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Wyatt v. Philadelphia Housing Authority

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 6, 2017

RICHARD WYATT, Plaintiffs
v.
PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Rufe, J.

         After the Philadelphia Housing Authority (“PHA”) terminated his employment, Plaintiff Richard Wyatt filed this action alleging violations of various state and federal laws against PHA, his union, and their presidents. The Court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss and permitted Plaintiff to amend his complaint. Now before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss the second amended complaint. For the reasons set forth herein, the motions will be granted.

         I. Pertinent Facts Alleged in the Second Amended Complaint[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that, prior to November 17, 2009, he was employed as a plasterer with Defendant Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association Local 008 (“Union”). Plaintiff was earning $24.80 per hour for forty hours of work per week. Plaintiff's union benefits included health benefits, an annuity account, and a pension.

         Beginning around November 17, 2009, Plaintiff began working as a provisional employee of PHA. PHA requires in-house employees to live in Philadelphia County, but provisional employees are not subject to this residency requirement. PHA has an agreement with Plaintiff's Union governing certain conditions of employment.

         In early September 2012, Plaintiff was told that if he did not agree to work in-house at PHA, he would lose his job. Plaintiff became an in-house employee, working as a “plasterer maintenance man” and rebuilding chimneys in Philadelphia. Beginning later that month, he complained at union meetings about becoming an in-house employee, as it affected his benefits.

         Plaintiff alleges in the second amended complaint (“SAC”) that, prior to the union meetings, his co-workers asked Plaintiff to advocate for them because they were afraid of retaliation, and Plaintiff agreed to do so, both in person and via e-mail.[2] Plaintiff states that at the union meetings, he complained not only on his own behalf, but also on behalf of approximately twenty of his co-workers, and that his loud protest created a “riot-like atmosphere.”[3] Union leaders became hostile and told Plaintiff he had no right to speak because of his status as a “journeyman.”[4]

         Plaintiff states in the SAC that he protested on behalf of himself and his co-workers “many times” in 2013 and 2014. In response, Plaintiff was given “the worst jobs, ” including manual labor on rooftops. When he complained about these assignments, he was told to “shut his mouth.”[5]

         In 2013, Defendants began advising Plaintiff that he had to comply with PHA's residency requirement. In January 2014, he was told that he needed to provide a letter explaining why he could not move to Philadelphia County. Plaintiff responded, stating that he has joint custody of his daughter and is not permitted to have parenting time in Philadelphia pursuant to a Superior Court of New Jersey order. In April 2014, he was eligible for a raise, but did not receive one. That month, his Union informed him that he had received a residency waiver from PHA. However, in June 2014, Union business agent Billy Taylor told Plaintiff that the Union needed to provide PHA with the documentation to support the waiver. Billy Taylor passed away soon after this conversation, without having the opportunity to send Plaintiff's supporting documents to PHA. The Union president, Thomas Kilkenney, assured Plaintiff that the documents supporting the waiver would be sent to PHA.

         In September 2014, Plaintiff and ten other in-house employees were fired by PHA for failure to comply with the residency requirement. Five were quickly rehired as provisional employees, but Plaintiff was not. After he was terminated, the Union did not file a grievance on Plaintiff's behalf. Plaintiff argues that he was terminated as an in-house employee and not rehired as a provisional employee, despite having a legitimate reason for not meeting the residency requirement, in retaliation for having verbally opposed his employment change to “in-house” status, and that PHA used the residency requirement as a pretext for firing him.

         Plaintiff filed suit against PHA and the Union, and thereafter filed a first amended complaint. Defendants responded with motions to dismiss. By memorandum opinion and order, the Court granted the motions and permitted Plaintiff to amend the complaint a second time. Plaintiff subsequently filed the SAC, asserting a single Count of Retaliation for First Amendment Protected Activities, which Defendants moved to dismiss.

         II. Standard of Review

         Dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is appropriate where a plaintiff's plain statement does not contain enough substance to show that plaintiff is entitled to relief.[6] A Court may look to the facts alleged in the complaint, its attachments, and documents incorporated into the complaint by reference or explicitly relied upon in the complaint.[7] In determining whether a motion to dismiss should be granted, the court must consider those facts alleged in the complaint, accepting the allegations as true and drawing all logical inferences in favor of the non-moving party.[8] However, something more than a mere possibility of a claim must be alleged; plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”[9] Furthermore, courts are not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.[10]

         III. ...


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