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Sheila Burgess-Walls v. Brown et al

August 22, 2011


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


Plaintiff brings this action against Lieutenant Richard Brown ("Lt. Brown") of the Philadelphia Police Department and the City of Philadelphia alleging discrimination on the basis of race and gender and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") (43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq.). Currently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant defendants' motion to dismiss in part, and deny in part.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff, an African-American woman, was a Philadelphia police officer from March 3, 1986, to May 14, 2010. In 2007, Captain Seaborough ("Capt. Seaborough") became plaintiff's supervisor. On June 12, 2008, September 12, 2008, and December 10, 2008, plaintiff was "carried sick" when she actually left work two hours early and she alleges that she should therefore have "carried 'Q2' time." On December 31, 2008, plaintiff wrote a memo to Lt. Brown requesting that she be permitted to attend training, after having expressed interest in attending training to Capt. Seaborough the previous day. Lt. Brown denied plaintiff's request, replying (apparently sarcastically) that she should ask the Captain. Plaintiff alleges that it is common practice to request training from an officer other than one's direct supervisor.

On January 5, 2009, plaintiff checked her sick-time hours on the Daily Activity Report and noticed the errors from June 12, 2008, September 12, 2008, and December 10, 2008. She also recognized that there were other instances where she was carried correctly, but the other officers in her squad, Police Officers Mary Lawson, a black woman, Theresa Santamla, a black woman, and Neil Kohler, a white man, left their shifts more than two hours early but were "carried 'Q2' time" rather than being carried as sick. Plaintiff reported the allegedly different and unfair treatment to Lt. Brown, who replied that they would discuss the issue with Capt. Seaborough. Later that day, Capt. Seaborough requested a meeting with plaintiff and Lt. Brown, where plaintiff complained of different and unfair treatment and a hostile work environment created by Lt. Brown incorrectly carrying officers for sick time. She also expressed her interest in training, which she was permitted to attend.

Two days later, on January 7, 2009, plaintiff informed Lt. Brown that she would be leaving work early the next day because of a dentist appointment. Lt. Brown did not respond; instead, he walked to his office and called to plaintiff in a loud voice to follow him. Lt. Brown asked plaintiff, "What was that about?" but plaintiff did not understand what he was referring to. He stated that they must go speak with the Captain when she returns. Lt. Brown then shut the door to his office and stood between plaintiff and the door, blocking her exit. After denying plaintiff's request to be excused, Lt. Brown pushed plaintiff back by her left arm. Plaintiff reached for the door handle and Lt. Brown stepped out of the way. Plaintiff was observed by other police officers crying as she left the office.

Later that day, Capt. Seaborough requested a meeting with Lt. Brown and plaintiff to discuss the events of that day and ordered an investigation to be conducted by the Internal Affairs Bureau. Plaintiff alleges that Capt. Seabourough did not respond appropriately to the situation because she did not discipline Lt. Brown or remove either plaintiff or Lt. Brown from the squad or division; rather, she kept plaintiff under Lt. Brown's supervision. Plaintiff was later moved to "a neutral work space" on January 9, 2009, but was not provided with a computer to perform her work, although the other three members of her squad were given computers.

Approximately seven months later, on August 7, 2009, Lt. Brown assigned plaintiff "additional work responsibilities which were not her duty to perform" but did not assign the other officers additional work. That same day, Capt. Seaborough changed the work stations and reassigned plaintiff's desk to three to four feet away from Lt. Brown's office. Plaintiff complained that she was uncomfortable and afraid to work near Lt. Brown, but Capt. Seaborough stated that plaintiff must work at that desk. Plaintiff left work sick after that meeting.

Plaintiff was out of work "under a doctor's care" on sick leave from August 9 until November 2009. On August 9, while plaintiff was out of work on sick-time, Capt. Seaborough ordered plaintiff to report to the Employee Assistance Program ("EAP") or she would be carried AWOL. Plaintiff alleges that a superior officer may not order a police officer to attend EAP when out on sick leave. Plaintiff refused to attend. Then on September 26, 2009, while plaintiff was still out on sick-leave, she was ordered by Capt. Seaborough to report to a training class, which plaintiff attended.

On October 20, 2009, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, which was cross-filed with the PHRC, alleging that the City retaliated against her for opposing employment discrimination and she also named Lt. Brown in the charge.

In November 2009, plaintiff returned to work from sick leave but was demoted from the "Compstat" team to street patrol and put on a rotating shift after having worked a steady shift for ten years. On May 14, 2010, plaintiff retired from the Philadelphia Police Department.

Plaintiff filed her complaint on January 18, 2011. Defendants then filed this motion to dismiss.

II. Legal Standard

"To survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6)], 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)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the ...

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