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Viviano v. Hazleton Area School District

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 1, 2015



A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), filed by Defendants Hazleton Area School District and Dr. Francis Antonelli (Doc. 14). Because Plaintiff alleges sufficient facts in his Amended Complaint (Doc. 13) to plausibly state a claim that the Defendants violated his rights to procedural due process and liberty as protected by the Due Process Clause, the Motion to Dismiss will be denied.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

The facts as set forth in the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 13) are as follows:

Plaintiff Dr. Thomas Viviano was hired by Defendant Hazleton Area School District ("the District") to serve as the Director of the District's Career Center ("the Center") on or about June 4, 2013. (Doc. 13, ¶ 5.) Defendants hired Plaintiff pursuant to a three-year contract dated September 4, 2013. ( Id. at ¶ 6.) That contract is attached as an exhibit to the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 13-1).

Defendant Dr. Francis Antonelli is the Superintendent of the District. (Doc. 13, ¶ 4.) The District is a municipal corporation or government entity within Pennsylvania. ( Id. )

Plaintiff Viviano asserts that he was a diligent employe; however, Defendants permitted a hostile work environment and attempted to prevent him from doing his job. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asserts that he was hired as Director over the person who had been serving in that position as Acting Director, "Mrs. Herman." ( Id. at ¶ 10.) Mrs. Herman had a close relationship with board members and Defendant Antonelli. ( Id. at ¶ 11.) When Plaintiff was hired over Mrs. Herman, she was given the position of "Principal" at the Center. ( Id. at ¶ 10.) Mrs. Herman initiated a lawsuit when she was not selected for the Director position. ( Id. at ¶ 11.) Plaintiff asserts that a board member told him that the board voted not to tell Plaintiff about this "political climate, " because they feared he would not take the job if he knew. ( Id. at ¶ 12.) After Plaintiff's hire, classroom bulletin boards had newspaper articles about a rally in support of another candidate for Plaintiff's position. ( Id. at 17.)

Plaintiff alleges that the job description for which he was hired in June 2013 was changed in February 2014. ( Id. at ¶ 13.) These two descriptions are attached as exhibits to the Complaint. ( Id. ) When Plaintiff was hired, he was told that he would be assigned a principal over the summer to help him start the new school year. ( Id. at ¶ 14.) However, Plaintiff did not receive a principal until October, because Mrs. Herman, the principal, was on medical leave from June to October. ( Id. )

Plaintiff began the school year with the help of an assistant principal instead of a principal. ( Id. at ¶ 15.) At the beginning of the year, Plaintiff and the assistant principal assigned teacher duties. (Id. ) When Mrs. Herman returned from leave in October, she changed these arrangements. ( Id. ) Plaintiff reported this to Defendant Antonelli, who ruled in favor of Mrs. Herman, which made Plaintiff feel that his authority was undermined. ( Id. )

When Plaintiff first arrived at the school in June, Antonelli informed him that he could not go to the Center that he had been hired to run, because the acting director, Mrs. Herman, was still in charge there. ( Id. at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff was not allowed to enter the Center for two weeks, and instead had to work out of the district office. ( Id. )

Plaintiff asserts that he repeatedly requested and was promised by the board that he would have a confidential secretary; however, he never received one. ( Id. at ¶ 18.) Plaintiff contends that in the eighty-five (85) technical schools in the state, it is common practice for directors to have a confidential secretary. ( Id. at ¶ 19.) The principal, Mrs. Herman, had three (3) secretaries. ( Id. at ¶ 18.)

Plaintiff alleges that he was prohibited from entering any classrooms or laboratories, and that a school director has the right to visit these rooms at his discretion. ( Id. at ¶ 20-21.) He was not given the designated director's office, a large office with windows and a private bathroom, but instead was given a "tiny" converted closet with no windows as his office, which he asserts was meant to send a message to the staff that he was not in charge. ( Id. at ¶ 22.) Plaintiff states that his decisions were "constantly" undermined by Mrs. Herman and by Defendant Antonelli. ( Id. at ¶ 23.) At the Center, the principal is supposed to report directly to the director, and so the director supervises and evaluates the principal. This is how it worked with Plaintiff's predecessors. ( Id. at ¶ 24.) However, Defendant Antonelli informed Plaintiff that he would supervise the principal instead. ( Id. )

In one instance, there was a new teacher at the Center who needed a "mentor" teacher, as required by Pennsylvania law. ( Id. at ¶ 25.) Plaintiff assigned the new teacher a mentor teacher, and gave the form to a secretary to process. ( Id. ) When the assignment had not gone through after ten (10) days, Plaintiff questioned the secretary, who informed him that she had not turned in the paperwork. ( Id. ) Plaintiff learned that after he had made the mentor teacher assignment, the principal had spoken to Defendant Antonelli, and they had collaborated to assign the principal's sister to serve as the mentor teacher instead. ( Id. at ¶ 26.) Plaintiff felt that this undermined his authority. ( Id. )

Plaintiff was prevented from taking part in the office budgeting process, a role that is supposed to be the director's, because Mrs. Herman completed and submitted it without giving the plaintiff a chance to give input or review it. ( Id. at ¶ 27.) As a result, Plaintiff received negative feedback and a letter in his file reprimanding him as "remiss in his duties" for not participating in the budget process. ( Id. at 28.) Plaintiff also received a reprimand letter in his file when he was fifteen (15) minutes late on one occasion. ( Id. at 29.) However, he asserts that it was part of the job description to be out in the community and not in the ...

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