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Caldwell v. Nodiff

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

February 18, 2014





This case arises out of Mary Caldwell’s allegation that she was subject to discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures on the basis of her race, gender, and disability at her job as a Philadelphia police officer. Plaintiff asserts claims against the City of Philadelphia (“the City”), Captain Lawrence Nodiff, Sgt. Henry, and ten John and/or Jane Does for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 126 et seq, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. §951 et seq, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”).

Defendants have moved to dismiss[1] plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint. For the reasons discussed below, defendants’ motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff is an African-American female. 1st Am. Compl. ¶ 13. Plaintiff joined the Philadelphia Police Department (“the Department”) on June 23, 1997. Id. ¶ 14. In February 2004, plaintiff was promoted to the rank of Detective and was assigned to the “South Detective Division.” Id. ¶ 16. Her supervisors at the South Detective Division were Sgt. Gwenn Barlett, a white female, Lt. Docherty, a white male, and Capt. Joe DiLacqua, a white male. Id. Sometime between 2006 and 2007, plaintiff was diagnosed with hypertension, causing her to suffer dizziness, chest and muscle pain, muscle spasms, tunnel vision, and swelling. Id. DiLacqua was aware of plaintiff’s diagnosis, and made comments to her that she was using too much sick time and that she must use unpaid personal time instead. Id. ¶ 17. In 2007, despite producing doctors’ notes, plaintiff received multiple counseling memos regarding her absences, and DiLacqua placed plaintiff on the Sick Abuse list. Id. ¶ 18.

In 2007, plaintiff was transferred to “gun permits, ” where her supervisors were Sgt. John Sharkey, Lt. Lisa King, and Capt. Sonya Velazquez. Id. ¶ 19. By 2009, plaintiff’s condition had worsened, and she was diagnosed with severe hypertension, causing her to use more sick time. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. King began “harassing” plaintiff about her use of sick days and repeatedly asked plaintiff if she was being domestically abused, if she was on drugs, and if she had a drinking problem. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff was sick checked at her home multiple times, unlike other officers with similar numbers of hours worked. Id. ¶ 21. When plaintiff left her shift early for a doctor’s appointment, she lost vacation/sick time, whereas other officers did not lose such time. Id. ¶ 22. In November 2010, plaintiff complained about her treatment, after which King called a meeting with plaintiff and told her that she was emotionally distressed. Id. ¶ 25. King then took plaintiff, involuntarily, to a mental-health facility, where she was released within ten minutes. Id. A few days later, King met with plaintiff at her house and took her gun, telling her that she was mentally unable to carry a weapon. Id. ¶ 26. The next day, plaintiff arrived at work but was sent home because she had been deemed a “mentally unstable person.” Id. Due to her designation as a “mentally unstable person, ” plaintiff was unable to return to work and was forced to use personal time until she reported to an employee medical health facility. Id. The City scheduled her appointment with a psychiatrist almost eight weeks later, after which she was immediately cleared to return to work. Id. ¶ 28. In all, plaintiff remained on no-duty status for eight to ten weeks. Id. Furthermore, in 2009 and 2010, plaintiff was given negative performance evaluations due to her use of sick time. Id. ¶ 27. Plaintiff had never received a negative evaluation before her diagnosis of hypertension. Id.

In December 2010, plaintiff was transferred back to South Detective Division, where she was assigned to the latest shift. Id. ¶ 29. Her supervisors were Sgt. Earnest Ransom, a black male, Lt. Nicholas Brown, a black male, and Capt. Nodiff, a white male. Id. On her first day, she was called into a meeting in which Nodiff told plaintiff that she “cannot call out sick anymore.” Id. ¶ 30. When plaintiff explained her hypertension and symptoms, Nodiff told plaintiff he “didn’t care.” Id.

