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Simmons v. Bernardi

July 15, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge



Presently before the Courtis Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 4.) Defendants request that Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 1) be dismissed in its entirety for failure to state a claim against the Defendants. For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part. This Court has jurisdiction over the present action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question).


The facts allegedin Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 1) are as follows: Plaintiff William Simmons was employed by the Wyoming Area School District ("WASD") as Maintenance Foreman, and also served as a union president. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 9-12.) Defendant Ray Bernardi ("Bernardi") was at all relevant times the superintendent of WASD. (Compl. ¶ 1.) The remaining individual defendants were members of the WASD school board. (Compl. ¶ 39.)

"On or about late 2006 harassment by Superintendent Ray Bernardi began." (Compl. ¶ 13.) On November 17, 2006, Plaintiff was called into a meeting with Bernardi and some of the school board members where he "was treated in a harsh fashion." (Compl. ¶ 14.) This mistreatment was related to Plaintiff's need to work with Patrick J. Pribula, a political ally of Plaintiff, against whom Bernardi had a strong hatred. (Compl. ¶ 14.) In subsequent months, Bernardi continued to act unfriendly and hostile. (Compl. ¶ 16.) In July 2007, Plaintiff was told by Bernardi not to place Plaintiff's name on stickers used to denote the work tasks being performed at the school. (Compl. ¶ 17.) The next day Bernardi approached Plaintiff during lunch and "grilled him on his activities." (Compl. ¶ 17.) Similar harassing and demeaning behavior by Bernardi continued through November 2007. (Compl. ¶ 18.) As a result, Plaintiff became sick and began to suffered severe anxiety attacks. (Compl. ¶ 19.)

On or about November 2007, Plaintiff advised Carl Yorina and others that Bernardi was blatantly violating the collective bargaining unit by allowing non-union members to work on maintenance. (Compl. ¶ 34.) On November 20, 2007, Plaintiff was again harassed by Bernardi. (Compl. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff suffered an anxiety attack and informed his peers that he had to go home. (Compl. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff did not return to work after that day. (Compl. ¶ 20.) On November 30, 2007, Plaintiff sent a resignation letter to the school district, citing Bernardi's mistreatment as the cause. (Compl. ¶¶ 21-22.) On December 6, 2007, Plaintiff rescinded his resignation letter. (Compl. ¶ 23.) The following day, Plaintiff was informed by the district that he was suspended without pay. (Compl. ¶ 24.) Plaintiff then received a letter on December 21, 2007, that disciplinary action would be taken against him. (Compl. ¶ 25.)

On January 4, 2008, Plaintiff attended a meeting at the WASD high school with a number of union officials and Bernardi. (Compl. ¶ 26.) At that meeting Plaintiff indicated that he wished to return to work. (Compl. ¶ 26.) On January 24, 2008, Plaintiff received a letter of termination stating that he had been guilty of insubordination for making statements about Bernardi in his termination letter and for failure to call-in and report off sick. (Compl. ¶ 27.) On or about August 3, 2009, WASD was ordered to reinstate Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 28.)*fn1 Plaintiff returned to work on August 17, 2009. (Compl. ¶ 29.) While Plaintiff is again employed at WASD, he has never received recognition of his position as Maintenance Foreman by any of the Defendants. (Compl. ¶¶ 31, 40-41.)

Plaintiff filed this action here in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on January 25, 2010. (ECF No. 1.) On April 19, 2010, the Defendants filed the present motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 4.) This motion has been briefed by both sides and is now ripe for disposition.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring a complaint to set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred). In light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement need only "'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant [with] the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232; see also Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "'bald assertions'" or "'legal conclusions,'" Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997)). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of her claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint ...

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