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Schienblum v. Lehigh Valley Charter School For Arts

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 21, 2016

RAFE SCHIENBLUM and PHYLLIS AYERS, Plaintiffs,
v.
LEHIGH VALLEY CHARTER SCHOOL FOR THE ARTS, SHARON FEHLINGER-RICKER, and DIANE LABELLE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          HENRY S. PERKIN, M.J.

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count IX of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss was filed on March 16, 2016, and Plaintiff's Supplemental Authorities in Opposition to Defendant's Motion was filed on September 1, 2016. Having reviewed and considered the contentions of the parties, the Court is prepared to rule on this matter.

         Procedural History

         Plaintiffs Rafe Scheinblum (“Scheinblum”) and Phyllis Ayers (“Ayers) initiated this matter on December 4, 2015 by filing a civil/constitutional rights Complaint against Defendants Lehigh Valley Charter School for the Arts (“LVCHSA”), Sharon Fehlinger-Ricker (“Fehlinger-Ricker”), and Diane LaBelle (“LaBelle”). On February 2, 2015, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Count VII and XII of Plaintiffs' Complaint, but the Motion was later denied as moot following Plaintiff's submission of an Amended Complaint on February 22, 2015. In Counts I and II, Scheinblum alleges claims of discrimination and retaliation, respectively, against LVCHSA pursuant to Title VII (42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq). In Count III, Scheinblum alleges a violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”) (43 P.S. §§951, et. seq) against LVCHSA. In Count IV, Scheinblum asserts a claim against LaBelle and Fehlinger-Ricker for aiding and abetting the alleged illegal conduct of LVCHSA pursuant to PHRA. In Count V, Ayers avers a claim of retaliation against LVCHSA under Title VII for her association with Scheinblum and his discharge from his position. In Count VI, Ayers brings a claim against LVCHSA for violation of the PHRA by engaging in a discriminatory and retaliatory manner towards Ayers. In Count VII, Ayers asserts a claim against LaBelle and Fehlinger-Ricker for aiding and abetting LVCHSA in the alleged unlawful actions. In Count IX[1], Ayers brings violations of her Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments against Defendants for depriving her of the right to free speech and security of tenured public employment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. In Count X, Ayers alleges a violation of the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law (42 Pa.C.S.A §1421, et. seq) for being terminated from her position after reporting misconduct and improper policies relating to the school.

         Plaintiffs seek monetary damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, economic loss, front pay, and other damages. Plaintiffs also seek punitive damages against LVCHSA.

         Factual Background

         Based on the averments in the Complaint viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the pertinent facts to this Court's determination are as follows:

         A. Facts Related to Scheinblum

         Plaintiffs Scheinblum and Ayers were married during all times material hereto. Plaintiff Scheinblum, was hired in July 2008 by LVCHSA as Director of Technology. Scheinblum was required to report directly to LaBelle. Scheinblum claims he was a diligent employee with a good work record and always performed his job in a competent manner.

         In the Complaint, Scheinblum avers that, beginning in July 2008 and continuing through 2014, LaBelle would yell at him, ignore him during meetings, talk down to him, make unreasonable demands on Scheinblum, and subject him to hyper-criticism and hyper-scrutiny. Scheinblum alleges that female employees at LVCHSA were treated better than he was and that LVCHSA, through LaBelle, would enable the female employees to use profane language and act in an offensive manner.

         Scheinblum had a meeting with LaBelle on or about April 4, 2014 during which Scheinblum alleges that LaBelle chastised him for using offensive language and acting in a threatening manner towards women. Scheinblum disputed these accusations and complained of a hostile work environment. Scheinblum reported this meeting and the issues raised to LVCHSA's principal, Fehlinger-Ricker. Plaintiff contends that LVCHSA failed to take any remedial action or conduct any investigation into the issues Scheinblum raised.

         On or around April 8, 2014, LVCHSA, through LaBelle, suspended Scheinblum for using profanity and acting in a threatening matter towards women. At the time LaBelle suspended Scheinblum, Board President Mario Acerra, who was also present, did not allow Scheinblum to defend himself against the charges. On or around May 8, 2014, LaBelle informed Scheinblum that the Board of Directors were terminating his employment. Scheinblum contends that as a result of LVCHSA's conduct, he has suffered irrevocable damage, and has suffered emotional, psychological, and physical distress. He also avers that he has suffered a loss of earnings.

         B. Facts Related to Ayers

         Plaintiff Ayers was hired in September 2008 by LVCHSA as Director of Special Education. Ayers avers that LVCHSA is required, by law, to maintain the position of Director of Special Education and is not allowed to remove it for any reason. According to the Complaint, Ayers' employment was directed by a contract, which it stated she was not subject to immediate termination except for “good cause which is not arbitrary or capricious.” Ayers alleges that this provision allows her employment to be ...


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