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Fairfax v. Astrue

November 18, 2010

WILLIAM L. FAIRFAX
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are Governor Edward Rendell and the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (ECF. No. 20) and Federal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF. No. 21). For the following reasons, the Motions will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff acting pro se filed the instant Complaint on May 22, 2009. The Complaint contains five counts. Counts I and III seek declaratory judgments citing various statutory and regulatory provisions. Count IV alleges a conspiracy pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 371. Counts II and V assert claims for race and disability discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.) The Complaint seeks relief for the wrongs that Plaintiff alleges that he has endured as well as reversal of a decision entered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

The Complaint alleges that on June 5, 2003, the Social Security Administration ("SSA") received a letter from the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation ("OVR") stating that Plaintiff, William Lloyd Fairfax, was a disabled employee applying for the position of Legal Administrative Specialist. (Compl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 3; see also Compl. Ex. B.) This letter certified that Plaintiff has been diagnosed with left leg radicular pain syndrome and was eligible for employment under Schedule A, 5 C.F.R. § 3102(u).*fn1 (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 8, 10; see also Compl. Ex. B.) The letter stated, "it is understood that upon completion of two years of satisfactory service, this individual may be converted to competitive service." (Compl. Ex. B.) On September 17, 2003, after interviewing for the position, Plaintiff was hired as a probationary employee. (Compl. ¶ 8.)

After beginning his employment at the SSA, Plaintiff had difficulty understanding the SSA's rules and regulations and was unable to complete his work in a satisfactory manner. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff requested a tutor to assist him with his work at SSA for the remainder of the two-year probationary period. The request was denied. (Id. ¶ 16.) On or about August 23, 2004, Plaintiff was informed by his supervisor that he was being released from his position at the SSA before his two-year probationary period ended. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 18.) Plaintiff asked his supervisor if there was another available, less challenging, position at the SSA, and he was informed that there was not. (Id. ¶ 19.)

Plaintiff is an African-American male. Plaintiff alleges that a co-worker at the SSA, a Caucasian employee without a disability, experienced similar difficulties understanding SSA's rules and regulations and managing his work. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff asserts that the Caucasian employee also requested an easier position within the SSA and was provided with such a position. (Id. ¶ 19-2.)*fn2

Shortly after this occurred Plaintiff contacted the SSA's Equal Employment Opportunity Officer ("EEO") and initiated an investigation. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel in the administrative proceedings that followed. Plaintiff alleges that his attorney for the administrative proceedings did not conduct discovery or prepare for trial. Plaintiff alleges that his attorney convinced him that he had "no chance of winning." (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) Consequently, On July 6, 2006, Plaintiff entered into a settlement agreement with the SSA before an administrative hearing was held. (Id.) Some time thereafter, in contravention of the regulations, Plaintiff filed an appeal with the EEOC.*fn3 The appeal alleged that Plaintiff's settlement agreement with the SSA was void because it was entered into under duress caused by a tardy court reporter on the day of his scheduled hearing. Plaintiff alleged that the fact that the court reporter was late caused him to be anxious which adversely affected his decision-making ability.

Plaintiff also alleged that the SSA's changing of his healthcare provider from Blue Cross Blue Shield to Keystone Healthcare was a breach of the agreement. (Id. ¶ 41; see also Compl. Ex. K.) Notwithstanding Plaintiff's failure to comply with the regulations, on March 10, 2009, the EEOC filed a decision rejecting Plaintiff's claims. (Compl. ¶ 41.) The Commission found that Plaintiff's settlement agreement was not signed under duress, that SSA had not breached the settlement agreement, that Plaintiff was represented by counsel throughout the proceedings, and that Plaintiff and his attorney reviewed, understood and accepted the settlement agreement. (Id.) Plaintiff's Complaint includes an appeal from the EEOC Decision. (Id. ¶ 41.)

Plaintiff's Complaint mentions seemingly unrelated judicial proceedings against the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. (Id. ¶¶ 27-32; see also Compl. Ex. O.) Plaintiff contends that these past actions are related to his current claims because the SSA's "sole intent [in hiring the Plaintiff] was to nullify the events, actions, and misdeeds of the School District of Philadelphia by using OVR to bring Plaintiff into the 'Agency.'"*fn4 (Id. ¶ 36.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court set forth a two-part analysis that district courts must conduct when reviewing a complaint challenged under Rule 12(b)(6). See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (describing Iqbal'stwo-step inquiry). The district court must first separate "the factual and legal elements of a claim," accepting all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true but rejecting legal conclusions. Id. at 210 (citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949); see also Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.at 1949-50 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice [to state a claim]."). The district court must then "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the Plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief.'" Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). A complaint that merely alleges entitlement to relief, without alleging facts that show entitlement, must be dismissed. Id. By contrast, a complaint that demonstrates entitlement to relief through well-pleaded facts will survive a motion to dismiss. See id. To survive a motion to dismiss, the well- pleaded facts must "allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged"; "a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully" does not suffice. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Given the nature of the two-part analysis, "'[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" See McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 530 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950).

III. ANALYSIS

Governor Rendell, the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation ("State Defendants") and the Federal Defendants argue that the Complaint should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Fed. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 21; State Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 20.) In his Responses, Plaintiff argues that he did in fact exhaust his administrative remedies through the EEOC, and he ...


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