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Laura Leibert v. Philadelphia Housing Authority

March 14, 2011

LAURA LEIBERT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Laura Leibert has sued the Philadelphia Housing Authority ("PHA") and three PHA officials: Carl Greene, Linda Staley, and Malvin Reyes. Leibert alleges violations of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights over a three-year period, stemming from Greene's sexual harassment and Defendants' retaliation against her for reporting it. Leibert brings her claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Currently before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motions.

I. BACKGROUND

Leibert began working as a technical aide for PHA in April 2005. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27.) In this role, she was supervised by Staley, PHA's executive general manager. Leibert's duties included providing job training and educational programs to PHA residents. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 30.) In July of 2005, Leibert was introduced to Greene, who served as PHA's executive director. (Id. ¶ 7, 29.) In August of 2005, Leibert encountered Greene at a PHA event while she was working handing out brochures. (Id. ¶31.) Greene pulled her aside and "ordered her to eat lunch with him at his table, along with other PHA high ranking officials." (Id.) In December of 2005, at the PHA Christmas party, Greene "forced plaintiff and three other PHA female employees to sit in defendant Greene's secluded, guarded, 'VIP' room during the party." (Id. ¶32.) At the same party, Greene pulled Leibert aside to tour the music production booth and asked her personal questions. (Id.) Greene then "demanded" that Leibert go out to a bar with him after the party. He also asked for and memorized Leibert's cell phone number. (Id.) Approximately thirty minutes after Leibert left the party, Greene called her and informed her that she was to call him "Carl" in private and "Mr. Greene" in front of others. (Id. ¶ 34.) During the conversation, Greene asked Leibert about her boyfriend and informed her that she needed "an older man, with money and power who travels the world." (Id.) Greene "ended the call by continuing to insist that plaintiff go out to dinner with him sometime soon." (Id.)

In February of 2006, Leibert was promoted to project management coordinator. (Id. ¶ 36.) Her new duties included managing a PHA home ownership program and assisting with home sales. (Id.) Reyes, PHA's supervisory asset manager, became Leibert's supervisor. (Id. ¶ 37.) In March of 2006, Leibert again encountered Greene at work, where they discussed Leibert's attendance of law school. (Id. ¶ 38.) Leibert informed Greene that she had applied to Temple Law School, and Greene offered to write her a recommendation. (Id. ¶ 38-39.) Green ended the conversation "by insisting that plaintiff go to dinner with him." He also mentioned that Leibert would soon be living closer to him and that should make it easier for them to "get together after work." (¶ 39.) Leibert responded that she was very busy and in a committed relationship. (Id. ¶ 40.)

In June of 2006, Leibert attended a work-related event, where Greene approached her and told her that "he spoke with Temple Law School's dean and there was nothing he could do for her admission to law school." (Id. ¶ 42.) At the event, Greene "forced plaintiff to be his dance partner in the salsa dancing lesson room, after repeatedly telling him she was not comfortable and did not dance." (Id. ¶ 43.) Greene told her that she was "very shy," and that he "felt the need to pull [her] out of [her] shell." (Id.) Greene insisted that Leibert go to a bar with him after the event, but she declined. (Id.) At some other point during 2006, Leibert attended a mandatory PHA training session conducted by Greene, where he "tried to publicly humiliate plaintiff by repeatedly asking her unreasonable questions that were impossible to answer." (Id. ¶45.). In December of 2006, Leibert did not attend the PHA Christmas party for fear of encountering Greene. (Id. ¶ 46.)

In October of 2007, Leibert was relocated to another PHA office in West Philadelphia. (Id. ¶ 53.) This new location was less desirable because unlike her previous office on Broad Street, it lacked adequate security to handle "unruly clients." (Id. ¶ 54.) As a result, Leibert feared for her safety. (Id.) Leibert raised her concerns with Staley and Reyes, but they were unresponsive. (Id. ¶ 55.).

In November of 2007, Leibert was "coerced" into joining the Pennsylvania Institute of Affordable Housing Professionals ("PIAHP"), a non-profit organization established to lobby for federal funding. (Id. ¶ 47.) After joining, Leibert refused to attend any PIAHP events that required interactions with Greene, because she "avoided Greene as much as possible with a constant fear that doing so would cost her job." (Id. ¶ 48.) When Leibert failed to attend several PIAHP events, she received calls from Reyes and Staley informing her that she was required to attend the events because "Carl Greene was looking for her and these trips were not optional." (Id. ¶49.) Leibert informed Reyes that she refused to attend any of the events because she "feared Greene and his advances." (Id. ¶50.)

In December of 2007, Leibert did not attend the PHA Christmas party for fear of encountering Greene. (Id.¶ 56.) In September of 2008, Leibert was transferred back to PHA's Broad Street location. (Id. ¶ 57.) That same month, Leibert encountered Greene, who noticed that Leibert was pregnant. (Id. ¶ 58.) Greene "looked at her stomach and looked at her face and asked in a mean tone, 'when's the wedding?'" He also asked if she was "happy with the situation." When Leibert responded that she was, "Greene again in a mean tone said 'good luck with that.'" (Id.) On October 17, 2008, Leibert resigned because of fear of retaliation and the hostile work environment created by Greene and the other defendants. (Id. ¶ 58.) Leibert characterizes her resignation as a constructive discharge. (Id. ¶ 1.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandate dismissal of complaints which fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Court accepts "as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom," viewing them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008); Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

This Court applies a two-part analysis to determine whether claims survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the Court must separate the factual and legal elements of the claim, accepting well-pleaded facts as true, but disregarding legal conclusions. Id. Second, the Court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 211 (citing Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234-35). If the well-pleaded facts "do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct," the complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Jones v. ABN Amro Mortg. Grp., 606 F.3d 119, 123 (3d Cir. 2010).

Courts look to the complaint and attached exhibits in ruling on a motion to dismiss. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2008); Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The Court need not, however, consider facts or legal theories alleged for the first time in a plaintiff's opposition brief. See Mulholland v. Classic Mgmt. Inc., Civ. A. No. 09-2525, 2010 WL 2470834, at *6 n.7 (E.D. ...


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