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Wiggs v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 26, 2014



JOHN R. PADOVA, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ernestine Wiggs has brought this employment discrimination action against the City of Philadelphia and Dr. FNU Rosenberg, arising from the City's failure to hire her for a position as a police officer. The City of Philadelphia has moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.


The Amended Complaint alleges the following facts. Plaintiff is an African American woman who, when she was 50 years old, applied for the position of Police Officer Recruit with the City. (Am. Comp. ¶¶ 1, 8-9.) The City has responsibility for testing, hiring, training and supervising employees of the Philadelphia Police Department. (Id. ¶ 13.) As part of the job application process, Plaintiff was required to undergo a psychological evaluation conducted by Dr. Rosenberg, a white woman. (Id. ¶ 9.) Defendants conducted the psychological evaluation in a manner that was contrary to the standards prescribed by the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures. (Id. ¶ 10.) On April 2, 2013, Plaintiff was notified by letter that her application for employment as a Police Officer Recruit had been terminated as a result of her psychological evaluation. (Id.) Plaintiff was not given an opportunity for reconsideration or reevaluation. (Id.) Plaintiff has undergone psychological evaluations conducted by Defendants on two prior occasions. (Id. ¶ 12.) Both evaluations were satisfactory. (Id.)

Plaintiff has been employed by the City as a Police Correctional Officer and Deputy Sheriff since 1995. (Id. ¶ 11.) Throughout her employment, she has received satisfactory performance evaluations. (Id.) She has also received numerous awards from the City related to her employment, including "Officer of the Month" and "Outstanding Service." (Id.) Plaintiff was also given a letter of commendation by Assistant City Solicitor Denise S. Wolf. (Id.)

The Amended Complaint asserts three claims under federal law: employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (Count I); failure to train and supervise pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 (Count II); and supervisor liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 (Count III). Count IV of the Amended Complaint asserts four pendant state law claims: assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of Plaintiff's right to due process guaranteed by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we "consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, [and] matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents." Mayer v. Belichick , 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc. , 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). We take the factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Props., Inc. , 672 F.3d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen, Inc. , 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011)). Legal conclusions, however, receive no deference, and the court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (cited with approval in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

A plaintiff's pleading obligation is to set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), which gives the defendant "fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). The complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter to show that the claim is facially plausible, ' thus enabling the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for [the] misconduct alleged.'" Warren Gen. Hosp. , 643 F.3d at 84 (quoting Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). In the end, we will grant a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if the factual allegations in the complaint are not sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" West Run Student Hous. Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat'l Bank , 712 F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555).


A. Count I

Count I asserts that the City discriminated against Plaintiff based on her race and age in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. ("ADEA"). Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to "fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual... because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The ADEA similarly makes it unlawful for an employer "to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual... because of such individual's age." 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). The Amended Complaint does not allege any facts that, if true, would constitute direct evidence of race or age discrimination.[1] Plaintiff's race and age discrimination claims are therefore analyzed pursuant to the burden shifting framework provided by McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green , 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Kautz v. Met-Pro Corp. , 412 F.3d 463, 465 (3d Cir. 2005); McDonnell Douglas Corp. , 411 U.S. at 802-05. Under the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting analysis, the plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. Sarullo v. United States Postal Service , 352 F.3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2003). If the plaintiff does so, the burden then shifts to her employer to "articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for [her] rejection.'" Id . (quoting McDonnell Douglas , 411 U.S. at 802). If the employer meets this burden, the burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to "establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the employer's proffered reasons were merely a pretext for discrimination, and not the real motivation for the unfavorable job action." Id . (citing Texas Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine , 450 U.S. 248, 255 (1981); McDonnell Douglas Corp. , 411 U.S. at 804).

The City argues that Count I of the Amended Complaint should be dismissed because it fails to allege a facially plausible prima facie case of race or age discrimination. A complaint asserting prima facie case of employment discrimination in violation of Title VII and the ADEA, must allege facts that, if true, would establish the following elements:

(1) [the plaintiff] is a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for the position sought; (3) she applied and was rejected despite being qualified; (4) under circumstances that raise an inference of discriminatory action, such as that the employer continued to seek out individuals with qualifications similar to plaintiff's to fill ...

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