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Griggs v. Septa

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 22, 2015

SEPTA, et al., Defendants.


Baylson, J.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Crystal Griggs alleges claims of race and gender discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (“SEPTA”) and Luther Diggs, who are, respectively, her current employer and another SEPTA employee. Defendants move for partial dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust her failure to promote claims that arose after she filed dual complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in January 2012 and October 2012. For the following reasons, Defendants’ Motion is DENIED.

II. Facts [1]

In January 2012, Plaintiff dual-filed a complaint with the PHRC and EEOC alleging that SEPTA failed to promote her to the position of Director of Transportation in December of 2011 due to race and gender discrimination. ECF 1 ¶¶ 5, 34, 42. Plaintiff further alleged in her charge that she was denied this promotion in retaliation for a previous complaint of discrimination filed with the PHRC and EEOC on June 9, 2004. ECF 1 ¶ 39; ECF 3 Ex. B, at 4.

On May 10, 2012, Plaintiff dual-filed a second complaint after she was denied a promotion to the position of Director, Service Operations-CCT. ECF 3 Ex. C, at 3. In October 2012, Plaintiff handwrote a letter to the PHRC alleging that SEPTA failed to promote her to the position of Director, Customer Development and Research, and asking the agency to “add another charge of discrimination to [her] case.” ECF 8, Ex. C. In January of 2013, Plaintiff formally amended her complaint to include SEPTA’s alleged failure to promote her to the Director, Customer Development and Research position. ECF 3 Ex. D, at 5. Plaintiff has not filed any further administrative complaints against Defendants.

In June of 2014, the PHRC issued “Findings of the Investigation” from Plaintiff’s second complaint.[2] ECF 8, Ex. B. In its findings, the PHRC addressed only SEPTA’s failure to promote Plaintiff to Director, Service Operations CCT and Director, Customer Development and Research, which Plaintiff raised in her second complaint to the PHRC and her amendment. Id. at 2. Plaintiff further alleges in this action, however, that SEPTA denied her four additional promotions in February of 2013, September of 2013, November of 2013, and February of 2014 for “discriminatory and retaliatory” reasons (collectively, the “Post-Filing Claims”). ECF 1 ¶ 48. The PHRC’s findings were silent as to the Post-Filing Claims. ECF 8, Ex. B. The EEOC issued right-to-sue letters as to both of her dual-filed complaints in August 2014, notifying her that the agency was adopting the findings of the PHRC investigations of both complaints. ECF 1 ¶ 5 & Ex. A.

III. The Parties’ Contentions

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims based on the four post-filing denials of promotion, arguing that Plaintiff has not administratively exhausted these claims with the PHRC and EEOC. Defendants further argue that, should the Court find Plaintiff did not exhaust the Post-Filing Claims, the statute of limitations to file administrative complaints as to these claims has passed. Plaintiff argues that the Post-Filing Claims fall within the scope of the investigation that could reasonably be expected to grow out of her complaints to the PHRC and EEOC.

IV. Legal Standard

In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “we accept all factual allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen, Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

Because submission of a complaint to the EEOC or relevant state agency and obtaining a right-to-sue letter are prerequisites to filing suit under Title VII, a complaint may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Robinson v. Dalton, 107 F.3d 1018, 1022 (3d Cir. 1997). A court “may consider the EEOC charge and related EEOC documents, including the letter from the EEOC summarizing its investigation . . . either as undisputed documents referenced in the complaint or central to the plaintiff's claim, or as information which is a matter of public record, without converting this motion to one [for] summary judgment.” Rogan v. Giant Eagle, Inc., 113 F.Supp.2d 777, 782 (W.D. Pa. 2000), aff’d, 276 F.3d 579 (3d Cir. 2001); see Angstadt v. Midd-W. Sch. Dist., 377 F.3d 338, 342 (3d Cir. 2004) (“[A] document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be considered without converting the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment.”); Clarkson v. SEPTA, No. 14-2510, 2014 WL 5483546 at *1, n. 1 (E.D. Pa. 2014) (Baylson, J.) (noting PHRC documents charging discrimination are documents integral to a Title VII complaint). Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, however, that “the defendant bears the burden of pleading and proving.” Williams v. Runyon, 130 F.3d 568, 573 (3d Cir. 1997).

V. Analysis

Title VII and the PHRA require plaintiffs to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or PHRC, respectively, before bringing suit. Woodson v. Scott Paper Co., 109 F.3d 913, 925–26 (3d Cir. 1997). The Third Circuit standard for determining if discrimination claims have been administratively exhausted is whether they could “reasonably be expected to grow out of the [EEOC] charge of discrimination, including new acts occurring during the pendency of the administrative proceedings.” Ostapowicz v. Johnson Bronze Co., 541 F.2d 394, 398–99 (3d Cir. 1976) (internal citations omitted). The actual scope of the administrative investigation, however, is not the outer limit of the claims a plaintiff may bring in a subsequent civil complaint. Hicks v. ABT Associates, ...

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