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Henise v. York County Board of Commissioners

June 8, 2007

AMELIA HENISE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
YORK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Jones)

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

Pending before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss ("the Motion"), filed by all Defendants*fn1 to this action on January 30, 2007. (Rec. Doc. 4). For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

On December 22, 2006, Plaintiff Amelia Henise ("Plaintiff" or "Henise") filed her Complaint (doc. 1) in the instant action.

On January 30, 2007, Defendants filed the instant Motion. (Rec. Doc. 4). As the Motion has been fully briefed, it is ripe for disposition.

STANDARD OF REVIEW:

In considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept the veracity of a plaintiff's allegations. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see also White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1990). In Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996), our Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit added that in considering a motion to dismiss based on a failure to state a claim argument, a court should "not inquire whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they are entitled to offer evidence to support their claims." Furthermore, "a complaint should not be dismissed 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." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also District Council 47 v. Bradley, 795 F.2d 310 (3d Cir. 1986).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND:

As is required by the standard of review applicable to the Motion, the following recitation of the facts is based on the averments in Plaintiff's Complaint. (Rec. Doc. 1).

Plaintiff began working as a Caseworker for the York County Children and Youth Services ("YCCYS") in January 2000. Plaintiff claims that when she began work at YCCYS, she noticed that of the 140 YCCYS employees, only herself and nine (9) others were African-American, despite the fact that many of the agency's clients were African-American.

Plaintiff's first immediate supervisor at YCCYS was Defendant William Ledbetter ("Defendant Ledbetter" or "Ledbetter"). In December 2003, Plaintiff filed an apparently internal complaint against Defendant Ledbetter as a result of his alleged use of foul language when speaking to her, which Plaintiff believes "was racially motivated as he did not speak to his Caucasian employees in that fashion." (Rec. Doc. 1, ¶ 16). Plaintiff also alleges that during her time as a Caseworker, she "was the victim of and witnessed, several instances that she believes and therefore avers were racially motivated." (Id. at ¶ 18).

Despite the alleged environment to which she was subjected, Plaintiff avers that she performed her job as a Caseworker proficiently. This appears to be confirmed by Plaintiff's successful bid for an Intake Supervisor position, which she began in February 2004.

Following her promotion to Intake Supervisor, and specifically from August 2004 to October 2004, Amy Abel ("Ms. Abel"), a Caucasian, was Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. Ms. Abel reported to the Director of YCCYS, James Rebert ("Mr. Rebert"), also a Caucasian. However, Plaintiff alleges that despite the fact that Defendant Ledbetter was no longer Plaintiff's supervisor, he followed and harassed her, pointing out any alleged mistake that Plaintiff made.

From late-October 2004 to January 2005, Mr. Rebert took a medical leave, during which time Barbara Eubanks ("Mrs. Eubanks"), an African-American, and Defendant Paula Barr ("Defendant Barr" or "Barr") served as interim Co-Directors. Plaintiff avers that Defendant Barr: brought with her to the Co-director's position racial issues from her past. Defendant Barr had kept secret for 26 years her husband's involvement in Lillie Belle Allen's racially motivated murder in 1969. Defendant Barr's secret was exposed when the murder trial was finally held in 2003 just blocks from YCCYS's offices. (Id. at ¶ 26). Plaintiff also avers that "[D]efendant Barr used her co-director's position to lash out at [sic] because she was hurt by this public disclosure of a secret kept so long." (Id. at ¶ 27). Indeed, Plaintiff contends that because of the secret and/or its disclosure, Barr harbored ill-will toward African-American women, including Plaintiff. Plaintiff claims that as a result, Barr simultaneously excluded Plaintiff from supervisory meetings and also used Plaintiff's "occasional failure to attend supervisory meetings because of her work load as a reason to circumvent [Plaintiff's] supervisory authority." (Id. at ¶¶ 29-30).

Notably, Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants Barr and Ledbetter "had a relationship outside of their work relationship. They supported each other in their harassment of [Plaintiff]." (Id. at ¶ 28). In support thereof, Plaintiff avers that even after Barr was appointed Co-Director, she made no attempt to stop Ledbetter's harassment of Plaintiff. Plaintiff also avers that Defendants "Barr and Ledbetter were working together to create a work environment so hostile that [Plaintiff] would resign." (Id. at ¶ 40).

As a result of Defendant Barr's alleged treatment of Plaintiff, Plaintiff approached Mrs. Eubanks to complain about Barr.*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that when Barr found out about her complaints to Mrs. Eubanks, Barr was upset, so she went to Plaintiff's "office and began loudly banging on the door." (Id. at ¶ 32). Plaintiff claims to have been "terrified and afraid to leave her office" as a result of Barr's behavior, and she further claims that when Barr was confronted about the incident, "Barr used the pretext of asking [Plaintiff] for information relating to vacation time." (Id. at ¶ 33).

Plaintiff also avers that Defendant Barr's ill-treatment toward her continued, with Defendant Barr's meetings with Plaintiff being held outside the presence of Mrs. Eubanks, despite Plaintiff's request therefor. Plaintiff also avers that during these meetings, Barr had Ms. Abel attend, and that this violated company policy.

As a result of the alleged treatment of Defendants Barr and Ledbetter, Plaintiff avers that she sought medical treatment for work-related stress. Indeed, Plaintiff contends that her stress levels increased as the hostility of the environment in which she worked ...


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