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Monique Cave v. John E. Potter

September 8, 2011

MONIQUE CAVE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, DEFENDANT.



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

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (Doc. No. 13). Plaintiff Monique Cave brought this action under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq ("the Act"), alleging that the United States Postal Service ("USPS" or "Postal Service") violated the Act when it denied her a particular job she sought after being evaluated by a Postal Service physician. The evaluation found that she was not medically qualified for the job assignment she desired. Based on this evaluation, which Plaintiff claims was erroneous, she asserts that the Postal Service perceived her as disabled and discriminated against her while having this misconception. For reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Plaintiff's Employment With USPS Plaintiff is an African American female who is employed by the Postal Service. (Doc. No. 12 ¶ 1.) She has worked for the USPS since May 22, 1993. (Id.) From 1993 until August 14, 2006, Plaintiff worked as a Mail Processing Clerk at the 30th Street postal facility located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 12 ¶ 2.) On June 9, 2006, Plaintiff received a letter from USPS management informing her that the 30th Street facility was transitioning work to a new facility located at Lindbergh Boulevard in Philadelphia. (Doc. No. 12 ¶ 3; Doc. No. 12, Ex. A.) The letter informed Plaintiff that her current assignment was being abolished, and encouraged her to bid on posted vacancies. (Doc. No. 12 ¶¶ 3--4.) Between June 12, 2006 and June 19, 2006, she bid on several vacancies on the USPS electronic bid-site, including Mail Handler and Maintenance Worker. (Id. ¶ 5.)

On June 16, 2006, Plaintiff underwent a medical examination by Dr. Wayne Hentschel, D.O., a postal medical officer, for the purposes of assessing whether she was capable of performing the job of Mail Handler. (Id. ¶ 6.) Dr. Hentschel concluded that Plaintiff was a "high risk candidate not medically qualified to perform the essential functions . . . of mail handler." (Id. ¶ 7; see also Doc. No. 12, Ex. D at 6.) Ilka Bates, USPS Manager, then informed Plaintiff that her bid for the position of Mail Handler was denied based on Dr. Hentschel's evaluation. (Doc. No. 12 ¶ 10.)

On August 11, 2006, Plaintiff had a physical examination performed by her own physician, Raymond Coleman, M.D. (Id. ¶ 12.) Dr. Coleman found that she had no significant physical restrictions and was capable of working up to eight hours with normal breaks, and capable of lifting "up to 50 pounds." (Id. at Ex. E.)

According to Plaintiff, from August 16, 2006 to October 14, 2006, she was directed to work at the Lindenbergh facility as a Mail Handler, although she was not officially assigned to this position. Plaintiff avers that she was promoted to Mail Handler, was given a Mail Handler identification badge, and performed the job duties and tasks of a Mail Handler. (Doc. No. 12 ¶¶ 16--17.)

On September 6, 2006, while performing work of a Mail Handler, Defendant informed Plaintiff by letter that she was to report to the Philadelphia Bulk Mail Center ("BMC") to commence training as a Maintenance Worker. (Id. at Ex. F.) This transfer was never completed because Plaintiff was unsuccessful in passing the required entrance exam (Test 916) for the Maintenance Worker position. (Id. ¶¶ 18--19.) On October 12, 2006, Plaintiff was directed to report to the retail Post Office facility located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 20.) According to Plaintiff, she performed Mail Handler duties there because she "was not yet trained for the retail position." (Id. ¶ 20.) On December 19, 2006, Defendant informed Plaintiff by letter that she was to report to the Carrier Annex in King of Prussia for a new assignment. (Doc. No. 12 ¶ 23.)

On or about January 7, 2007, Plaintiff received a letter from Postmaster Jefferey Schoch advising her to request a reassignment to the Custodial Craft and in the event Plaintiff failed to do so, or if Plaintiff failed the entrance exam, "action would be taken to remove her from the Postal Service." (Id. ¶ 25; Doc. No. 12, Ex. I.) On or about January 20, 2007, Plaintiff was notified that she had passed the entrance test, and she began working in the Custodial Craft at the BMC. (Doc. No. 12 ¶ 28.) Plaintiff claims that in every position she actually worked, she performed and completed her shift without physical limitation. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 29.) Plaintiff worked at the BMC until March 23, 2009, when she went on leave without pay.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 29.)

B. Plaintiff Pursues EEOC Action And Instant Case Back on December 5, 2006, Plaintiff first contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") to discuss, among other things, USPS management's rejection of her bid for the position of Mail Handler. (Doc. No. 15 at 10.) After her initial contact, Plaintiff filed charges against the Postal Service with the EEOC. On July 8, 2009, the EEOC Administrative Judge granted summary judgment in favor of the Postal Service, finding that the Plaintiff did not establish a prima facie case of race, sex, and age discrimination. (Doc. No. 12, Ex. A at 2.) The Judge found that she failed to identify a similarly situated employee outside of her protected group that was treated more favorably. (Id.) Regarding the disability discrimination claim, the Judge found that Plaintiff failed to establish that the Postal Service mistakenly perceived her to be substantially limited in a major life activity. (Id.)

Plaintiff was authorized by the EEOC to file a civil action against the USPS and filed her Complaint in this Court on May 27, 2010 (Doc. No. 1). On July 14, 2010, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint*fn2 (Doc. No. 4). Plaintiff initially alleged three claims: racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; gender discrimination in violation of Title VII; and discrimination by reason of a perceived disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Following a hearing, Plaintiff was granted leave to amend the Second Amended Complaint filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2). On December 10, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Third Amended Complaint, dropping race and gender-based claims*fn3 (Doc. No. 12). On December 21, 2010, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 13), and on January 10, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. No. 14).

III. LEGAL STANDARD

The motion to dismiss standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) has been examined by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). After Iqbal it is clear that "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice" to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 1949; see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Applying the principles of Iqbal and Twombly, the Third Circuit in Santiago v. Warminster Twp., No. 10-1294, 2010 WL 5071779 (3d Cir. Dec. 14, 2010), set forth a three-part analysis that a district court in this Circuit must conduct in evaluating whether allegations in a complaint survive a 12(b)(6) motion to ...


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