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Annette Torres and Patrick Boyle v. City of Philadelphia

November 14, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.


Plaintiffs Annette Torres and Patrick Boyle, both police officers in the Philadelphia Police Department, bring suit against three of their supervisors, Sgt. Robert Deblasis, Lt. Anthony LaSalle, and Capt. Allen Clark. In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege retaliation in violation of the First Amendment (Count I), racial discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause (Count II), violations of Title VII (Counts IV and VI), and violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) (Counts V and VII). Plaintiffs also allege municipal liability against the City of Philadelphia (Count III). Before me now is Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss, which asks me to dismiss Counts I, III, IV, and VII.*fn1 For the reasons stated below, I will grant the motion in part and deny in part.


Torres, a Hispanic female, was hired by the Philadelphia Police Department in March of 2008. In October of 2008, she began a romantic relationship with and was soon engaged to Boyle, a white male who had been working for the Police Department since November 2003. Both Boyle and Torres worked in the 9th Police District as police officers. On or about November 2, 2010, Torres was assigned to work under Officer Dunbar, a black female whom Plaintiffs allege was known to be difficult and racist toward whites. Dunbar told Torres that she had been assigned to work for her because Torres "needed to be retrained." Dunbar told Torres that Sgt. Deblasis had made the assignment, despite the fact that he was not Torres' direct supervisor. Torres immediately confronted Deblasis and asked whether there was a problem with her training. Deblasis became "irate" and yelled at her for going home sick on one tour over a year earlier and for wearing a short-sleeved uniform to work. At least two other white males were wearing short-sleeved uniforms that day, but were not reprimanded. When Torres tried to walk away, Deblasis blocked her exit from the room and shoved papers in her face. In the amended complaint, Torres provides examples of other officers who have been disciplined in the past for blocking the egress of another officer. Am. Compl. ¶ 19.

Torres reported Deblasis' behavior to Sgt. Dennis Gallagher, her direct supervisor, and to Captain Allen Clark. Clark told her the incident would be investigated by Lt. LaSalle. Torres also complained to the internal Police EEO Unit, but was told that it was "not an EEO matter." LaSalle soon took a statement from Torres, and the investigation continued internally at the District for five weeks. After taking her statement, LaSalle issued a "counseling memo" reprimanding Torres for insubordination for complaining about her assignment to Deblasis rather than her direct supervisor.

After Torres' complaints about Deblasis' behavior, Gallagher, Clark, and Deblasis began showing up at Torres' routine traffic stops, something they had never done before. During the entire investigation, Torres and Deblasis were not separated, and Torres remained under his supervision.

In early January 2011, Deblasis' car was egged while parked at his house, and he accused Torres and Boyle of committing the act. As a result of the allegation, Clark immediately detailed Torres and Boyle to the 22nd District. Soon, two other officers admitted that they were responsible for the egging, and Torres and Boyle were reinstated at the 9th District. An internal investigation completed in May found that Deblasis' allegation against Boyle and Torres for the egging was not sustained. Deblasis was not disciplined for making false statements. Torres and Boyle filed an EECO complaint on January 31, 2011, and filed this federal lawsuit on January 17, 2012.


Defendants bring a motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452

F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir.2006). This "assumption of truth" is "inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The complaint must allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. 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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Rather, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "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.


A.First Amendment Retaliation (Count I)

Torres claims that she suffered retaliation in violation of the First Amendment, alleging that the failure to discipline Deblasis, his harassment of her during her traffic stops, and his false accusation against her, among other things, constituted unconstitutional retaliation for her complaints about his behavior on November 2, 2010.

"A public employee has a constitutional right to speak on matters of public concern without fear of retaliation." Baldassare v. New Jersey, 250 F.3d 188, 194 (3d Cir.2001). "While the government's role as it a freer hand in regulating the speech of its employees than it has in regulating the speech of the public at large, this hand cannot act with impunity." Id. (quoting Waters v. Churchill, 511 U.S. 661, 671 (1994)). The Third Circuit has ...

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