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Heath v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

July 9, 2010

CAROLINE HEATH, PLAINTIFF
v.
PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is individual Defendants Timothy J. Carson, J. William Lincoln, Pasquale T. Deon Sr., Joseph G. Brimmeier, George M. Hatalowich, Nikolaus H. Grieshaber, and Patricia F. Schlegel's, motion to dismiss Plaintiff Caroline Heath's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

I. Background

A. Facts

1. The Parties

Plaintiff, Caroline Heath, and all individual Defendants are employees of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission ("PTC"). (Compl. ¶¶ 1-7.) Heath has been employed by the PTC since August of 2000, and works as a Claims Administrator in the Risk Management Department. (Id. ¶ 24.) Since starting with the PTC, Heath has had good employee evaluations, and her 2008-2009 evaluation rated her performance as "commendable." (Id. ¶ 25.) During her time with the PTC, Heath has remained politically neutral and/or apolitical. (Id. ¶ 26.)

The PTC is charged with constructing, operating and maintaining the Pennsylvania Turnpike and is comprised of five members - the Secretary of Transportation and four Commissioners. (Id. ¶ 2.) At all times relevant to this lawsuit, there was a vacancy on the Commission leaving only three Commissioners-Defendants Timothy J. Carson, J. William Lincoln, and Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. (Id. ¶ 3.) Defendant Joseph G. Brimmeier is PTC's Chief Executive Officer. (Id. ¶ 4.) Defendant George M. Hatalowich is its Chief Operating Officer. (Id. ¶ 5.) Defendant Nikolaus H. Greishaber is the Chief Financial Officer. (Id. ¶ 6.) Defendant Patricia F. Schlegel is PTC's Director of Human Resources. (Id. ¶ 7.) All four individuals were on the Administrative Panel in charge of proposing candidates for hire to the Commissioners. Plaintiff also names one John Doe Defendant who apparently helped in the actions of the other individual Defendants, however, this individual, like the PTC, is not a party to this motion. (See id. ¶ 8.)

2. PTC Hiring Policy

According to the Complaint, which cites to a series of United States Supreme Court caselaw as support, the PTC had a long standing policy of taking political considerations into account when hiring, firing, promoting and transferring employees. (Id. ¶¶ 13-16.) In 1992, the PTC reacted by issuing a policy letter titled, Policy and Procedure for Promoting Employees. (Id. ¶ 15.) In 2001, these policies were incorporated in what is called Policy Number 2.7, which states in relevant part:

E. Procedures:

1. At a minimum, vacancy notices for all positions which are subject to the provisions of this Policy Letter will be posted at every Commission work location for at least ten working days.

2. Candidates for any position that has been posted must submit a written expression of interest, which may be in the form of an updated employment application or resume and a copy of their most recent performance evaluation, if available, (collectively referred to as the "application") to the Human Resources Department (HR) no later than the close of business on the last day identified in the posting.

3. HR will acknowledge receipt of all applications. An applicant who does not receive such acknowledgment is under an obligation to immediately contact HR to determine the circumstances under which the application was not acknowledged.

4. HR will review all of the applications to determine which applicants meet the minimum educations [sic], experience and training requirements for the position. It is the candidate's responsibility to ensure his or her work history and educational, experience, and training background is explained in sufficient detail for this determination to be appropriately completed.

5. HR will forward to the Chief/Director of the department in which the vacancy exists, [sic] all of the applications which HR determines meet the minimum educational, ...


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