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Miles v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Dep't of Conservation

February 27, 2009


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


Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. No. 6.) In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she was discriminated against based on her age and gender and that Defendants retaliated against her for filing complaints of discrimination. Defendants argue that the complaint should be dismissed because Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations, the Eleventh Amendment, and that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Although Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the motion (Doc. No. 8), she specifically disclaims any response to the motion to dismiss regarding her age discrimination claims. The motion is ripe for disposition.


From 1992 through June 20, 2008, Plaintiff Christine Miles was employed with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ("DCNR") as a Geologist Manager at the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey ("BTGS"). (Comp. ¶¶ 1, 3, 5-6.) In June 2001, Defendant Jay Parrish became Director of BTGS and reorganized the Bureau such that the majority of Plaintiff's duties, responsibilities, and management area were decreased. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) The two other Geologist Managers, both male, retained the bulk of their duties, responsibilities, and management area. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, in 2002, BTGS relocated to a new work building where Plaintiff and her remaining staff, most of whom were women, were given a workspace inferior to that of Plaintiff's male colleagues. A lower-ranking male Geologist Supervisor was assigned to supervise Plaintiff's former staff and he, too, was assigned a work area superior to Plaintiff's. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff voiced her objections to the reorganization, but received no response from Defendant Parrish. (Id. ¶ 10.) Defendant Parrish further hindered Plaintiff's ability to perform her duties by criticizing her and her female staff, harassing her, failing to provide her the necessary staff, and giving her poor performance evaluation ratings in February of 2002, 2004, and 2005. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12, 15, 17.) Finally, in 2008, an additional "realignment" of BTGS was announced that eliminated all of Plaintiff's staff and programs. Plaintiff was constructively discharged and resigned on May 17, 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.)

On March 25, 2003, Plaintiff filed a charge of age and gender discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), which was cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Id. ¶ 13.) Because Defendant Parrish's allegedly discriminatory behavior continued after the filing of the initial complaint, Plaintiff filed additional charges alleging a hostile work environment at an undisclosed date. (Id. ¶ 16.) She received a right to sue letter from the EEOC on all her charges and filed this lawsuit within the permitted time-frame of receipt of the letter. (Id. ¶ 21.)


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993), and is properly granted when, taking all factual allegations and inferences as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to show that no claim has been stated. Johnsrud v. Carter, 620 F.2d 29, 33 (3d Cir. 1980). Thus, the moving party must show that Plaintiff has failed to "set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that those elements exist." Kost, 1 F.3d at 183 (citations omitted). A court, however, "need not credit a complaint's 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906, 908 (3d Cir. 1997). Indeed, the Supreme Court has recently held that while this standard does not require "detailed factual allegations," there must be a "'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion of entitlement to relief . . . '[F]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level'" in order to survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)).


Defendants argue that the complaint should be dismissed in its entirety for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff addresses several, but not all, of Defendants' arguments in her brief in opposition. The Court will address each argument in turn beginning with Count II, against the DCNR, and continuing with Count I, against Jay Parrish.

A. PHRA Claim

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's PHRA claim is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Plaintiff does not respond to this argument. The Court agrees with Defendants that the DCNR is a Commonwealth agency and therefore possesses immunity in federal court for claims under the PHRA. Pennsylvania has not waived its immunity from suit under the PHRA in federal court, although it has for state court proceedings. Williams v. Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, 108 F.Supp.2d 460, 465 (E.D.Pa. 2000) ("Pennsylvania law is quite explicit on this point: 'Nothing contained in this subchapter shall be contrued to waive the immunity of the Commonwealth from suit in Federal courts guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.' Thus, a plaintiff may never pursue a PHRA claim against Pennsylvania or its agencies in federal court."); Dennison v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections, 268 F.Supp.2d 387, 405 (M.D.Pa. 2003). The Court finds the reasoning of these opinions persuasive, and Plaintiff provides no reason to otherwise disagree.

Accordingly, Plaintiff's PHRA claim against the DCNR is dismissed. It is unnecessary to analyze whether Plaintiff has exhausted her PHRA claim.

B. Exhaustion of Plaintiff's Title VII claim

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Title VII claim should be dismissed for failure to exhaust her administrative remedies because she filed her complaint with the EEOC more than 300 days after the allegedly discriminatory conduct. Conversely, Plaintiff argues that she has exhausted her administrative remedies because she filed multiple claims with the EEOC and received a right to sue letter. (Comp. ¶¶ 13, 14, 18, & 21.) She further alleges on the face of her complaint that she "has a right to sue until August 22, 2008." (Comp. ¶ 21.) However, ...

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