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Jones v. Allegheny College

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 1, 2014

ANNE GOODWYN JONES, Plaintiff.
v.
ALLEGHENY COLLEGE, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER[1]

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Relevant Procedural History

Plaintiff brings this action against Defendant Allegheny College ("Allegheny") pursuant to the Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951, et seq ("PHRA"). Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Allegheny discriminated against her on the basis of her gender, age, and disability during the term of her two-year contract as visiting professor in Allegheny's English Department from August 2008 to April 2010. As relief for her claims, Plaintiff seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and costs and attorney's fees.

On November 11, 2013, Allegheny filed a motion to dismiss counts II, VII, VIII, IX, and X of the complaint as untimely [ECF No. 6]. Plaintiff has since filed a brief in opposition to Allegheny's motion to dismiss [ECF No. 11], to which Allegheny has filed a reply brief [ECF No. 13]. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

B. Relevant Factual History[2]

Plaintiff is a female over the age of 40 who suffers from Adult Attention Deficit Disorder ("ADD") (ECF No. 1, Complaint, at ¶ 11). She is a professor of American Literature who previously achieved tenure at Allegheny in 1984 before moving on to the University of Florida, where she also obtained tenure (Id. at ¶ 7). In August 2008, Plaintiff rejoined the faculty at Allegheny as a visiting professor in the English Department, without tenure, pursuant to a two-year contract (Id. at ¶ 12). At the time, the Dean of the Faculty allegedly represented to Plaintiff that her contract was renewable (Id. at ¶ 13).

Shortly after rejoining the faculty at Allegheny, Plaintiff tripped on a faulty step while climbing the stairs to her third-floor office, and was "severely injured, " although Plaintiff does not specify the injuries suffered (Id. at ¶ 17). While recovering from her injuries, Plaintiff was forced to climb the steps to her third-floor office, first on crutches and then in a walking cast, because there was no elevator in the office building and no other accommodations were provided (Id. at ¶¶ 17-19). In the meantime, Plaintiff alleges that a "significantly younger untenured faculty member in the English Department" had her work and meeting space moved from the second floor to the first floor to accommodate injuries she suffered that were similar to Plaintiff's (Id. at ¶ 21).

Also soon after rejoining the Allegheny faculty, Plaintiff informed the chair of the English Department of her ADD diagnosis, and noted that Allegheny's health insurance did not cover her prescription medication (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23). Later, at a private meeting with the Dean of Faculty during the winter of 2008-2009, Plaintiff informed the Dean of her ADD diagnosis and the problem she was experiencing with obtaining insurance coverage for her prescription medication (Id. at ¶ 25). The Dean referred Plaintiff to the Director of Human Services regarding the issue of insurance coverage (Id at ¶ 26). Plaintiff also informed the Associate Dean of her ADD diagnosis (Id. at ¶ 27). Plaintiff alleges that despite having informed the department chair, two deans, and the Director of Human Services of her ADD diagnosis, no reasonable accommodation for her condition was received until after she was informed in January 2010 that her contract would not be renewed (Id at ¶¶ 29-30). Because she did not receive a contract extension, her contract expired in April 2010 (Id. at ¶ 33).

C. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).

The Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp. , 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 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." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. Although the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id . at 570.

In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is "required to make a showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Smith v. Sullivan , 2008 WL 482469, at *1 (D.Del. February 19, 2008) quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). "This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556.

The Third Circuit Court has prescribed the following three-step approach to determine the sufficiency of a ...


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