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La Coe v. Pennsylvania State University

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 5, 2015

JODI LA COE, Plaintiff,


MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Jodi La Coe ("La Coe"), commenced this action against Defendants, The Pennsylvania State University ("Penn State"), Mehrdad Hadighi ("Hadighi"), and James Kalsbeek ("Kalsbeek") on September 18, 2014. ECF No. 1. Out of the eleven counts set forth in the Complaint, La Coe alleges three counts against Kalsbeek. The first Count against Kalsbeek is for the denial of equal protection in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The next count is for gender discrimination in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. The final count is for retaliation in violation of the PHRA.

Kalsbeek promptly filed a motion to dismiss the counts against him for failure to plead a plausible cause of action. ECF No. 10. Shortly thereafter, La Coe timely filed a First Amended Complaint alleging the same causes of actions against Kalsbeek but included additional facts. ECF No. 12. Kalsbeek again filed a motion to dismiss the first amended complaint averring that La Coe failed to plead a plausible cause of action. ECF No. 15. In response, La Coe filed a brief in opposition to Kalsbeek's motion to dismiss. ECF No. 18. Kalsbeek filed a Reply Brief to La Coe's Response. ECF No. 19. La Coe has now filed a Motion for Leave to File a Declaration in opposition to Kalsbeek's Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 20. For the reasons stated within, the Court will deny La Coe's motion.


In 2003, La Coe was hired into the Penn State Architecture Department as a fixed-term instructor. ECF No. 12, 4. Kalsbeek, is a senior tenured faculty member, working in the Penn State Architecture Department. Id. at 2.

In 2004, La Coe and Kalsbeek co-taught an architecture studio course for undergraduate majors. Id. at 11. La Coe alleges that Kalsbeek "professed his love" for her and sought to become romantically involved with her. Id. Further, La Coe alleges that Kalsbeek explained that "by accepting his offer, it would be a good path for her life to take or words to that effect." Id. La Coe further alleges that Kalsbeek's words and actions suggested that he had power over the terms and conditions of her employment. Id. La Coe alleges that even though she firmly rebuffed his proposal, Kalsbeek persisted in his unwanted advances. Id. at 11-13. La Coe also alleges that Kalsbeek was her "de facto" supervisor because he was the more senior professor and "was in the position to influence the terms and conditions of [her] work assignments and conditions." Id.

In 2007, Penn State hired La Coe into the tenure track. Id. at 4 . In 2012, Hadighi, the department head and professor, recommended against awarding La Coe tenure. Id. at 4. On March 1, 2013, Penn State denied La Coe's tenure and promotion application. Id.

On August 7, 2013, La Coe filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner ("EEOC") and with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commissions ("PHRC") against Penn State, alleging discrimination on the basis of gender, age, retaliation, harassment, and the Equal Pay Act. Id. at 2-3.

La Coe alleges on or about February 5, 2014, she complained to Hadighi about Kalsbeek's "inappropriate and intimidating behavior toward her" including Kalsbeek's Fall 2013 criticism of La Coe for alerting the University's Environmental and Health Services Office about a suspected asbestos issue. Id. La Coe claims she was retaliated against for having complained of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination in the Department. Id. at 20. La Coe completed the academic year, and her employment with Penn State ended on June 30, 2014. Id. at 5.

La Coe's counsel now seeks to "better respond to the factual issued raised by Kalsbeek in both his motions to dismiss and in his reply brief" via a declaration from La Coe. ECF No. 20.

La Coe's declaration, if admitted would add these new factual allegations

• Kalsbeek was the Coordinator of the First Year Studio sequence. As a Coordinator, Kalsbeek managed the other three faculty members who taught the course, including La Coe.
• As part of his Coordinator's duties, Kalsbeek called the weekly meetings and set the agenda for those meetings. During one semester, Kalsbeek stopped communicating with La Coe for no good reason, discontinued the official weekly meetings, and held faculty meetings without informing her.
• Kalsbeek was presented to the students and faculty as the individual in charge of the First Year Studio, and he controlled the budget for the first year studio. During one semester when the Kalsbeek was not communicating with La Coe, he took her allotted funds for material purchases and improperly used ...

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