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Dr. Subrina Taylor v. Harrisburg Area Community College

May 23, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo


Before the court is Defendant Harrisburg Area Community College's ("HACC") partial motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 17.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

I. Background

a. Facts

Plaintiff, Subrina Taylor, was an employee of Defendant HACC from July 1993 to June 2007. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 5.) Taylor was originally hired as a counselor/coordinator of special needs students and moved up to the position of Dean of Enrollment Services before her resignation in 2007.*fn1 (Id. ¶¶ 6, 11.) Between 1993 and 2004, "Taylor's performance appraisals indicated no issues regarding Taylor's attendance, work performance, work ethic, reliability and leadership ability." (Id. ¶ 12.)

In March 2005, Plaintiff approached her then supervisor, Alterman "Chip" Jackson, with a complaint about a co-worker that Plaintiff believed sabotaged a presentation Plaintiff had given at a work-related conference. (Id. ¶ 14.) According to the complaint, Jackson told Plaintiff "she 'had better be careful about making serious allegations such as this . . . .' " (Id. ¶ 15.) Subsequently, in April 2005, Jackson marked "needs improvement" on Plaintiff's performance appraisal, although Jackson never raised any concerns to Plaintiff during the evaluation process. (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff disagreed with the appraisal and voiced her concerns to the human resources department requesting she be re-appraised. (Id. ¶¶ 18,19.)

The complaint alleges that in March 2006, Jackson resigned after allegations that he engaged in an extra-marital affair with the same co-worker Plaintiff claims sabotaged her presentation. (Id. ¶ 20.) In August 2006, Plaintiff was reappraised by a Mr. Young. (Id. ¶ 21.) Young did not score Plaintiff below "meets expectations" in any category in this assessment. (See Doc. 3, Pl.'s Ex. F, at 46 of 100.) Following Jackson's resignation in 2006, Plaintiff applied for the position of vice president at HACC. (Compl. ¶ 24.) Plaintiff's application was denied, and this denial prompted her to file her initial charge with the EEOC ("2006 EEOC charge"). (Id. ¶ 25.) HACC, when responding to the EEOC investigation into the 2006 EEOC charge stated the following reasons for declining to extend Plaintiff an on-campus interview: "(1) Dr. Taylor applied for the vice president position in 2006, and then abandoned her employment without notice, (2) Dr. Taylor's lack of follow through on many projects and assignments and there were some shortfalls on grant reporting, (3) problems with Dr. Taylor's attendance and level of dependability."*fn2 (Id. ¶ 33) (citing Ex. M.)

In September 2009, while the investigation into the 2006 EEOC charge was still underway but after Taylor had resigned, Taylor again applied for the job of vice president at HACC. (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff contacted HACC's human resources department and requested that her account password be reset so she could gain access to the application for vice president of student services. (Id. ¶ 38.) HACC reset Plaintiff's password and she updated the application she had previously submitted for the vice president position in 2006, and was granted a phone interview. (Id. ¶ 38.) However, HACC declined to offer her an on-campus interview. (Id. ¶¶ 28, 30.) HACC later claimed Plaintiff "never would have been selected for the vice president's position due to 'the unprofessional manner' that [she] exited her position in 2007." (Id. ¶ 39.) In an email dated December 9, 2009, human resource director Meredith Tulli informed the chair of the hiring search committee that "Taylor was a previous employee and is not approved for an on-campus interview because of past employee relation issues." (Id. ¶ 31) (internal punctuation omitted).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant eventually hired a less experienced, Caucasian male to fill the position. (Id. ¶ 50.) Based on HACC's decision to not consider Plaintiff for the vice president position, Plaintiff filed another charge with the EEOC for both discrimination and retaliation in May 2011. (Id. ¶ 44.) Plaintiff claims that HACC retaliated against her in 2009 because she had previously filed an EEOC complaint in 2006. (Id. ¶ 47.) On October 31, 2011, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a right-to-sue letter in connection with her 2011 complaint. (Id.) Plaintiff further claims that on January 31, 2011, the EEOC issued a determination letter related to her 2006 complaint which "indicated there is cause to believe a Title VII violation occurred." (Id. ¶ 48.)

b. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this pro se complaint on January 30, 2012. (Doc. 1.) On March 21, 2012, Defendant filed the instant partial motion to dismiss and supporting brief. (Docs. 17 &18.) On March 22, 2012, Plaintiff filed two "affidavits" opposing Defendant's motion. (Docs. 19 & 20.) These documents are both two pages in length and are composed of numbered paragraphs merely reiterating facts already alleged in the complaint without citing to any additional caselaw or authority. Although Plaintiff's responsive filings leave much to be desired by the court, the court will, as required construe them liberally in light of her pro se status and interpret them as briefs in opposition to the partial motion to dismiss. No reply brief has been filed by Defendant and the deadline to do so has passed. Therefore, the motion is ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard

When presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court "must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions," Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), and ultimately must determine "whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief.'" Id. at 211 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___U.S.___, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009)).

The complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief; it must "show such an entitlement with its facts." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (citations omitted). As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, "[w]here 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.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (alterations in original).) In other words, 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." Id. at 1949 ...

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