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Grant v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp.

August 30, 2007

SHIRLEY R. GRANT PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLEGHENY LUDLUM CORP. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge

JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This is an employment discrimination case brought by Shirley R. Grant ("Plaintiff") who was an employee of Allegheny Ludlum Corporation ("Defendant"), a Pennsylvania corporation with facilities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Docket No. 1 at ¶¶ 1-2. Plaintiff started working for Defendant at its Pittsburgh office on October 8, 1973, as a senior credit assistant. Id. at ¶ 6. In 2001, Allegheny Ludlum moved its facilities to Washington, Pennsylvania. Id. at ¶ 7. In September, 2001, Plaintiff was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression. Id. at ¶ 8. Plaintiff worked at Defendant's Washington, Pennsylvania facility until February 21, 2003. Id. at ¶¶ 6 and 17. According to her psychiatrist, Plaintiff's alleged anxiety prevented her from driving for any length of time on an expressway.*fn1 See Docket No. 4, at Ex. C. Although Plaintiff ceased working at her job at Defendant's Washington facility in February, 2003, she received a salary continuance from February through September, 2003. Docket No. 1 at ¶ 17. On October 1, 2003, Plaintiff received one Long Term Disability ("LTD") payment. Id. at ¶ 18. After this date, Plaintiff and Defendant ceased communications and Plaintiff never returned to work at Allegheny Ludlum. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant constructively terminated her by refusing to accommodate her alleged disability which she maintains makes her unable to travel to the Washington, Pennsylvania location. Id. at ¶¶ 29-31. Before she ceased her employment, Plaintiff requested a transfer to a site closer to her home. Id. at ¶ 22. Defendant refused this request and suggested to Plaintiff, as alternatives, a bus route, a driver, or resignation. Id. at ¶ 24. Plaintiff verified that no bus was available from her home in West View to Washington and she could not secure the driver. Id. at ¶ 25. Accordingly, Plaintiff alleged that her employer's refusal to accommodate her caused her to be terminated from her employment. Id. at ¶ 30.

Plaintiff further alleges that this refusal to accommodate her inability to drive on the expressway amounts to disability discrimination. Id. at ¶ 26; Docket No. 4, at Ex. A. Furthermore, Plaintiff claims that Defendant had a location in downtown which is close to her home in the West View neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and that Defendant routinely transferred employees without disabilities. Docket No. 1, at ¶¶ 11-13, 26.

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se at the time, dual-filed complaints with both the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ("EEOC") on January 27, 2004. Docket No. 4, at Ex. A, ¶ 9; Docket No. 10, at 2. On May 17, 2004, the PHRC sent a letter to Plaintiff stating that it had reviewed her complaint, found no probable cause that discrimination occurred, and was dismissing her complaint. Id. at Ex. D. On January 17, the EEOC sent a right to sue letter to plaintiff. Docket No. 1, at ¶ 5.

Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant on April 18, 2007, alleging employment discrimination in violation of both the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 PS §§ 951-963. Docket No. 1, at ¶ 4.

On June 25, 2007, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Docket No. 3, at 1. Defendant alleges that Plaintiff's claims are time-barred by the PHRC rule which provides that civil actions must be filed no more than two years after the PHRC complaint is dismissed and the EEOC rule which provides that says ADA claims must be filed within 90 days of receipt of the right-to-sue letter in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). Docket No. 4, at 1, 5-6. Defendant further claims that Plaintiff does not have a "disability" under either statute. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A)-(C); 43 PS §§ 951-963. Id. at 1. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court is required to accept as true all allegations of the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350; Rocks v. City of Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989); D.P. Enter. Inc. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725, F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984). The question is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether a plaintiff would be able to prevail is if she were able to prove all of her allegations. Petruska v. Gannon Univ., 462 F.3d 294, 302 (3d Cir. 2006); see also Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien, & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted only "if it appears to a certainty that no relief could be granted under any set of facts which could be proved." Evancho, 423 F.3d at 351 (quoting D.P. Enter., Inc., 725 F.2d at 944); Richardson v. Pa. Dep't of Health, 561 F.2d 489, 492 (3d Cir. 1977). Under this standard, a complaint will be deemed to have alleged sufficient facts if it adequately puts the defendant on notice of the essential elements of plaintiff's claim. Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996).

Under the notice pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint requires only a short and plain statement showing a right to relief rather than a "detailed recitation of proof that in the end establishes such a right." Pryor v. NCAA, 288 F.3d 548, 564. Complaints in employment discrimination cases must satisfy only the simple requirements of Rule 8(a). Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002); see also Weston v. Pennsylvania, 251 F.3d 420, 429 (3d Cir. 2001). Therefore, "an employment discrimination complaint need not include [specific facts establishing a prima facie case of discrimination under the framework of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973)] and instead must contain only a 'short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Swierkiewicz, 539 U.S. at 508; Weston, 251 F.3d at 429 (a complaint need not plead law or match facts to every element of a legal theory to survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)).

However, a court need not credit either "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. Evancho, 423 F.3d at 351; see also, U.S. ex rel Bartlett, 234 F.R.D. 113, 117 (W.D.Pa 2006) (quoting Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 n. 8 (3d Cir. 1997) (noting that when deciding a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a court does not have to accept or give credit to "bald assertions," "legal conclusions," "unsupported conclusions," "unwarranted inferences," "unwarranted deductions," "footless conclusions of law," or "sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual conclusions") . The defendant bears the burden to demonstrate that the complaint fails to state a claim. Gould Electronics, Inc. v. U.S., 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000). Overall, "courts have an obligation...to view the complaint as a whole and to base rulings not upon the presence of mere words, but rather, upon the presence of a factual situation which is or is not justiciable. We do draw on the allegations of the complaint, but in a realistic, rather than a slavish, manner." Doug Grant, Inc. v. Great Bay Casino Corp., 232 F.3d 173, 184 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 (3d Cir. 1998)).

While a court must consider the allegations on the face of the complaint, a court may also consider, without converting the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment, any documents attached to a defendant's motion to dismiss that are "undisputably authentic" provided that the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents. Steinhardt Group, Inc. v. Citicorp., 126 F.3d 144, 145 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Pension Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus, Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)); Mathis v. Univ. of Pa., No. 03-1232, 2003 WL 21250569, at *1-2 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 17, 2003); see also Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004) (If issue turns on indisputably authentic documents, Court can consider authentic documents in deciding a motion to dismiss); Rogan v. Giant Eagle, Inc., 113 F. Supp. 2d 777, 780-82 (W.D. Pa. 2000), aff'd, 276 F.3d 579 (3d Cir. 2001) (stating that if a court could ...


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