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Rosanna Grdinich, Civil Action v. Philadelphia Housing Authority

September 25, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jones, II, U.S.D.J.


Plaintiff Rosanna Grdinich has brought multiple claims in an Amended Complaint (Docket No. 32) against Defendants Philadelphia Housing Authority ("PHA"), Carl Greene (PHA Executive Director), Richard Zappile (Chief of PHA Police and PHA Public Safety Director); Fred Pasour (PHA Acting General Counsel), and Shelley James (PHA Chief of Staff) (together, "Defendants").*fn1 Presently before the Court are each Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Docket Nos. 34; 35; 36; 37; 38); Plaintiff's Omnibus Response (Docket No. 39); Reply Briefs filed by Defendants PHA and Zappile (Docket Nos. 46; 48); and Plaintiff's Omnibus Sur-Reply Brief (Docket No. 50). The Court held oral argument on May 9, 2011 (Tr. at Docket No. 53).

I. Legal Standard

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation and citation omitted). After the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, - U.S. -, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This standard, which applies to all civil cases, "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Accord Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-211 (3d Cir. 2009) ("All civil complaints must contain more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.") (internal quotation omitted). Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not "show[n]"-- "that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950.

II. Factual Allegations

For the purpose of deciding the instant Motions, the Court must take all alleged facts as true. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233. To be clear, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, this is required at this stage of the case to evaluate, under a specific overall standard and the frameworks of particular legal claims, whether Plaintiff has alleged facts sufficient to establish that she may eventually be entitled to redress such that any of her claim(s) should be allowed to proceed to discovery, summary judgment motion practice, and, potentially, a trial on the merits.

Plaintiff makes the following limited factual averments in the Amended Complaint.*fn2

In October 1999, PHA hired Plaintiff, a former Philadelphia Police Officer, to fill the position of PHA Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") Officer. Am. Compl. ¶ 13. In her role as EEO Officer, Ms. Grdinich's duties included administering and processing employee complaints; investigating employee complaints; interviewing complainants, witnesses and others; drafting investigative reports; and representing PHA at federal, state and administrative levels.

Id. at ¶ 14.

In January 2008, a PHA employee named Moneke Thomas brought an internal sexual harassment complaint against Carl Greene. Id. at ¶ 15. Ms. Thomas subsequently filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Id. at ¶ 18. Plaintiff was not informed of these complaints; instead, they were handled by Fred Pasour, Mr. Greene, and outside counsel. Id. at ¶ 16; 17; 19; 20. The complaints were settled for a monetary sum without publicity. Id. at ¶ 21; 25.*fn3

In late 2008, Plaintiff received three anonymous calls from individuals complaining about Mr. Greene's purported harassment of Ms. Thomas. Id. at ¶ 26. Soon thereafter, Mr. Greene "stopped Plaintiff in a hallway at PHA and inquired as to EEOC complaints she was working on." Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiff responded that she had received three anonymous calls regarding Mr. Greene's purported harassment of Ms. Thomas.*fn4 Id. at ¶ 28. Subsequently, Mr. Pasour and Shelley James informed Plaintiff that "she was no longer the EEO Officer," and that Pasour was taking over Plaintiff's EEO duties. Id. at ¶ 29. Mr. Pasour took control of certain EEO files, some of which Plaintiff alleges subsequently went missing. Id. at ¶ 30-31.

Plaintiff was then assigned to be a Special Investigator under supervisor Richard Zappile.*fn5 Id. at ¶ 32. Plaintiff was required to be present during PHA evictions, but "was not allowed to carry a gun or bullet proof vest that uniformed PHA police officers wore."*fn6 Id. Plaintiff stated to Mr. Pasour that she did not want to work with Mr. Zappile because she had heard complaints that Mr. Zappile had made "inappropriate comments" to female employees. Id. at ¶ 33. Mr. Pasour declined to discuss the matter with Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Zappile refused to speak to her and cautioned other employees to not speak with or trust her. Id. at ¶ 34.

In February 2009, Plaintiff took medical leave for "stress related injuries." Id. at ¶ 35. PHA disapproved her leave and ordered her to return to work or risk termination. Id. at ¶ 36.

Plaintiff's salary was reduced by 25 percent. Id. at ¶ 37. In May 2009, Plaintiff was assigned to be a Section Eight Investigator. Id. at ¶ 38. In June 2009, Plaintiff was assigned to the PHA Summer Food Program. Id. at ¶ 39. In September 2009, Plaintiff was assigned to be Compliance Officer for Quality Assurance. Id. at ¶ ...

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