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Pearson v. Varano

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 2, 2015

DAVID VARANO, et al., Defendants


WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.

I. Introduction

The pro se plaintiff, Antonio Pearson, a state inmate, filed this civil-rights lawsuit alleging that during his employment in the dietary department at the state correctional institution in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, defendants paid him differently than similarly situated inmates with respect to his compensation for hours worked. (Doc. 1, Compl.). Plaintiff asserts federal and state-law claims. Presently before the court is the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 27, Mot. to Dismiss). The "DOC defendants" are defendants Varano, Wetzel, Moore-Smeal, Klopotoski, Varner, Baker, Ellet, [1] McMillian, Shedleski and Snyder.

The motion to dismiss argues as follows: (1) the DOC defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; (2) Plaintiff fails to state an equal protection claim; (3) Plaintiff fails to allege the personal involvement of several of the administrative level defendants; and (4) the court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. (Doc. 28, Defs.' Br. in Supp. Mot. to Dismiss).

For the reasons discussed below, we will deny the DOC defendants' motion to dismiss.

II. Standard of Review

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) authorizes the dismissal of a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the district court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff is entitled to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). While a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974. "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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, and a court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

With this standard in mind, the following is the background to this litigation, as Plaintiff alleges it.

III. Background

Pearson worked in SCI-Coal Township's dietary department from December 25, 2010, until at least June 2013. (Doc 1, ECF p. 5).[2] He alleges that although he worked eight hours and forty-five minutes a day, 10 a.m. until 6:45 p.m., he was only paid for eight hours. ( Id. ).

All other shifts get paid 8 hours but work less than 8 hours or exactly 8 hours. The 4:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. shift works 7 hours but get[s] paid for 8 hours and the 5:00 a.m. shift to 1:00 p.m. shift works 8 hours and gets paid for 8 hours. All shifts get the same amount of breaks and when the other shifts work past their 8 hour shifts they get overtime pay for them.

( Id. ). According to DOC policy, inmates are not permitted to work in excess of eight hours, but Plaintiff alleges he routinely works eight hours and forty-five minutes daily. ( Id., ΒΆ 24, ECF p. 11). Pearson claims that he cannot leave the work site without approval of his supervisor or unless he is placed on a "call-out" sheet for an approved pass. Non-defendant prison security staff have threatened him with a misconduct when he has returned to his housing unit early on occasion. ( Id., ECF p. 6). Once at his work station, he, like other workers on the 10:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. shift, is required to do "anything that he is told to do or be subject to a misconduct." ( Id. )

When Pearson spoke with Food Service Managers Shedleski and Snyder about "how [he] is being treated differently th[a]n other kitchen workers, that work other shifts, and how they get paid for 8 hours of work even though they work less then 8 hours or only work 8 hours but get paid for 8 hours and the plaintiff only gets 8 hours for 8 hours and 45 minutes of work... Defendant Shedleski told [him] not to worry about other shifts and to worry about [his] shift and [him]self, because what other shifts get doesn't matter." ( Id., ECF p. 13).

When Pearson spoke with Deputy Superintendent Miller about this issue, Deputy Miller told him "if [he] was not happy working in the kitchen that [he] could always be removed." ( Id. ) When he approached defendant McMillian, he was told "that this is how the kitchen is ran and they are not going to change it just for [him]." ( Id. ) When Pearson spoke with Deputy Superintendent Ellet, she told him to write to her and ...

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