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Frances Hill v. Borough of Pottstown

September 28, 2012


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



Plaintiff Frances Hill brings the above-captioned action against her former employer, Defendant Borough of Pottstown, for various alleged acts of racial and gender discrimination. Defendant has moved to dismiss on the bases of failure to state a claim and timeliness. For the reasons discussed hereinbelow, said Motion shall be granted.


Plaintiff is an African-American female who began her employment with Defendant as a full time custodian in 1996. (Pl. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8-9). The only African American female in her department, Plaintiff maintained a satisfactory job performance during her employment. (Id. at ¶ 10). Plaintiff alleges that on December 8, 2008, she applied and interviewed for the position of Property Maintenance Worker. (Id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff further alleges that although she was qualified for the position, it was given to a Caucasian male named "Dave," from a different department, who was less qualified and had less seniority than Hill. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-14.) In response to being denied the position, Plaintiff attempted to exercise her "bumping" rights over Dave (a privilege sometimes awarded to employees with seniority), but was denied the opportunity to do so. (Id. at ¶ 15). On December 31, 2008, Plaintiff was informed by her manager, Raymond Lopez, that she was being laid off because Defendant was hiring a private contractor to do the work that Plaintiff had been hired to do. (Id. at ¶ 12).

On June 18, 2009, Plaintiff dual-filed her Complaint of race and gender discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC"). (Id. at ¶ 16; Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A). On September 18, 2009, Plaintiff submitted a request to Defendant's Human Resources Coordinator, Sandi Chieffo, to exercise her right to "bump" less senior employees in the Machine Operator position at Defendant's Water Plant. (Pl. Am. Compl. ¶ 17). Plaintiff's request was again denied, despite her contention that she was qualified for the position and less senior Caucasian male employees were able to exercise their bumping rights to return to work. (Id. at ¶ 19). Plaintiff alleges that while Defendant has returned less senior male and Caucasian employees to work since September 18, 2009, she has not been contacted regarding her date to return to work. (Id. at ¶ 18).

On November 19, 2009, Plaintiff dual-filed a second charge against Defendant with the PHRC and EEOC, alleging gender discrimination for Defendant's failure to allow her to exercise her "bumping rights" on Sept. 18, 2009. (Pl. Resp. & Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ¶ 20); (Def. Ex. A).


As a preliminary matter, Plaintiff argues that since Defendant's Motion relies upon extraneous factual allegations and material outside of the allegations contained within the Amended Complaint, the court should either disregard these extraneous factual allegations, or regard Defendant's Motion as one for summary judgment. (Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, 6). However, this Court may consider "an undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the document." Foust v. FMC Corp., 962 F. Supp. 650, 651 (E.D. Pa. 1997) (quoting Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). In that same vein, "where [a] plaintiff has actual notice of all the information in the movant's papers and has relied upon these documents in framing the complaint, the necessity of translating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one under Rule 56 is largely dissipated." Rajis v. Brown, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12319, at *10-11 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 13, 1997) (citing Cortec Indus. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 48 (2d Cir. 1991)). Upon assessment of the content and nature of the filings in this particular case, Defendant's Motion shall be treated as one for dismissal and not summary judgment.*fn1

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 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). After the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (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 of the alleged misconduct." Id. (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." Id.; 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."). Moreover, "[t]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant with the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8 [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure]." Villegas v. Weinstein & Riley, P.S., 723 F. Supp. 2d 755, 756 (M.D. Pa. 2010) (quoting Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232).*fn2


a. Counts I and IV

Reaching the merits of the instant motion, this Court first addresses Defendant's request to dismiss portions of Counts I and IV of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, which allege racial and gender discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-1, et seq. and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa.C.S.A. § 951 et seq. ("PHRA"), respectively. Specifically, Defendant argues that the Title VII claims related to the December 31, 2008 lay-off incident must be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to sue the proper defendant within ninety days of receiving her Right to Sue Letter. (Mem. Supp. Def's. Mot. to Dismiss 10). However, this argument is rendered moot by this Court's Order dated July 6, 2011, which allowed Plaintiff's April 25, 2011 Amended Complaint (correcting the caption), to relate back to her January 3, 2011 Complaint. (Doc. No. 14). Accordingly, the Title VII claims related to December 31, 2008 are not time-barred on this basis.

Defendant further argues that any claims for race discrimination relative to Defendant's failure to hire Plaintiff for the position of Machine Operator #2 at Defendant's water plant in September of 2009, must be dismissed under Title VII and the PHRA for failure to file a timely action with the PHRC or EEOC, and failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Id. at 6-7). In particular, Defendant contends that because Plaintiff has not demonstrated that she ever received a Right to Sue letter from the EEOC ...

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