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Hollinghead v. City of York

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 12, 2012

James L. HOLLINGHEAD and Mark Simpson, Plaintiffs
v.
CITY OF YORK, Pennsylvania, York Sewer Authority, and Monacacy Valley Electric, Inc., Defendants.

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Ira H. Weinstock, Ira H. Weinstock, P.C., Harrisburg, PA, for Plaintiffs.

Donald B. Hoyt, Assistant City Solicitor, York, PA, Frank J. Lavery, Jr., Gary H. Dadamo, Lavery, Faherty, Young & Patterson, P.C., Christopher J. Conrad, Marshall DenneheyWarner Coleman and Goggin, Thomas S. Beckley, Beckley & Madden, Harrisburg, PA, for Defendants.

ORDER

CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, District Judge.

AND NOW, this 12th day of December, 2012, upon consideration of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson (Doc. 27), recommending (1) that Defendant York Sewer Authority's motion to dismiss (Doc. 11) be denied, (2) that Defendant Monacacy Valley Electric, Inc.'s motion to dismiss (Doc. 10) be granted with respect to Counts I-II, without prejudice, (3) that Monacacy Valley Electric, Inc.'s motion to dismiss (Doc. 10) be granted with respect

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to Count V and denied with respect to Count VI; and (4) that Monacacy's motion for more definitive statement as to Count VI should be granted, and, following an independent review of the record, and noting that plaintiffs filed objections [1] to the report on November 21, 2012 (Doc. 30), and the court finding Judge Carlson's analysis to be thorough and well-reasoned, and the court finding plaintiffs' objections to be without merit and squarely addressed by Judge Carlson's report (Doc. 27), it is hereby ORDERED that:

1. The Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Carlson (Doc. 27) are ADOPTED.
2. Defendant York Sewer Authority's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11) is DENIED.
3. Defendant Monacacy Valley Electric, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10), with respect to Counts I-II is GRANTED.
4. Defendant Monacacy Valley Electric, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) is GRANTED with respect to Count V of plaintiffs' complaint and DENIED with respect to Count VI of plaintiffs' complaint.
5. Monocacy's motion for more definitive statement as to Count VI is GRANTED.
6. Plaintiffs are granted leave to file an amended complaint within twenty (20) days of the date of this order, which shall address the deficiencies set forth in Judge Carlson's Report and Recommendation. Failure to file an amended complaint within the specified time period will result in the matter proceeding on only the remaining counts of the original complaint.
7. The above-captioned case is REMANDED to Magistrate Judge Carlson for further proceedings.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARTIN C. CARLSON, United States Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

A. The Parties

This is a discrimination action brought by Plaintiffs, James L. Hollinghead (" Hollinghead" ) and Mark A. Simpson (" Simpson" ) (collectively, the " Plaintiffs" ), seeking damages and other relief as a result of alleged racial discrimination in their employment with the City of York and the York Sewer Authority. The Plaintiffs also allege that they were subjected to acts of retaliation at the hands of the City of York and the York Sewer Authority when they complained about these discriminatory actions. Further, the Plaintiffs allege that Monocacy Valley Electric, Inc., a private company which worked at the sewer facility, indulged in acts that rose to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress, a tort under the common law of Pennsylvania, and conspired with state actors to violate their civil rights. The Plaintiffs brought this action on February 9, 2012, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended (" Title VII" ), the Pennsylvania Human Relations

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Act (the, " PHRA" ), 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, and asserted pendent common law claims under the laws of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, p. 2.)

In their complaint, the Plaintiffs named three Defendants: The City of York, Pennsylvania, the York Sewer Authority and Monacacy Valley Electric, Inc. (Collectively, " Defendants" ). The City of York— which is not a party to these motions— is a third-class city of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania operating under a home rule charter pursuant to the Third Class City Charter Law of 1957. ( Id. at p. 3.) The primary office of the City of York is located at 50 West King Street, York, York County, Pennsylvania. ( Id. ) The Plaintiffs allege that the City of York operates the York Sewer Authority (the " Sewer Authority" ), an agency or department of the government of the City of York, which is responsible for the city sewer treatment plant.[1] ( Id. ) Monacacy Valley Electric, Inc. (" Monacacy" ), in turn, is a corporation with the primary place of business at 1925 Frederick Pike, Littlestown, Pennsylvania. ( Id. at p. 4.) Plaintiffs alleged that Monacacy had a contract with the Sewer Authority dated May 18, 2010, to provide work for the Sewer Authority for up to five hundred forty-five (545) days. ( Id. )

B. The Complaint's Well-Pleaded Facts

According to the well-pleaded facts set forth in the complaint this work-place discrimination began as a dispute regarding the cleanliness of a shower located at the sewer authority that was used by both sewer authority employees and Monocacy Electric's workers. On July 7, 2010, Simpson expressed concern to Monacacy employees regarding the condition of the shower room at the Sewer Authority. ( Id. at p. 5) According to Simpson, the shower was left in a messy and dirty condition by employees of Monacacy. ( Id. ) The shower was not to be used by the Monacacy employees; however, Simpson did not have a problem with the Monacacy employees using the shower, but requested that they keep it clean. ( Id. ) Despite Simpson's protests, the employees of Monacacy continued to leave the shower room in a messy and dirty condition. ( Id. at p. 6.) Simpson informed his supervisor, Chad Arnold, about the condition of the shower and was told to lock the door. ( Id. ) The next day a Monacacy supervisor asked about the lock in the presence of other Monacacy employees who responded in an " angry and menacing manner." ( Id. )

