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Brown v. Potter

October 9, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DuBOIS, J.


I. Introduction

Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint in this case on March 1, 2006. In the Complaint she avers that defendant's employee, Manager Freda Justice, fired her in retaliation for filing a worker's compensation claim.

Presently before the Court is defendant's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on the ground that plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Alternatively, defendant moves for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 on the ground that there is no issue of material fact, and that defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendant's Motion to Dismiss. The alternative Motion for Summary Judgment is denied as moot.

II. Background*fn1

Pearl Brown was employed as a Sales and Service Associate at the Market Square Station of the United States Postal Service in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, beginning in 2002. (Mot. Ex. 6 ¶ 1.) On August 23, 2004, Brown filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits with the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs ("OWCP") of the Department of Labor. (Mot. Ex. 6, Attach. A.) On her claim form, Brown described her condition as "current, constant pain in the thumb and webbed areas of both hands affecting daily activities that require utilizing hand motion." (Id.) She believed her condition resulted from "counting money straps, clips and varying amounts of cash at closing time quite frequently," as no other job she had performed in her postal career had previously resulted in injury. (Id.)

On September 27, 2004, Brown arrived at work with a note from Dr. Charles Leinberry stating that she could only work in a light duty capacity. (See Mot. Ex. 6, Attach. B.) Manager Freda Justice reviewed Brown's light duty request the following day and determined that there was no continuous light duty assignment that would meet her work restrictions. As a result, Justice sent Brown home for lack of light duty work on September 28. (Mot. Ex. 6 ¶ 7.)

Brown received a letter from her health insurance company dated October 11, 2004, stating, erroneously, that her workers' compensation claim had been accepted. (See Mot. Ex. 6, Attach. C.) When Brown brought the letter to Justice's attention a few weeks later, she offered Brown a limited light duty assignment. Brown accepted the position on November 20, 2004, and commenced work on November 22, 2004. (Mot. Ex. 6 ¶¶ 8-9.)

By letter dated November 19, 2004, OWCP denied Brown's claim for workers' compensation benefits.*fn2 (See Mot. Ex. 6, Attach. D.) When Justice learned of OWCP's decision in December 2004, she sent Brown home on or about December 7, 2004, as there was no light duty work available and Brown was not entitled to a light duty assignment by virtue of the OWCP decision. (Mot. Ex. 6 ¶ 11.)

Brown initiated the pro se case now before the Court on March 1, 2006, by handwriting an Eastern District of Pennsylvania complaint form. Her statement of claim reads,

As a result on filing an on the job injury, manager Freda Justic[e] used this incident to take me off the clock on two (2) occa[]sions [September 28, 2004, and December 7, 2004]. She I feel, was exacting revenge for my exposing the 3 employees she favors unjustly on the job-at our crisis-intervention meeting dur[]ing the summer of 2004. (Compl. ¶ 3.)

In October 2004, before initiating this suit, Brown filed a complaint with the EEOC. She alleged that she was taken off duty on September 28, 2004, in retaliation for filing an EEOC complaint and that the reason given for her dismissal -- that there was no light duty available -- was pretext for discrimination on the basis of color. (See Mot. Ex. 1.) On November 30, 2005, Administrative Judge Jose L. Perez found that Brown had failed to make out a prima facie case of discrimination because she had not engaged in any EEOC activity before being sent home on September 28, 2004, and she had not presented any evidence beyond a bare assertion that her dismissal was pretextual.(Mot. Ex. 4.) It should be noted, however, that Brown's Complaint filed in this Court does not reference her earlier EEOC complaint or allege retaliation on the basis of her race or color.

III. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that, in response to a pleading, a defense of "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted" may be raised by motion. In analyzing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court "accept[s] all factual allegations as true, [and] construe[s] the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff . . . ." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 ...

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