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Ellis v. Harrisburg Area Community College

January 31, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania

Chief Judge Kane


Before the Court is Defendants' collective motion for partial summary judgment. (Doc. No. 16.) By the motion, Defendants seek entry of an order dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Meredith Tully and Barbara L. Hutchinson for racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. ("PHRA"). Additionally, Defendants have moved for summary judgment on certain of Plaintiff's allegations on the basis that they are beyond the scope of two complaints Plaintiff filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Finally, Defendants seek summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for damages, arguing that Plaintiff failed to mitigate damages as required by Title VII. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff, an African-American female, was previously employed with Defendant Harrisburg Area Community College ("HACC") as an accounting clerk in the Student Accounts Office from 1998 until her employment was terminated on August 25, 2003. At the time of her employment, Plaintiff was also a student enrolled in courses at HACC. Plaintiff has brought suit against HACC; Thomas Dick, HACC's Director of Student Accounting and Cashiering; Meredith Tulli, HACC's Human Resources Director; and Barbara L. Hutchinson, HACC's Controller, alleging that: (1) Defendants violated her right under the Fourteenth Amendment "not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, and the right to equal protection of the laws" (Compl. ¶ 33) (Count I); (2) Defendants violated Plaintiff's right to engage in protected activity without retaliation in violation of Title VII (Count II); (3) Defendants harrassed and discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count III); (4) Defendants conspired to deprive Plaintiff of her right to equal protection under the law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Count IV); (5) Defendants harassed and intimidated Plaintiff in retaliation for her participation in protected activity in violation of the PHRA (Count V); (6) Defendants intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Plaintiff in violation of state law (Count VI). Defendants have denied the material allegations of Plaintiff's complaint. The parties have engaged in discovery, which is now closed.


Plaintiff initially filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") on or about January 15, 2003, charging HACC with racial discrimination in connection with her employment. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that she was denied the opportunity to take classes at HACC during her lunch hour on the basis of her race. The PHRC complaint was simultaneously cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Charge No. 17FA361611. On May 21, 2003, the PHRC issued a finding of no probable cause concerning the allegations in the complaint.

Plaintiff filed a second complaint with the PHRC on February 13, 2004, docketed at Docket No. 2003-04841, against all Defendants alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. This complaint was also cross-filed with the EEOC under Charge No. 17FA462008. On or about December 19, 2005, upon Plaintiff's request for a right-to-sue letter, the PHRC administratively closed its file concerning this complaint.

Plaintiff commenced the instant action by filing a complaint on November 28, 2005, which Defendants answered on February 2, 2006. On October 16, 2006, Defendants filed the motion for partial summary judgment that is the subject of this memorandum. After both parties filed briefs in connection with the motion, the Court directed the parties to file supplemental letter briefs addressing, inter alia, whether the Plaintiff intends to and can maintain certain claims under the PHRA against the individual Defendants. (Doc. No. 32.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-51 (1986). When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, who is "entitled to every reasonable inference that can be drawn from the record." Merkle v. Upper Dublin Sch. Dist., 211 F.3d 782, 788 (3d Cir. 2000). However, the nonmoving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in the complaint, but must "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial." Id. at 322.


Before addressing the Defendants' specific arguments, the Court notes that Plaintiff cannot maintain an action under Title VII against the individual Defendants. Kachmar v. Sungard Data Sys., Inc., 109 F.3d 173, 184 (3d Cir. 1997); Sheridan v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., 100 F.3d 1061, 1077 (3d. Cir. 1996). Accordingly, all Title VII claims against Defendants Hutchinson, Tulli, and Dick will be dismissed with prejudice. Any discussion below relating to claims ...

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