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Mieczkowski v. York City School Dist.

November 28, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


This is an employment discrimination and civil rights action maintained by plaintiff Deborah Mieczkowski ("Mieczkowski") against York City School District and two of its officers, Deloris Penn and Tresa Diggs. Mieczkowski brings this suit under provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, and under the common law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Presently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 6). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History*fn1

Beginning in July 2005, Mieczkowski, who is Caucasian, served as assistant superintendent of York City School District ("the district"). (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 6, 20-21, 35.)

Defendant Tresa Diggs ("Diggs"), who is African American, was the district's superintendent, and defendant Deloris Penn ("Penn"), who is also African American,*fn2 was director of human resources. (Id. ¶ 26.)

Mieczkowski alleges that defendants treated her differently from her African American co-workers. (Id. ¶¶ 33a-33e.) She claims that defendants disciplined her more harshly than African American employees and that African Americans with subordinate job classifications were compensated more highly than she was. (Id. ¶ 33a-33b, 33e.) Diggs allegedly reprimanded her for conduct that went uncensured when committed by African American individuals. (Id. ¶ 33c.) Lastly, defendants allegedly retaliated against Mieczkowski when she requested legal counsel to assist her in addressing this differential treatment. (Id. ¶ 32.)

On March 27, 2007, Mieczkowski filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), averring that the district subjected her to harassment, discipline, and unequal pay on the basis of her race in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. (Doc. 6, Ex. B ¶¶ 8-41 & p.6; Doc. 14 at 5.) She dually filed the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in May of the same year. (Doc. 6, Ex. B ¶ 42; Doc. 14 at 5.) She then commenced the instant action on June 20. Her complaint alleges race discrimination claims pursuant to Title VII, the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, and § 1981. She also maintains a claim for First Amendment retaliation arising from her attempt to confer with counsel. Finally, she asserts a claim in tort for emotional distress under Pennsylvania law.

Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss,*fn3 arguing that Mieczkowski failed to exhaust her mandatory administrative remedies for the Title VII claim. They contend that the § 1981, § 1983, and tort law claims are "pendent" to the Title VII claim and are also subject to the exhaustion defense. The parties have briefed these issues, which are ripe for review.

II. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts in 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 require the complaint to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Sershen v. Cholish, No. 3:07-CV-1011, 2007 WL 3146357, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 26, 2007) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007)). The plaintiff must present facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. 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"); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007) (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"); Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007). Thus, courts should not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim if it "contain[s] either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Montville Twp. v. Woodmont Builders LLC, No. 05-4888, 2007 WL 2261567, at *2 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, ___ U.S. at ___, 127 S.Ct. at 1969). Under this liberal pleading standard, 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

Defendants present a twofold argument for dismissal. They first contend that Mieczkowski's Title VII claim must be dismissed because she has not exhausted her administrative remedies. They then assert that her remaining claims are "pendent" to the Title VII allegations and also ...

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