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Elena Monaco; Jean Rowan; Susan Barford v. Jim Thorpe Area School District

August 1, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley


Before the court for disposition is defendant's motion to dismiss Count II of plaintiffs' complaint, which alleges gender discrimination in violation of Title VII. (Doc. 5). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, we find that plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies and we will dismiss Count II of the complaint without prejudice.


Plaintiffs Elena Monaco, Jean Rowan, Susan Barford, Joann Donati and Kimberly Muenzel (collectively "plaintiffs") are teachers employed by Defendant Jim Thorpe Area School District ("defendant"). (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 12-16). Prior to their employment with defendant, each of the plaintiffs taught in private and/or parochial schools for various periods of time. (Id. ¶ 17). When they were hired by defendant, plaintiffs, who are all female, were denied a salary step placement credit for their prior experience. (Id. ¶ 18). Plaintiffs learned, however, that newly hired male teachers were granted salary step credit for their prior private and/or parochial school experience. (Id. ¶ 19). Plaintiffs assert that the unequal and discriminatory pay practices resulted in the male teachers receiving higher salaries despite similar and/or equal experience. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 23). Plaintiffs argue that they received far less earnings and benefits. (Id. ¶ 23).

Plaintiffs allege that they first became aware of the discriminatory practices in mid-April 2009. (Id. ¶ 20). They claim that the practices are ongoing and occur at each and every pay period since the plaintiffs were hired. (Id. ¶ 22). Plaintiffs also assert that the practices were willfully and maliciously done with reckless indifference to their protected rights. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 24).

Plaintiffs filed a complaint on March 29, 2012. (Doc. 1). The complaint asserts two counts: Count I, unlawful discrimination in violation of the Equal Pay Act; and Count II, Title VII gender discrimination. On May 23, 2012, defendant filed a motion to dismiss Count II of the complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 5). Defendant also filed an answer to the complaint with regards to Count I. (Doc. 7). The motion has been fully briefed, bringing the case to its present posture.


Because this case is brought pursuant to the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.").

Legal Standard

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of a complaint's allegations. Granting the motion is appropriate if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, the plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," or put another way, "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Third Circuit interprets Twombly to require the plaintiff to describe "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" each necessary element of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that "justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation." Id. at 234-35.

In relation to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the complaint need only provide "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests,'" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [cannot be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (citation omitted). "Rule 8(a)(2) requires a 'showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Id.

The issue is whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, support a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and give the pleader the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can fairly be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). However, "we are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations omitted).

To decide a motion to dismiss, a court generally should consider only the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of a claim. See In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997); Pension Benefit ...

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