During 2010 and 2011, Nodiff and Brown harassed plaintiff regarding her disability by constantly asking her why she was calling out sick, in response to which plaintiff informed them about her condition and provided doctor’s notes. Id. ¶ 32. Furthermore, when plaintiff was absent, she was sick checked up to three times per day. Id. ¶ 33. By checking the “Sending/Receiving sheet” for her squad, she learned that other male officers who had no disabilities were not being sick checked when they called out sick. Id. Furthermore, between January 2011 and April 2012, the Department subjected plaintiff to drug tests at least four times in addition to the drug tests plaintiff received as a result of her hospitalization. Id. ¶ 38. Other officers who were out sick, but did not have disabilities, or who were not black or female, did not get drug tested so frequently. Id. Specifically, one white male officer, who is not disabled, was out sick and hospitalized but was not drug tested. Id.

Throughout 2011, Brown told plaintiff that Nodiff was “out to get her, ” and wanted her medically evaluated because he did not believe she was disabled with hypertension. Id. ¶ 36. At Nodiff’s request, Brown wrote negative comments about plaintiff’s sick-time usage in her biannual performance evaluations. Id. ¶ 32. Sometime between January and July 2011, Nodiff denied plaintiff the use of five days of vacation time, unlike another officer who was approved to use six weeks of vacation time. Id. ¶ 34. In November 2011, Brown told plaintiff that Nodiff intended to reassign her to a day shift. Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff submitted a memo to Nodiff telling him that she opposed the shift change because she would be unable to attend doctors’ appointments or get sufficient sleep. Id. On March 1, 2012, plaintiff submitted a second such memo. Id. ¶ 40. In April 2012, plaintiff became sick and, while in the hospital, was informed by Sgt. Hampton that Nodiff had reassigned her to a day shift. Id. ¶ 41. Plaintiff was unable to return to work due to her high blood pressure and hypertension. Id. She was then placed on leave for one year pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act. Id.

In February 2012, plaintiff filed a complaint with Fraternal Order of Police (“FOP”), alleging that Nodiff and Brown discriminated against her and created a hostile work environment. Id. ¶ 37. Sometime in April 2012, plaintiff filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging violations of Title VII and the ADA. Plaintiff received a Right-to-Sue letter from the EEOC in December 2012. Id.

On January 11, 2013, plaintiff filed the instant suit. Her First Amended Complaint contains three counts. In Count One, plaintiff alleges that the City violated Title VII and the ADA by: (1) discriminating against her on the basis of her race, gender, and disability; (2) denying her a reasonable accommodation by assigning her to a day shift; (3) retaliating against her when she complained about the discrimination; (4) subjecting her to a hostile work environment. In Count Two, plaintiff alleges that the City, Capt. Nodiff, and Lt. Brown violated the PHRA for the same conduct as is set forth in Count One. In Count Three, she alleges that the City, Sgt. Henry, and Jane and/or John Does violated Section 1983 in the administration of unreasonable searches and seizures of her body, hair, and urine.


Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that, in response to a complaint, a defense of “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” may be raised by motion to dismiss. To survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). To satisfy the plausibility standard, a plaintiff’s allegations must show that defendant’s liability is more than “a sheer possibility.” Id. “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 557) (internal quotation marks omitted).

In Twombly, the Supreme Court used a “two-pronged approach, ” later formalized in Iqbal. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Under this approach, a district court identifies those factual allegations that constitute nothing more than “legal conclusions” or “naked assertions.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. Such allegations are “not entitled to the assumption of truth” and must be disregarded. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The court then assesses “the ‘nub’ of the plaintiff[‘s] complaint-the well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegation[s]”-to determine whether it states a plausible claim for relief. Id.


Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss presents three arguments. First, defendants argue that many of plaintiff’s allegations cannot be considered in support of her Title VII, ADA, and PHRA claims because they fall outside of the applicable 300-day limitations period. Second, defendants argue that plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies for several of her claims. Last, defendants argue that plaintiff’s remaining claims in her First Amended Complaint fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and must be dismissed. The Court addresses these arguments in turn.

A. 300-Day Limitations Period

Defendants argue that those actions which plaintiff alleges occurred more than 300 days prior to her filing her EEOC complaint cannot be considered in support of her Title VII, ADA, or PHRA claims. Defs.’ Mem. 8 (Doc. No. 9). Plaintiff responds by arguing that she “provides as evidence of her charges under Title VII, the PHRC [sic], and the ADA, only those actions which are or ...

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