Hollinghead then alleged that on July 16, 2010, he found a noose near the shower area in reaction to Simpson placing a lock on the shower room door, an anonymous gesture which the Plaintiffs construed to be racially intimidating. ( Id. ) The Plaintiffs then alerted others to their concerns. On July 18, 2010, Hollinghead reported the noose to Simpson, the Teamsters, Local 776 Union Steward. ( Id. ) On July 19, 2010, Simpson reported the incident to Chad Arnold, the Operations Manager of the wastewater treatment plant. ( Id. at p. 7) On July 19, 2010, Mr. Arnold reported the incident to the General Manager of the wastewater treatment plant, Steve Douglas. ( Id. ) Three days later, on July 22, 2010, Simpson spoke with C. Kim Bracey, Mayor, City of York, about the incident. ( Id. ) The Plaintiffs further allege that the noose was removed and placed in Mr. Douglas' office who displayed it on a hook in his office and showed it to Simpson. ( Id. )

On July 28, 2010, a second noose was again seen in the sewer maintenance building and reported to Mr. Douglas, who again displayed it on a hook in his office

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and showed it to Simpson. ( Id. ) The Plaintiffs allege that no action was taken by Monacacy or the Sewer Authority to have the noose removed or to avoid repetition of this conduct. ( Id. ) Through this inaction, the Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants consented to, permitted and condoned these racially charged and intimidating acts and failed to take remedial measures to address them. ( Id. ) According to the Plaintiffs, the failure to discipline Monocacy employees for this conduct was a function of business concerns in the Sewer Authority. Specifically, the Plaintiffs alleged that James Gross, Director of Public Works for York City and Mr. Douglas expressed to the Mayor that they did not want to have Monacacy removed from the sewer project. ( Id. at p. 8) In August 2010, Thomas Allen Ray, Deputy Business Administrator for Human Resources, City of York, conducted an investigation and met with the Plaintiffs separately and gave each Plaintiff a letter outlining his report. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs assert that Mr. Ray made a cursory review of the incidents and failed to perform a meaningful investigation in that he failed to speak with all relevant witnesses. ( Id. ) Mr. Ray generated a report in which he concluded that the noose was not racially motivated or displayed for the purpose of racial intimidation. ( Id. ) The Plaintiffs assert that by generating the report with those findings, Mr. Ray acted with the purpose of absolving the Defendants of any wrongdoing and, therefore, consented to, permitted, or condoned the racially offensive actions of the Monacacy employees. ( Id. )

In November 2010, the Plaintiffs met with Mayor Bracey to discuss the racial climate at the treatment plant. ( Id. at pp. 8-9) The Plaintiffs explained to Mayor Bracey that after they complained to the City of York, Mr. Ray was more aggressive in seeking to punish African Americans. ( Id. ) The Plaintiffs assert that after speaking with Mayor Bracey, they determined that the City of York was engaging in disparate treatment in that allegations of misconduct by non-Caucasian employees were being reported to the Mayor while allegations of misconduct by Caucasian employees were not being reported to her. ( Id. )

In November 2010, the Plaintiffs contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) regarding the complaints of racial discrimination. ( Id. at p. 9) The Plaintiffs further allege that subsequent to contacting the EEOC, the Plaintiffs started receiving dangerous work assignments that they were not previously assigned. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs allege that they suffered injuries on the job which would not have occurred if they had not received the retaliatory work assignments. ( Id. ) Hollinghead received assignments exposing him to hazardous chemicals and conditions he had not been exposed to in the past and suffered injuries to his lungs. ( Id. ) Simpson was not granted assistance in situations where he was granted assistance in the past. ( Id. ) Additionally, Simpson was denied workers' compensation benefits that were previously approved. ( Id. ) The Plaintiffs further alleged that the management at the City of York and the Sewer Authority did not require Caucasian employees to perform different and dangerous work assignments and the Caucasian employees were not required to direct or assist the African American Plaintiffs with the assignments. ( Id. at p. 9)

The Plaintiffs cross-filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (" PHRC" ). ( Id. at p. 5) In his charge of discrimination Hollinghead identified the Responding Party as the " York City Waste Water Treatment Plant," and directed the Notice of Charge to Michael

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O'Rourke, the Business Administrator for the City of York. ( Id. ) Simpson, in turn, identified the Responding Party as the " York Waste Water Treatment" and directed the Notice of Charge to Thomas Allen Ray, the Deputy Business Administrator for the City of York at the York Wastewater Treatment Plant. ( Id. ) On November 14, 2011, Simpson received a right to sue letter. ( Id. ). On November 29, 2011, James Hollinghead received a right to sue letter. ( Id. )

On April 9, 2012, Defendant Monacacy filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs' Complaint. (Doc. 10.) On April 9, 2012, Defendant Sewer Authority, in turn, filed a motion to dismiss portions of Plaintiffs' Complaint. (Doc. 11.) The parties have now fully briefed these motions to dismiss. Therefore, we will deem the motions to be ripe for resolution.

For the reasons outlined below, our review of the motions along with the submissions of the parties, leaves us convinced that the Sewer Authority's motion to dismiss Counts I-VI and Count V should be denied since there are issues of fact beyond the pleadings which must be addressed with respect to these defenses asserted by the Sewer Authority. In addition we recommend that Monacacy's motion to dismiss Counts I-II with respect to the claims brought under Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human relations Act (PHRA) against this company should be granted. Further, Monacacy's motion to dismiss Count V, which alleges that the company conspired with state actors to violate the plaintiffs' civil rights should be also granted. Monocacy's motion to dismiss Count ...


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