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Negron v. School District of Philadelphia

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 14, 2014

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

MEMORANDUM

YOHN, J.

Plaintiff, Luis M. Negron, brings this action against defendant, the School District of Philadelphia (“the School District”) for terminating his employment as a special education teacher based on information in Negron’s criminal record. He claims violations of article I, section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (count I) and Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9125 (count II). Before me is the School District’s motion to dismiss both counts pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Negron’s response, and the School District’s reply. For the following reasons, I will deny the School District’s motion to dismiss.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History[1]

On August 28, 2009, Negron signed a Temporary Professional Employee Notification securing a position as a non-tenured teacher with the Philadelphia School District effective September 1, 2009. (Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 12, Mot. Ex. F.) Negron alleges that his hiring was subject to a pending background check. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 12.) According to the Temporary Professional Employee Notification, the contract was “subject to the provisions of the Public School Code of 1949.” (Mot. Ex. F.)

Prior to securing this position, Negron completed an application with the School District which asked, “[w]ere you ever convicted of a criminal offense?” (Amend. Compl. ¶ 8, Mot. Ex. A.) Conviction was defined as “an adjudication of guilt…which results in a fine, sentence, or probation” but the applicant was permitted to “omit…any convictions…for which [he] successfully completed an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program [“ARD”].” (Amend. Compl. ¶ 8, Mot. Ex. A.) Negron had been convicted of two unspecified charges in January 1999 for which he successfully completed ARD. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 9, Mot. Ex. D.) Accordingly, Negron indicated on his application that he did not have any prior convictions. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 10, Mot. Ex. A.)

On or about January 28, 2011, the School District terminated Negron’s employment. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 11.) Negron alleges that the proffered reason for his termination – that he misrepresented his criminal history on his application – was both false and pretextual. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 13.) Negron further alleges that his termination was motivated by his criminal record. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 13.)

On January 11, 2013, Negron filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania claiming: (1) a violation of article I, section 1, of the Pennsylvania Constitution; (2) a violation of Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (“CHRIA”), 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9125; and (3) that his discharge constituted wrongful termination under Pennsylvania common law. On June 3, 2013, the School District filed a motion seeking dismissal of the CHRIA claim and the wrongful termination claim.[2] The School District did not move to dismiss the claim alleging a violation of the Pennsylvania constitution.

In that motion the School District argued that Negron’s CHRIA claim failed as a matter of law because CHRIA applies only to hiring decisions. Negron argued in response that the intent of the legislature and the “broad principle” of CHRIA was to prohibit employers from using an employee’s criminal record with respect to both hiring and firing decisions. In a footnote, Negron introduced factual allegations, not previously raised in his complaint, arguing that his hiring was subject to a background check, that he was terminated, at least in part, on the basis of the background check, and that his employment was therefore probationary subject to the outcome of the background check.

On August 1, 2013, I held that CHRIA applied only to hiring decisions and granted the School District’s motion to dismiss. Negron v. School Dist. of Phila., No. 13-cv-00169, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107969, at *10 (E.D. Pa. August 1, 2013). However, I granted Negron leave to file an amended complaint “that may plausibly support a claim under his ‘probationary employee’ theory.” Id. at *11.

On August 13, 2013, Negron filed an amended complaint. The new content offered in the amended complaint supporting Negron’s “probationary employee theory” consists of the following:

In so far as Plaintiff was a non-tenured teacher hired subject to the results of a pending background check, Plaintiff was not permanently hired as a teacher by Defendant. Indeed, the nature of Plaintiff’s status as a non-permanent employee or an employee temporarily hired pending completion of his background check is confirmed or suggested by Defendant’s termination of him on the basis of his application and the results of that background check. Plaintiff’s claims thus come within the scope of CHRIA.

(Amend. Compl. ¶ 12.)

On September 27, 2013, the School District filed a second motion seeking dismissal of both of Negron’s remaining claims. Negron responded on October 15, 2013 and ...


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