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Kegerise v. Susquehanna Township School District

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 13, 2015

DR. SUSAN M. KEGERISE, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff is Dr. Susan M. Kegerise, the former superintendent of the Susquehanna Township School District. The defendants are the School District and three members of the District's School Board, Carol L. Karl, Jesse Rawls, Sr., and Mark Y. Sussman. Plaintiff filed this lawsuit seeking redress after the Board discharged her as superintendent.[1]

We are considering Defendants' motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss three claims presented in the third amended complaint: (1) a claim that Plaintiff's discharge was in retaliation for her intended invocation of her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654; (2) a claim under Title VII that her discharge was racially motivated; and (3) a claim under Title VII that her discharge was based on her gender.

II. Procedural History

In an amended complaint, Plaintiff asserted ten causes of action. In Count I, she made a claim against the Board for "constructive termination" on the grounds that the conduct of the Board and its members, both in harassing her and in taking over her duties, prevented her from doing her job, resulting in her constructive discharge without notice or a hearing. In Count II, she made a claim against the Board, Karl, Rawls and Sussman for violation of due process on the ground that her constructive termination was done without notice or a hearing. In Count III, she made a breach-of-contract claim against the Board for constructive termination of her employment without the notice and hearing required by her contract. In Count IV, she made a claim against Karl, Rawls, and Sussman for tortious interference with contract. In Count V, she made a claim against Rawls for defamation based on his statement that she had engaged in nepotism by hiring an unqualified niece. In Count VI, she made a claim against Karl and Rawls for intentional infliction of emotional distress. In Count VII, she made a state-law claim against Rawls and Sussman for wrongful use of civil proceedings for their filing of Rawls v. Susquehanna Township School Board of Directors, No. 1:13-CV-2867 (M.D. Pa.). In Count VIII, she made a claim against the District for retaliatory termination in violation of the FMLA. In Count IX, she made a claim under the First Amendment against the District, Karl, Rawls, and Sussman for termination in retaliation for the filing of this lawsuit. In her second Count IX (and her tenth cause of action), she made a claim under the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pa. Const. art 1, § 20, against the District, Karl, Rawls, and Sussman duplicating her First Amendment claim.

Defendants moved to dismiss all of the claims. In a memorandum and order of January 7, 2015, we decided as follows. We allowed the following counts to proceed: Counts II, III, IV, VII, IX and the second Count IX. We dismissed the following counts: Counts I, V, VI and VIII and granted leave to amend only Count VIII, the FMLA retaliation claim. See Kegerise v. Susquehanna Township School District, 2015 WL 106528, at *18 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 7, 2015).

Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint. By stipulation of the parties approved by the court, Plaintiff filed a third amended complaint. The third amended complaint realleged the claims that survived the motion to dismiss, amended the FMLA claim, and added the following two Title VII claims. In Count XI, she sued all the defendants under Title VII, alleging that her discharge was racially motivated. In Count XII, she sued all the defendants under Title VII, alleging that her discharge was based on her gender. Defendants then filed their motion to dismiss, directed at the amended FMLA claim and the two new Title VII claims.

III. Standard of Review

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), "[w]e 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 may be entitled to relief.'" Byers v. Intuit, Inc., 600 F.3d 286, 291 (3d Cir. 2010)(quoted case omitted).

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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Nonetheless, the complaint still has to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 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, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court "is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted).

The court is not limited to evaluating the complaint alone; it can also consider documents attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and indisputably authentic documents. Delaware Nation v. Pennsylvania, 446 F.3d 410, 413 n.2 (3d Cir. 2006).

IV. Discussion

A. Plaintiff's FMLA Retaliation Claim Survives the ...


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