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Divya Gupta v. First Judicial District of Pa.

December 23, 2010

DIVYA GUPTA
v.
FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF PA.



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

MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO DISMISS OR ALTERNATIVELY FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Divya Gupta, brings this employment discrimination action against the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania ("Defendant") for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a) ("Title VII"). Currently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss And/Or For Summary Judgment As To Plaintiff's Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and 56. (ECF No. 5). For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED with respect to dismissal pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), and is GRANTED with respect to summary judgment.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff, a 28-year-old female, alleges that on or about February 24, 2009, she applied for employment as a law clerk for the Honorable Ann M. Butchart ("Judge Butchart") of the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, and was invited to interview the following day. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 10. At the interview, Judge Butchart's former law clerk, Albertine DuFrayne ("DuFrayne"), explained the duties of the position and told Plaintiff that the job was "very flexible." Compl. ¶ 11. Judge Butchart inquired about Plaintiff's relevant work experience. Compl. ¶ 12. Judge Butchart explained the clerk's duties, which included legal research, writing judicial opinions, occasionally assisting Judge Butchart in court, and occasionally answering phone calls for Judge Butchart. Compl. ¶ 13. On or about February 26, 2009, Dufrayne contacted Plaintiff and offered her the clerkship. Compl. ¶ 14. Plaintiff accepted the job offer and began work on March 3, 2009. Compl. ¶ 14.

Two days after starting work, on or about March 5, 2009, Plaintiff disclosed to Judge Butchart that she was pregnant. Compl. ¶¶ 14-15. Plaintiff alleges that Judge Butchart stated that a former law clerk took medical leave due to pregnancy complications, that she did not have "good luck with this," and that she "should only hire lesbians or men." Compl. ¶ 15. Plaintiff alleges that she responded that her pregnancy would not interfere with her job and that her maternity leave would be brief. Compl. ¶ 16. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's Human Resources representative informed Plaintiff of her right to use sick days, paid vacation, flex time, and unpaid leave for her maternity leave. Compl. ¶ 17. Plaintiff alleges that on March 26, 2009, in a meeting at which Defendant's Employment and Labor Relations Counsel was present, Judge Butchart terminated Plaintiff's employment, giving her a termination letter that said Judge Butchart told Plaintiff at her interview that the new clerk would assume the secretary's duties from August to November 2009, during the secretary's scheduled maternity leave, and that Plaintiff agreed to assume both positions. Compl. ¶ 18. Plaintiff alleges that she was neither told that she was expected to assume the secretary's role prior to receiving this letter nor trained to perform the secretary's duties. Compl. ¶ 19. Plaintiff alleges that Judge Butchart replaced her by hiring a non-pregnant individual. Compl. ¶ 20.

Plaintiff pursued her administrative remedies, received a right to sue notice, and timely filed this action. Compl. ¶ 4. Plaintiff alleges that her employment was terminated solely because of her sex/pregnancy. Compl. ¶ 21. Plaintiff seeks compensation for lost wages and benefits, front pay, compensatory damages for future pecuniary losses, pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, pre- and post-judgment interest, costs, attorney fees, and expert witness fees. Compl. ¶ 26.

Defendant filed its motion to dismiss the complaint, or alternatively for summary judgment, on September 27, 2010. Plaintiff responded and filed an accompanying affidavit on October 8, 2010 (ECF No. 7), and Defendant replied on October 15, 2010 (ECF No. 8). The Court held oral argument on the motion on December 16, 2010.

III. The Parties' Contentions

Defendant's prime contention is that Plaintiff is not protected under Title VII because, as a law clerk to an elected judge, she met the "personal staff" exemption to the definition of an "employee." Def.'s Mot. Dismiss 2. Plaintiff refutes the "personal staff" categorization with an affidavit regarding conditions of her employment, including: her paychecks were not signed by Judge Butchart; her employee identification card was issued by the City of Philadelphia; she was subject to the Defendant's personnel policies; she was instructed by Judge Butchart to discuss her maternity leave options with the Human Resources Department for the Defendant; she did not represent Judge Butchart in the eyes of the public, at public meetings, or in open court; she did not participate in negotiations or conferences; she did not hold a position high within the chain of command; and she did not have supervisory authority. Affidavit of Divya Gupta ("Gupta Aff.") ¶¶ 2-7, Oct. 8, 2010. Furthermore, Plaintiff asserts that she "did not have an intimate working relationship with Judge Butchart," met with Judge Butchart infrequently, and did not draft any judicial opinions. Gupta Aff. at ¶ 8.

IV. Standards of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1))

When evaluating whether a federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over a cause of action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of persuading the Court that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991). In determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, "the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case." Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). Moreover, "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims." Id.

B. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6))

When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court may look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). The motion will be granted only when it is certain that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that plaintiff could prove. Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988). A valid complaint requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). To state a valid complaint, a plaintiff must provide sufficient factual allegations to "satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only 'fair notice,' but also the 'grounds' on which the claim rests." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007)). Accordingly, to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "factual content [that] allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 ...


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