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Slater v. Susquehanna County

July 14, 2008

CHERYL A. SLATER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo B. United States District Judge

(JUDGE CAPUTO)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are Defendants Susquehanna County, Susquehanna County Correctional Facility, Susquehanna County Prison Board, Donald Stewart, and William Brennan's ("Defendants") motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 26.) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and motion for more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). (Doc. 29.)

The motion to dismiss by individual Defendants Brennan and Stewart will be granted in part and denied in part. All claims against Defendants Stewart and Brennan in their official capacities will be dismissed because their municipal employers are named Defendants in this case. Count III will be dismissed against Defendants Stewart and Brennan because the Age Discrimination and Employment Act ("ADEA") does not provide for individual liability. Count IV will be dismissed against Defendants Stewart and Brennan because Title VII likewise does not provide for individual liability. Defendants Stewart and Brennan's motion to dismiss Count VIII will be denied because the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") provides for individual liability for aiding and abetting discrimination.

The motion to dismiss by all moving Defendants will be granted in part and denied in part. Counts V and VI for conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress will be dismissed against Defendants Susquehanna County, Susquehanna County Correctional Facility, and Susquehanna County Prison Board because they are immune under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act ("PSTCA"). Defendants Stewart and Brennan's motion to dismiss Counts V and VI will be denied because, due to the willful misconduct exception of the PSTCA, Plaintiff has alleged state claims. Count IV will be dismissed against all remaining Defendants to the extent that it alleges discrimination based on age because Title VII does not provide remedy for this type of discrimination.

Defendants' motion for a more definite statement will be granted in part and denied in part. Defendants' motion for a more definite statement of Counts I, II, III, and IV for violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights will be granted because Plaintiff fails to allege the instances of speech which caused Defendant's alleged retaliation. Defendants' motion for more definite statement of Counts III and IV for hostile work environment will be denied because Plaintiff sufficiently states an alleged instance of discrimination. Defendants' motion for more definite statement of Count VII will be denied because Plaintiff specifically alleges the speech against which she was retaliated.

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 over federal law actions arising under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 ("federal question jurisdiction"). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 over state law claims arising out of the same common nucleus of operative fact as Plaintiff's federal law claims ("supplemental jurisdiction").

BACKGROUND

The facts alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint are as follows.

The Plaintiff in this matter is Cheryl A. Slater, a former Susquehanna County correctional officer at Susquehanna County Prison. (Am. Compl. ¶ 14, Doc. 26.) Ms. Slater is a white female, who, at the time of her last employment by Susquehanna County, was fifty-seven (57) years old. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) Moving Defendants are Susquehanna County ("Defendant County"), a Pennsylvania municipality; Susquehanna County Correctional Facility ("Defendant Facility"), a subdivision of Susquehanna County; Susquehanna County Prison Board ("Defendant Board"), a group of adult individuals who administer Defendant Facility; Donald Steward, a prison warden at Defendant Facility; and William Brennan, another warden at Defendant Facility. (Id. ¶¶ 6-10, 17.) The Teamsters Local Union 229 ("Defendant Union") and Jack McGrail, a business representative for Defendant Union, are also Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12, 18.)

As alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Plaintiff and other female correctional officers over the age of fifty (50) have been harassed by supervisors and other officers, including a group called the "Secret Sisters," who were aided and abetted by prison wardens and Defendant McGrail. (Id. ¶ 18.) Due to the gross negligence of other correctional officers, a female inmate died on April 2, 2004. (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff was accused of being an informant for the deceased prisoner and was interviewed by a private investigator, during which time Defendant Brennan eavesdropped on the conversation. (Id. ¶¶ 24-26.) Defendants attempted to intimidate and silence Plaintiff, believing that she had information concerning the death of the prisoner. (Id. ¶ 34.)

Defendants Brennan and Stewart solicited false write-ups from the "Secret Sisters," and Defendants began to manufacture and blame Plaintiff for violations of prison policy. (Id. ¶¶22, 27.) As a result of Plaintiff making Defendant Board aware of the problems at the prison, Defendant Stewart suspended and then terminated Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶28-29.)

Plaintiff complained of discrimination to Defendants Board, Brennan, and Stewart, but they failed to respond other than to accuse Plaintiff of wrongdoing in an attempt to discredit and fire her. (Id. ¶ 20.) Similar complaints to Defendant Union were ignored. (Id. ¶ 21.) Defendants County and Board, despite being aware of their employees' improper conduct, failed to: (1) supervise and train their employees; (2) implement policies to stop said employee conduct; and (3) investigate or ameliorate discriminatory practices by their employees. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff was subject to a hostile work environment due to her age and gender. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff filed two (2) grievances: one grievance for Plaintiff's suspension, which was not handled in a timely fashion, and another for Plaintiff's termination, which has still not been handled. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.)

Plaintiff claims that she was discriminated against in the terms and conditions of her employment due to her gender and age, that she was retaliated against for exercising her First Amendment rights, and that she was not afforded procedural due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 32-33.)

Plaintiff filed her Complaint on December 21, 2007. (Compl., Doc. 1.) Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on March 28, 2008. (Am. Compl., Doc. 26.) Moving Defendants filed the present motion to dismiss and motion for a more definite statement on April 18, 2008. (Doc. 29.) These motions are briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, Plaintiff has not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1960, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), meaning, enough factual allegations "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" each necessary element. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring complaint to set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred). In light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, --- U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232; see also Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. V. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus.. Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1042 (1994). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents where the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached a copy of the document to the motion to dismiss. Id. The court need not assume that the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 (3d Cir. 1998), nor credit a complaints "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of the claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Gould Elecs. Inc., v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

I. 42 U.S.C. § 1981

Defendants' brief in support of their motion to dismiss addresses allegations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 violations. (Defs.' Br. in Supp., Doc. 30, Ex. A, at 5.) While Plaintiff raised § 1981 allegations in her original Complaint, she did not present such claims in her Amended Complaint. (Compl. ¶35, Doc. 1.); (Am. Compl., Doc. 26.) Therefore, ...


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