work log, (2) addressing her in an unprofessional manner, (3) requiring her to file a leave slip to obtain coffee during her workday, (4) changing her job classification and overtime assignments, and (5) following her to the bathroom during bathroom breaks. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 16, 36.) Purdy further alleges that she informed the Commission of this discrimination, but the Commission failed to remedy the situation. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 11, 12.)

In addition to her allegations of discrimination, Purdy asserts that the Commission was "grossly negligent" in the management of its business. (Doc. 1 ¶ 43.) This mismanagement extended to the hiring, training, and supervision of employees and to the investigation of reports of discrimination. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 43-47.)

After informing the Commission of these problems, Purdy filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Docs. 1 ¶ 17, 11 ¶ 1.) At some point thereafter, the Commission allegedly retaliated. (Doc. 1 ¶ 17.) Purdy alleges that she received a right-to sue-letter from the EEOC on March 28, 2005. (Doc. 11 ¶ 1.) She then commenced the instant action on June 27, 2005. (See Doc. 1.)

On November 10, 2005, Purdy filed a motion for an extension of time to serve her complaint. (See Doc. 5.) The motion was granted by an order of court dated November 16, 2005. (See Doc. 6.) The court directed Purdy to effect service by November 25, 2005, and she did so on November 23, 2005. (See Docs. 6, 7.)

The Commission filed the instant motion to dismiss (Doc. 8), arguing that: (1) Purdy's complaint should be dismissed because she failed to effect service within 120 days of filing, (2) Purdy's complaint is time-barred because she failed to file it within ninety days after receipt of her EEOC right-to-sue letter, and (3) Purdy's gross negligence claim is barred by the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act. (See Doc. 8.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of claims that fail to assert a basis upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6).

In the context of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. Langford v. City of Atlantic City, 235 F.3d 845, 847 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the face of the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice pleading rules do not require plaintiffs to allege affirmatively every aspect of their claims, but only to present sufficient facts to allow the opposing party to conduct discovery and prepare a defense. See FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a) (stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); see also Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Thus, courts should not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Id.; see Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002). Under this liberal pleading policy, courts should generally grant plaintiffs leave to amend their claims before dismissing a complaint that is merely deficient. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000).

III. Discussion

A. Timeliness of Purdy's Service ...

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