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Hoffman v. Dougher

September 20, 2006

ERICK HOFFMAN, PLAINTIFF
v.
PATRICK DOUGHER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss (Doc. 4) plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986 for alleged civil rights violations, as well as his pendent state tort claims. Defendants, who are all employees of the Pennsylvania Department of General Services ("Department"), contend that the complaint fails to allege a deprivation of plaintiff's federal rights and that the doctrine of sovereign immunity bars plaintiff's tort claims. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Statement of Facts*fn1

Plaintiff Erick Hoffman ("Hoffman") is a former employee of the Pennsylvania Capitol Police ("Capitol Police"), a division of the Department's Bureau of Police and Safety. (Doc. 1 ¶ 26.) Hoffman alleges that he was subjected to a pattern of harassment and retaliation by a number of Department employees beginning in August 2002. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 1, 27.)

Hoffman's allegations can be divided into five distinct incidents. The first incident occurred in August 2002, when defendant Lieutenant Michael Shipp ("Shipp") shoved Hoffman*fn2 and informed him that he did not belong in the administrative area of the Capitol Police building. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 27-28.) Hoffman reported this incident to defendant Superintendent Eugene Marzullo ("Marzullo"), who told Hoffman to "mind his own business." (Doc. 1 ¶ 29.)

The second incident occurred more than six months later, after Hoffman participated in a union investigation of defendant Lieutenant Patrick Dougher ("Dougher"). (Doc. 1 ¶ 30.) After the investigation, Dougher told Hoffman that if he "kept it up," Dougher would make his "life difficult." (Doc. 1 ¶ 31.)

The third incident occurred three months later after Hoffman complained to Marzullo about the practice of officers smoking in the lunch room. (Doc. 1 ¶ 33.) Thereafter, Hoffman began to receive anonymous written threats in his mailbox regarding his complaints of smoking. (Doc. 1 ¶ 34.)

The fourth incident occurred two months later and concerned Hoffman's order to testify against a supervisor at an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") hearing on September 3, 2003. (Doc. 1 ¶ 36.) Five days prior to the hearing, defendant Lieutenant Peter Papodopolos ("Papodopolos") said he would blow up the homes of the people who testified at the EEO hearing. (Doc. 1 ¶ 39.) Three weeks after the hearing, Hoffman found cheese and anonymous written threats regarding his testimony at the hearing in his mailbox. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 37, 38.)

The final incident occurred more than six months later when Hoffman informed several individuals in the Department, including defendant Deputy Secretary Peter Speaks ("Speaks"), about evidence tampering and a pattern of workplace harassment and retaliation. (Doc. 1 ¶ 41.) The next day, Hoffman was notified that he must attend a pre-disciplinary conference. (Doc. 1 ¶ 42.) Hoffman was suspended for two weeks without pay as a result of the hearing. (Doc. 1 ¶ 50.)

Meanwhile, Hoffman had been suffering from back and wrist pain since July 5, 2003. (See Doc. 1 ¶¶ 35, 45, 48, 51.) These ailments rendered Hoffman unable to work on a number of occasions, including a period of more than four months in 2004. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 46-47, 49, 51-52.) In March 2005, Hoffman was offered and accepted a disability pension. (Doc. 1 ¶ 53.)

On May 3, 2005, Hoffman filed the instant action. The complaint names nine defendants, including Shipp, Marzullo, Dougher, Papodopolos, and Speaks.*fn3

Hoffman alleges that defendants violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as protected by 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn4 Hoffman also brings a state tort claim against defendants for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss, which 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 ...


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