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Marcy Lusher v. Franklin Area School District

February 23, 2012

MARCY LUSHER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FRANKLIN AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly

[ECF No. 27]

OPINION AND ORDER

KELLY, Magistrate Judge

Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) filed by Defendant Franklin Area School District ("Defendant" or the "District"). [ECF No. 27]. Plaintiff Marcy Lusher ("Plaintiff" or "Lusher") filed her Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 951, claiming she has been subjected to gender discrimination and a hostile work environment (Counts I and III) and suffered retaliation for filing grievances due to gender-based disparate treatment (Counts II and IV). [ECF No. 25]. Defendant seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's claims on the basis that Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to render her claims plausible. For the reasons discussed herein, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Because this matter comes to the Court on a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss, the factual allegations set forth in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint are accepted as true. Hemi Group, LLC v. City of NY, ___ U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 983, 986-87 (2010) (citing Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993)). The pertinent facts follow.

Plaintiff is a female who has been employed as a teacher by Defendant Franklin Area School District since 1997. [ECF No. 25 ¶ 6, 8]. From the time of her hiring until the fall of 2008, Plaintiff received unwanted attention from male teachers in her assigned building, but did not report the incidents as she did not feel threatened or intimidated. [ECF No. 25, ¶ 9] In the fall of 2008, Plaintiff was engaged to marry a male teacher in her building and soon after began to suffer harassment which Plaintiff attributes to her gender. [ECF No. 25, ¶ 10]. In particular, Plaintiff alleges that in fall 2008, male colleagues began to leer and stare at her, stomping their feet and grunting as she passed them in the hallway. Plaintiff was berated and ridiculed in front of students, and her relationship with her fiance was openly discussed in the school hallway by male colleagues until his untimely death in March of 2009. Plaintiff was not permitted bereavement leave in conjunction with the death of her fiance and was subsequently singled out for reprimand for purported violations of rules that were not routinely enforced as to other teachers. During a meeting with Plaintiff, Plaintiff's union representative and District officials, the District superintendent indicated that Plaintiff was being harassed because of her appearance as he pointed to a picture of Plaintiff in the school yearbook. [ECF No. 25, ¶¶ 10 a-f].

Beginning in the fall of 2008, Plaintiff complained to her building principal about the harassment she was receiving. [ECF No. 25, ¶ 17]. Following her complaints, she was reprimanded about leave usage, classroom management for permitting students to eat lunch in her classroom, and professionalism with regard to her handling of an incident when a student placed tape on her pants. Plaintiff's leave and lunchtime procedures were in line with other teachers and while her principal informed her that she was one of his best teachers, he stated that he "didn't need her 'drama.'" [ECF No. 25, ¶¶ 10 g-h, 19 b-l]. In addition, following the filing of an administrative complaint of discrimination, Plaintiff was issued a substandard performance evaluation. When Plaintiff asked her principal why her evaluation had changed from prior years, "she was told that there had to be something to reflect what she had done." [ECF No. 25, ¶ 19 j].

In her complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and cross-filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), Plaintiff complained that she was subjected to unlawful gender discrimination. A Right to Sue letter was issued by the EEOC on January 25, 2010, and by the PHRC on March 8, 2010. [ECF No. 25-1, 25-2]. Plaintiff filed her initial complaint with this Court on April 15, 2010, and subsequent to the filing of a Motion to Dismiss by Defendant, Plaintiff was granted leave to file two successive amended complaints to reflect additional gender and retaliation claims filed with the EEOC and PHRC. [ECF No. 19 and Text Orders dated March 10, 2011 and May 25, 2011]. Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint and Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss and a brief in support thereof. [ECF Nos. 30, 31]. As briefing has concluded, the motion is ripe for disposition.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court must "'accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, Plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 3008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)).

To survive a motion to dismiss, "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, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 302, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) and FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2) (providing that a valid complaint requires only "a short and plain statement" of the claim showing entitlement to relief). The United States Supreme Court in Iqbal clarified that the decision in Twombly "expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1953; Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11. The Court further explained that although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that requirement does not apply to legal conclusions; therefore, the pleadings must include factual allegations to support the legal claims asserted. Iqbal 129 S. Ct. at 1949, 1953. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210; and Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008).

The determination of whether a complainant has sufficiently pled a claim "is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at1950 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11 (holding that in light of Iqbal, a district court should first separate the factual and legal elements of a claim and then, accepting the "well-pleaded facts as true," "determine whether the facts" pled are "sufficient to show a 'plausible claims for relief.'"). Ultimately, to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "factual content that ...


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