Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Heneghan v. Northampton Community College

July 7, 2010

RONALD HENEGHAN, PLAINTIFF
v.
NORTHAMPTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE, ET AL, DEFENDANTS



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

MEMORANDUM

Ronald Heneghan, formerly a Professor of Theatre at Northampton Community College, alleges that the College and two of its employees violated his constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims he was denied procedural due process when the College revoked his tenured status and terminated his employment without notice and a hearing, and that he was discriminated against on the basis of his gender. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss his complaint. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

Ronald Heneghan began employment at Northampton Community College ("NCC") on August 20, 2003 in a tenure-track position as Associate Professor of Theatre.

Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 9. Julie Beetem was hired as a faculty member in the Theatre Department at NCC in January of 2006. Id. ¶ 11. Problems between Beetem and Heneghan and Beetem and other men in the Theater Department began shortly thereafter. Id. ¶ 12. Heneghan claims that, beginning in 2007, Beetem "began a course of conduct aimed at having [him] removed from his position." Id. ¶ 17. Heneghan claims Beetem made threatening comments to him, was openly hostile to males, especially Heneghan, working in the Theater Department, opposed NCC's hiring more men in the department, and blamed Heneghan for incidents that were her own fault. Id. ¶¶ 14, 19, 20, 23, 25, 26, 31. He also complained she excluded him, but not a woman, from department decisions and processes. Id. ¶ 32.

Heneghan alleges he "made complaints to Dr. Elizabeth Bugaighis about the sexually discriminatory actions by Beetem, but no action was taken to stop her," that he "made NCC administration aware of these threats by Beetem, specifically to [sic] Dr. Bugaighis," and that he "made a complaint to Bugaighis by letter of March 5, 2008 that Beetem was attempting to undermine him." Id. ¶ 18, 21, 24.

On March 5, 2009, Heneghan was granted tenure at NCC by decision of the college's Board of Directors. Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 34. He claims that when Beetem discovered he had been granted tenure, she immediately engaged in a series of hostile acts with the goal of having Heneghan's tenure revoked. Id. ¶ 35. Her actions included making false statements to Dr. Bugaighis, Dean of Humanities, that Heneghan had sexually harassed a student and provided beer to underage students. Id. ¶ 36. As a result of these accusations, Heneghan's tenure was revoked on March 13, 2009, by Ms. Bugaighis and Helene Whitaker, NCC's Vice President of Administrative Affairs. Id. ¶ 38. Heneghan claims his tenure was revoked "without any hearing or other process afforded to tenured faculty." Id. He also claimed that, at the time of his tenure revocation, Bugaighis "knew that Beetem had been making false allegations against Heneghan for several years, and the [sic] Beetem was seeking to have Heneghan terminated." Id. ¶ 40. After receiving notice of his tenure revocation, Heneghan "sought to commence a grievance with the Union demanding that his tenure and employment be reinstated." Id. ¶ 41. He does not set forth in his complaint the results of that effort.

Heneghan filed a complaint in this Court on October 29, 2009. He filed an amended complaint on January 19, 2010, against Northampton Community College, Dr. Bugaighis, and Dr. Whitaker. His amended complaint contains one count alleging defendants violated 42 U.S.C. §1983 by terminating him from his position on the basis of sex and by depriving him of his constitutionally protected right to tenured public employment.*fn2 Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Heneghan's amended complaint on February 8, 2010, and he filed a response on February 24, 2010.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The factual allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, a federal court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all plausible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984).

It remains true that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to plead in detail all of the facts upon which he bases his claim. Rather, the Rules require "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). In recent rulings, however, the Supreme Court has rejected language in Conley stating that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561. Rather, a "complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 564, and it must contain enough factual matters to suggest the required elements of the claim or to "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" those elements. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Neither "bald assertions" nor "vague and conclusory allegations" are accepted as true. See Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Sterling v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., 897 F. Supp. 893 (E.D. Pa. 1995).

In assessing the merits of a motion to dismiss, courts must be careful to recognize that, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 1950 (emphasis added). In recognition of these principles, courts must first identify those allegations in a complaint that are mere conclusions and are therefore not entitled to the assumption of truth, and next, consider whether the complaint's factual allegations, which are entitled to a presumption of truth, plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (emphasis added).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Consideration of Collective Bargaining Agreement As a preliminary matter, this court must determine whether it can consider the copy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement attached as Exhibit A to defendants' motion to dismiss.

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, courts generally consider only the allegations contained in the complaint, any exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 259 (3d Cir.1998). However, a plaintiff's failure to attach to the complaint or cite documents that are integral to or relied on in the complaint does not preclude the court from relying on such documents in considering a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Securities Litigation, 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997)("a court may consider a document that is 'integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint' without converting the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment").

Because Heneghan does not explicitly rely on the Collective Bargaining Agreement in his complaint, the agreement is not integral to his complaint, and the copy of the agreement attached to defendant's motion is incomplete,*fn3 I will decide the instant motion ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.