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Ward v. City of Erie School District

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 10, 2014

LINDA WARD, Plaintiff,


JOY FLOWERS CONTI, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

This matter is before the court upon a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 9) filed by the School District of the City of Erie ("Erie School District") and each of the six named individual defendants: Superintendent Jay Badams ("Badams"); Assistant Superintendent Walter Strosser ("Strosser"); Personnel Director Beatrice Habursky ("Habursky"); Principal Joseph Orlando ("Orlando"); Principal Timothy Sabol ("Sabol"); and Attorney Richard Perhacs ("Perhacs")(collectively "defendants"). For the reasons which follow, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

II. Factual Background

The following facts are taken directly from plaintiff's complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of this motion. The plaintiff Linda Ward ("plaintiff" or "Ward"), was employed as an Elementary School Counselor in the Erie School District from 2004 through 2011. (ECF No. 3 ¶¶ 1, 5.) During the spring of 2009, plaintiff informed her direct supervisor that she had a disability and requested accommodation. (Id. ¶ 2.) When she returned to work for the 2009-2010 school year, plaintiff alleges, however, that "there were disparities in terms of previously enjoyed employment benefits." (Id.) She alleges that "a hostile work environment was created and/or allowed to persist" and that this environment exacerbated her disability. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Finally, plaintiff states that she was "wrongfully terminated" on August 15, 2011. (Id. ¶ 5.) In her complaint plaintiff invokes the jurisdiction of several federal statutes, to wit: "Employment Civil Rights Discrimination: Title I, V, VII, and Civil Rights of 1991." (ECF No. 3.)

IV. Standard of Review

A 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court is not opining on whether the plaintiff will be likely to prevail on the merits; rather, when considering a motion to dismiss, the court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint and views them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. U.S. Express Lines Ltd. v. Higgins, 281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002). While a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations to survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must provide more than labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" and "sufficient to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement, " but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'"

Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (internal citations omitted).

Two working principles underlie Twombly. Id. at 678-79. First, with respect to mere conclusory statements, a court need not accept as true all the allegations contained in a complaint. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Second, to survive a motion to dismiss, a claim must state a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. (citing Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 157-58 (2d Cir. 2007)).

Finally, although pro se complaints are "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980), pro se litigants must still satisfy the threshold requirements of the federal pleading rules. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

III. Discussion

A. Sufficiency of the Complaint

As construed by this court, the allegations in the complaint are that defendants violated Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA"), by discriminating against her on the basis of an unnamed disability and refusing to provide her with reasonable accommodations. She asserts that the defendants violated Title V of the ADA by retaliating against her on the basis of her disability.[1] In support of her claims, plaintiff generally alleges that she suffers from a disability, she was ...

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