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Clarkson v. Septa

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

October 30, 2014

DARLENA CLARKSON
v.
SEPTA

MEMORANDUM RE MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT

Baylson, J.

Defendant Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (“SEPTA”) moves to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) Plaintiff’s failure to promote claims as untimely and her hostile work environment claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Court will grant the motion to dismiss the failure to promote claims with prejudice and for the hostile work environment claims without prejudice.

I. Background

Plaintiff, an African-American female, began working for SEPTA in 1989. Between 2009 and 2011, Plaintiff claims SEPTA Assistant General Manager of Operations Luther Diggs pressured her to assist him in developing a sexual relationship with another SEPTA employee. Plaintiff refused and alleges she suffered discrimination and retaliation as a result.

On November 18, 2012, Plaintiff dual-filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) and the EEOC alleging Diggs (1) subjected her to discrimination and/or retaliation by pressuring her to assist him in developing a sexual relationship with the other employee; (2) failed to promote her to Warranty Administrator in 2009—even though she was the only candidate to successfully pass Excel testing and quality for an interview—by putting the position on hold until 2012; and (3) did not pay her the salary he had promised her or to which she was entitled when she was ultimately promoted to Warranty Administrator in October 2012. Plaintiff contends she only learned about Diggs’s retaliatory actions in placing the Warranty Administrator position on hold from another SEPTA employee in July 2012.

On March 3, 2013, Plaintiff dual-filed a second complaint with the PHRC and EEOC, alleging two other SEPTA employees subjected her to retaliation and/or discrimination for filing her first amended complaint by assigning her additional job goals, giving her conflicting directives, making her look bad in front of co-workers in one instance, and discussing her personal life with co-workers. With the exception of the hostile work environment claims, SEPTA does not move to dismiss these claims.

On May 1, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant complaint. On September 9, 2014, SEPTA moved to dismiss the failure to promote claims as untimely and the hostile work environment claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies (ECF No. 6).

II. Analysis

In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “we accept all factual allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen, Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).[1]

A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim on statute of limitations grounds “where the complaint facially shows noncompliance with the limitations period.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.1 (3d Cir. 1994). Because prior submission of a complaint to the EEOC or relevant state agency and obtaining a right to sue letter are prerequisites to filing suit under Title VII, a complaint may also be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Robinson v. Dalton, 107 F.3d 1018, 1022 (3d Cir. 1997).

A. Timeliness of Failure to Promote Claims

Under Title VII, a claimant in Pennsylvania must file a charge of unlawful employment practice with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged unlawful practice. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); Mikula v. Allegheny Cnty., 583 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2009) (per curiam). A claimant must file a complaint with the PHRC within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 959(h); Woodson v. Scott Paper Co., 109 F.3d 913, 925 (3d Cir. 1997). These requirements apply to discrete employment actions, including promotion decisions. Noel v. The Boeing Co., 622 F.3d 266, 270 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 114 (2002)).

SEPTA argues Plaintiff’s claims relating to Diggs’s failure to promote her to Warranty Administrator in October 2009 should be dismissed as barred by the statute of limitations. SEPTA contends the complaint in untimely because Plaintiff did not file her EEOC and PHRC complaint until November 18, 2012, more than 300 days (EEOC) and 180 days (PHRC) after the alleged discriminatory act occurred.

But Plaintiff claims her filing was timely because the statute of limitations should have only started to run when she discovered Diggs’s retaliatory motive in July 2012, not when the initial failure to promote occurred. Plaintiff also appears to allege Diggs’s retaliation against her was ...


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