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Wendy Chan v. County of Lancaster

September 28, 2012

WENDY CHAN, PLAINTIFF
v.
COUNTY OF LANCASTER; DENNIS STUCKEY; SCOTT MARTIN; CRAIG LEHMAN;
CHARLES E. DOUTS, JR.; AND ANDREA MCCUE, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Knoll Gardner United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, which motion was filed on October 31, 2011. *fn1 For the reasons articulated in this Opinion, I grant in part and deny in part defendants' motion, and I deny plaintiff's alternative motion for leave to further amend her pleading.

SUMMARY OF DECISION

For the reasons expressed below, I grant defendants' motion and dismiss with prejudice plaintiff's section 1983 claim in Count I alleging a procedural due process violation arising from the post-termination name-clearing hearing that was scheduled, but which plaintiff declined to attend. Specifically, I grant defendants' motion and dismiss plaintiff's procedural due process claim because plaintiff has not pled facts sufficient to support a reasonable inference that the post-termination name-clearing hearing was patently inadequate or a sham.

In addition, I grant defendant's motion and dismiss with prejudice plaintiff's section 1983 conspiracy claim in Count I. Specifically, I grant defendants' motion and dismiss plaintiff's section 1983 conspiracy claim because plaintiff has alleged, in a conclusory manner, joint action among the alleged conspirators but has not averred facts sufficient to support a reasonable inference that defendants reached an agreement or a meeting of the minds concerning their alleged violations of plaintiff's rights.

However, I deny defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's disability discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, in Count III, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, in Count IV. Specifically, I deny defendants' motion concerning plaintiff's disability discrimination claims because plaintiff asserted those claims in her Complaint and her Amended Complaint, but defendants first raised objections to those claims in their motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint and not in either their two previous motions filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b).

Finally, I deny plaintiff's motion for leave to further amend her pleading. Specifically, I deny plaintiff's request because plaintiff's [Proposed] Third Amended Complaint does not provide additional factual averments concerning either the post-termination name-clearing hearing or plaintiff's section 1983 conspiracy claim. The [Proposed] Third Amended Complaint fails to remedy the claims which I dismiss by this Opinion and accompanying Order, and is thus futile.

As a result, the following claims survive defendants' motion and remain in plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint:

In Count III, plaintiff's claim against defendant County of Lancaster for disability retaliation and associational discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").

In Count IV, plaintiff's claim against all defendants for disability retaliation and associational discrimination in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA").

Additionally, the following claims were not attacked by defendants' motion and, accordingly, remain in plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint:

In Count I, plaintiff's section 1983 equal protection claim against all defendants.

In Count II, plaintiff's claims against defendant County of Lancaster for violations of Title VII based upon theories of disparate treatment, retaliation, and discrimination.

In Count III, plaintiff's claim against defendant County of Lancaster for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In Count IV, plaintiff's claims against all defendants for violations of the PHRA.

In Count V, plaintiff's claims against the individual defendants for defamation.

In Count VI, plaintiff's claims against the individual defendants for false light/invasion of privacy.

JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction in this case is based upon federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's pendent state-law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

VENUE

Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because the events giving rise to plaintiff's claims allegedly occurred in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is located within this judicial district.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff initiated this action on July 13, 2010 by filing a six-count Complaint against defendants. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on November 16, 2010. Pursuant to a stipulation approved by my Order dated January 12, 2011, plaintiff filed a six-count Amended Complaint on February 7, 2011.

Amended Complaint

Plaintiff's claims in each iteration of her pleading arise from actions allegedly taken by defendants in the context of plaintiff's employment as Director of Human Resources for the County of Lancaster, and concern the circumstances of plaintiff's suspension without pay and eventual termination from her position as Director of Human Resources for Lancaster County.

Count I of the Amended Complaint alleged various deprivations of plaintiff's federal constitutional rights by all defendants in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Count I alleged claims for deprivation of procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; claims for politically motivated wrongful termination and retaliation in violation of the First Amendment; and a claim of conspiracy to violate plaintiff's federal constitutional rights to procedural due process and equal protection of law.

Count II of the Amended Complaint alleged a claim against defendant County of Lancaster for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e)-2000(e)-17.

Count III of the Amended Complaint alleged a claim against defendant County of Lancaster for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213.

Count IV of the Amended Complaint alleged a claim against all defendants for violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, Act of October 27, 1955, P.L. 744, No. 222, §§ 1-13, as amended, 43 P.S. §§ 951-963.

Count V of the Amended Complaint alleged a Pennsylvania state-law claim against defendants Stuckey, Martin, Lehman, Douts, and McCue ("the individual defendants") for defamation.

Finally, Count VI of the Amended Complaint alleged a Pennsylvania state-law claim against the individual defendants for false light invasion of privacy.

September 23, 2011 Order and Opinion On February 24, 2011 defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

By Order and accompanying Opinion dated September 23, 2011 and filed September 26, 2011 ("September 23, 2011 Opinion"), I granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint.

Specifically, I granted defendants' motion to dismiss the claims in Count I against all defendants for violation of procedural due process arising from deprivation of a constitutionally protected property interest, and dismissed this claim with prejudice.

Next, I granted defendants' motion to dismiss the claims in Count I against all defendants for violation of procedural due process arising from deprivation of a liberty interest in reputation, for First Amendment retaliation, and for conspiracy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, without prejudice for plaintiff to file a second amended complaint. *fn2

In addition, I granted defendants' motion to dismiss the claim in Count II against defendant County of Lancaster for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") based upon a hostile work environment, without prejudice for plaintiff to file a second amended complaint.

Finally, I granted defendants' motion to dismiss the claims in Count IV against all defendants for violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") based upon a hostile work environment, without prejudice. In all other respects defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's Amended Complaint was denied.

Second Amended Complaint

On October 17, 2011 plaintiff filed a six-count Second Amended Complaint.

On October 31, 2011 defendants' filed their within motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, together with their brief in support.

On November 17, 2011 Ms. Chan filed her reponse and memorandum opposing defendant's motion to dismiss and attached her [Proposed] Third Amended Complaint in support of her alternative motion for leave to further amend her pleading.

On November 29, 2011 defendants then filed their response in opposition to plaintiff's alternative request for leave to further amend her pleading. Hence this opinion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A claim may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires the court to examine the sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80, 84 (1957) (abrogated in other respects by Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

Generally, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record, including other judicial proceedings. Sands ...


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