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Helvy v. Allegheny County

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

February 17, 2015

RUBY HELVY, Plaintiff,


Terrence F. McVerry Senior United States District Judge

Pending before the Court is DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF No. 8) filed by Allegheny County and Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services[1] (“Defendant”), along with a BRIEF IN SUPPORT (ECF No. 11). Ruby Helvy (“Plaintiff”) has filed a BRIEF IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION (ECF No. 12). Accordingly, the motion is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, the Court will grant the motion in part, and deny it in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff, an African-American woman, was employed by Defendant as a 9-1-1 dispatcher from 2005 until 2014, taking 9-1-1 calls and relaying them to emergency workers in the field. On December 5, 2012, Plaintiff’s supervisors, Rebecca Frazier and Stephanie Ware, suspended Plaintiff for one day without pay, allegedly because she was not at her desk during a call. Late the next month, on January 26, 2013, Plaintiff was suspended for three days without pay, allegedly because she asked officers to repeat themselves too many times during calls.

On February 15, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an intake questionnaire to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that she was suspended because of her race.[2] Two days later, Plaintiff was suspended for two days without pay for her “general attitude, neglect of duty and politeness.” The next month, Plaintiff was suspended from March 11-17, 2013, without pay, for displaying insufficient effort and inattention to detail. On May 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed a formal EEOC charge, which referenced all of the allegedly discriminatory conduct occurring from December 2012 to May 2013.

Plaintiff was again suspended in November 2013. Around that same time, Defendant suspended a white, female co-worker; however, unlike Plaintiff, the white, female co-worker was suspended for a shorter period of time than Plaintiff and was given “split time.” On December 5, 2013, Plaintiff filed a supplement to her EEOC charge, reflecting the new instance of alleged discrimination.

On March 23, 2014, Ware reprimanded Plaintiff for cancelling a call, allegedly while others who engaged in similar conduct were not so reprimanded. On April 3, 2014, Plaintiff again supplemented her EEOC charge to include this allegedly discriminatory act.

Plaintiff was issued a right-to-sue letter on September 8, 2014. On October 24, 2014, she was suspended without pay indefinitely, pending a termination hearing, allegedly as a result of a neglect of duty.

Plaintiff filed suit in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on November 19, 2014. Defendant then timely removed the action to this Court. On December 22, 2014, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss. Plaintiff responded by filing an amended complaint, alleging claims for disparate treatment, hostile work environment, and retaliation, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. (“PHRA”). This motion then followed.

II. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations and must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. However, as the Supreme Court made clear in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007), the “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. The Supreme Court has subsequently broadened the scope of this requirement, stating that only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

A district court must conduct a two-part analysis when presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. First, the Court must separate the factual and legal elements of the claim. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Although the Court “must accept all of the complaint’s well-pleaded facts as true, [it] may disregard any legal conclusions.” Id. at 210-211. Second, the Court “must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a ‘plausible claim for relief.’ In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff’s entitlement to relief. A complaint has to ‘show’ such an entitlement with its facts.” Id. at 211 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Determining “plausibility” is “‘a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.’” Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

III. Discussion

Defendant seeks to dismiss three aspects of Plaintiff’s amended complaint. First, Defendant argues that all claims arising out of Plaintiff’s October 24, 2014, suspension pending termination should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to that action. Second, Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s reprimand on March 23, 2014, does not rise to the level of an “adverse employment action” and consequently all claims related to that incident should be dismissed. Third, ...

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