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Negron v. School District of Philadelphia

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 31, 2013

LUIS M. NEGRON Plaintiff,
v.
THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

YOHN, J.

This action arises out of a claim by plaintiff, Luis M. Negron, that defendant, the School District of Philadelphia (“School District”), violated Pennsylvania law when it relied on information in Negron’s criminal record in deciding to terminate his employment as a special education teacher. Specifically, Negron claims that the School District’s actions violated article I, section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (count I) and section 9125 of Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9125 (count II). Negron also claims his discharge amounted to wrongful termination under Pennsylvania common law (count III). Before me is the School District’s motion to dismiss counts II and III pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, I will grant the School District’s motion to dismiss in its entirety; however, I will also grant Negron’s request for leave to file an amended complaint with respect to count II.

I.FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The facts contained in Negron’s complaint are scant. Negron alleges that he applied for a position as a special education teacher with the School District prior to September 2009. (Compl. ¶ 8.) At one point during the application process, Negron was asked to complete an employment application, in which one of the questions was, “Were you ever convicted of a crime?” (Id. ¶ 8.) A conviction was defined as “an adjudication of guilt . . . which results in a fine, sentence or probation.” (Id.) The application stated that an applicant “may omit . . . any convictions for which you successfully completed an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition [“ARD”] Program.” (Id.)

Negron’s criminal record amounted to two charges, both of which he received in January 1999. (Id. ¶ 9.) For both charges, he alleges that he successfully completed an ARD program. (Id.) Thus, on his application, Negron stated that he did not have any prior convictions. (Id. ¶ 10.) Following the application process, Negron began his job with the School District on September 1, 2009. (Id. ¶ 7.)

On January 28, 2011, the School District terminated Negron’s employment. (Id. ¶ 11.) Negron alleges that the School District discovered the charges from January 1999 on his criminal record and then fired him for making misrepresentations regarding his criminal history on the application. (Id. ¶ 12.) Negron states that after the School District informed him as to its reason for terminating his employment, he provided the School District with documentary proof that he completed ARD programs for both charges; thus, he argues that the charges were not convictions, and therefore he did not make any misrepresentations on his employment application.[1] (Id. ¶ 12.) Negron maintains that the School District’s proffered reason for firing him is false and pretextual, and that the decision was motivated at least in part by his criminal history. (Id. ¶¶ 12–13.)

On January 11, 2013, Negron filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging that the School District’s actions violated article I, section 1, of the Pennsylvania Constitution (count I), as well as Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (“CHRIA”), 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9125 (count II). Negron also claimed that his discharge constituted wrongful termination under Pennsylvania common law (count III). On April 23, 2013, I issued an order giving the School District until June 3, 2013, to answer or otherwise respond to Negron’s complaint. On June 3, 2013, the School District filed a motion to dismiss, seeking to dismiss counts II and III of the complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

In deciding a motion to dismiss under 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 any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The pleading standard of Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements” will not suffice. Id. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to be plausible on its face. See Id. “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”; a sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient. Id. Therefore, to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to “nudge[] [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

III. DISCUSSION

The School District seeks to dismiss count II and III, which allege a violation of the CHRIA and wrongful termination under Pennsylvania common law, respectively. It does not challenge count I, Negron’s claim that his termination violated article I, section 1, of Pennsylvania’s Constitution. I will address the School District’s motion to dismiss counts II and III in order.

A. Count II: Violation of CHRIA

Section 9125 of the CHRIA states the following:

(a) General rule.--Whenever an employer is in receipt of information which is part of an employment applicant’s criminal history record information file, it may use that information for the purpose of deciding whether or not ...

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