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Richards v. Centre Area Transportation Authority

March 3, 2009

BILLIE JO RICHARDS PLAINTIFF
v.
CENTRE AREA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

BACKGROUND

On October 24, 2008, plaintiff Billie Jo Richards instituted this civil action against defendant, Centre Area Transportation Authority ("CATA"). In her complaint, Richards alleges retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA").

On December 5, 2008, CATA filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Rec. Doc. No. 5). Supporting and opposing briefs have been filed (Rec. Doc. Nos. 6 and 7)*fn1 , a reply brief has been filed (Rec. Doc. No. 8), thus the matter is ripe for disposition.

Now, for the following reasons, we will deny defendant's motion to dismiss.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must view all allegations stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). In ruling on such a motion, the court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000). A complaint should only be dismissed if, accepting as true all of the allegations in the complaint, plaintiff has not pled enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1960 (2007).

In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we must be mindful that federal courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading. Hellmann v. Kercher, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54882, 4 (W.D. Pa. 2008). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 "'requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the.claim is and the grounds on which it rests,'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, (1957)). However, even under this lower notice pleading standard, a plaintiff must do more than recite the elements of a cause of action, and then make a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief under it. Hellmann, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS at 4-5. Instead, a plaintiff must make a factual showing of his entitlement to relief by alleging sufficient facts that, when taken as true, suggest the required elements of a particular legal theory. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) "streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a "dispositive issue of law." Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed "without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one." Id. at 327

II. Allegations in the Complaint

Taking as true all of the allegations in the complaint, the facts are as follows. In 1989, Richards began working as a bus driver for CATA. From the start of her employment through early 2005, her immediate supervisor was Steve Crownover. Crownover's supervisor was Joe Gilbert. In April 2001, Richards submitted a written complaint of sexual harassment by Crownover and others to CATA's human resources manager. Allegedly, Crownover, in the presence of Gilbert, engaged in unwelcome sexual harassment of Richards and others. CATA's internal investigation of the charges was "inconclusive."

Richards filed a complaint of sexual harassment with both the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Through the administrative procedures of these agencies, a mediation took place, but the case was closed because Richards did not accept CATA's settlement offer.

On May 24, 2007, counsel advised CATA's counsel that a civil complaint would be filed, and sent counsel a courtesy copy of the complaint. On May 31, 2007, Richards filed the civil complaint alleging Quid Pro Quo Harassment and Hostile Work Environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the PHRA.*fn2 The parties reached a settlement agreement, and ...


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