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Shope v. Dep't of the Navy

July 13, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Jacob Larry Shope filed this action alleging that the Department of Navy and William M. Lavage, Director of Human Resources at the Naval Supply Depot, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, violated the Federal Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 551, et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-34, by forwarding emails to non-federal entities and eliminating his employment, respectively. After conducting an initial review of the complaint and finding the factual averments therein insufficient to support Shope's claims, we granted him leave to file an amended complaint. On January 19, 2010, he timely filed an amended complaint. Currently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. After review, we will grant summary judgment in favor of defendants.

II. Background

Shope is a former employee of the Department of Navy at the Naval Inventory Control Point in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ("SMF") ¶ 1. On October 1, 2003, as part of a reduction in force, plaintiff was released from his employment with the Navy. Defs.' SMF ¶ 2. Prior to his release, defendants claim that Shope was placed on administrative leave and was barred from entering the Naval Inventory Control Point because of a disturbing and derogatory email plaintiff sent to fellow employees. Defs.' SMF ¶ 5-7.

In September 2008, plaintiff sent several emails to defendant Lavage inquiring about a job announcement for a position at the Navy's Mechanicsburg facility. Defs.' SMF ¶ 19. Plaintiff was informed that the position he was applying for was not with the Navy but rather with the Defense Logistics Agency. As a result, he was advised to contact another human resources department. Defs.' SMF ¶ 19-20. However, Shope continued to contact defendant Lavage. Defs.' SMF ¶ 21. By this time, plaintiff had obtained employment with Yale Electric Supply Company. On September 29, 2008, defendant Lavage forwarded an email, received from Shope, to Yale Electric Supply, in which plaintiff indicated his desire to obtain federal employment.

Shope bases his ADEA claims on several incidents that occurred between 2003 and 2008. In 2003, he alleges that he was discriminated against due to his age when he was not promoted to a new position. Am. Compl. at 9. He further alleges that he was separated from his employment due to his age. Am. Compl. At 10. In addition, he alleges multiple ADEA claims as a results of his not obtaining further employment with the Navy. See Am. Compl. at 9-13.

Plaintiff filed this pro se action on December 7, 2009, alleging age discrimination and violations of the Privacy Act. After we reviewed the complaint, we granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, which he filed on January 29, 2010. On May 14, 2010, defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment.

III. Discussion

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." We must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and construe any inferences to be drawn from the allegations in plaintiff's favor. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). While a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d. 929 (2007), a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 at 1974.

Where, as here, the parties refer to matters outside the pleadings, Rule 12(d) requires the motion be treated as one for summary judgment. Therefore, we will convert his motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Rule 56(c) provides that judgment should be rendered if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material facts and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(C)(2). Thus, we will examine the motion under the well-established standard. Lawrence v. City of Philadelphia, 527 F.3d 299, 310 (3d. Cir. 2008).

A. Privacy Act Claim

The Privacy Act permits a civil action against an agency for its unprotected disclosures of an individuals records which have an adverse effect on an individual. Britt v. Naval Investigative Servs., 886 F.2d 544, 550 (3d Cir. 1989). To state a claim for violation of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a(b), a plaintiff must establish: "(1) the information is covered by the Act as a 'record' contained in a 'system of records'; (2) the agency 'disclosed' the information; (3) the disclosure had an 'adverse effect' on the plaintiff (an element which separates itself into two components: (a) an adverse effect standing requirement and (b) a causal nexus between the disclosure and the adverse effect); (4) the disclosure was 'willful or intentional.'" Quinn v. Stone, 978 F.2d 126, 131 (3d Cir. 1992).

The Privacy Act defines a "record" as "any item, collection, or grouping of information about an individual that is maintained by an agency, including, but not limited to, his education, financial transactions, medical history, and criminal or employment history and that contains his name, or the identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual...." 5 U.S.C. ยง 552a(a)(4). The Third Circuit has held that the "statutory definition of a record...[has] a broad meaning encompassing any information about an individual that is linked to that individual through an identifying particular." Quinn, 978 F.2d at 133 (emphasis in original). A "system of records" is defined as "a group of any records under the control of an agency ...

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