United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge.
before the undersigned is Plaintiff, Joseph Patrick
Guerriero's, third action in this venire against his
employer, Defendants Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania
and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The
instant matter is a one-count complaint, which alleges
retaliation in violation of both Title VII of the Federal
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations
Defendants have moved to dismiss the action. For all of the
foregoing reasons the motion will be granted. However,
Plaintiff will be provided leave to amend pursuant to Rule
15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant may
file a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.” Such a motion
“tests the legal sufficiency of a pleading” and
“streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless
discovery and factfinding.” “Rule 12(b)(6)
authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a
dispositive issue of law.”This is true of any claim,
“without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish
legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing
in 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States initiated
what some scholars have termed the Roberts Court's
“civil procedure revival” by significantly
tightening the standard that district courts must apply to
12(b)(6) motions. In two landmark decisions, Bell
Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, the Roberts Court “changed . . . the
pleading landscape” by “signal[ing] to
lower-court judges that the stricter approach some had been
taking was appropriate under the Federal
Rules.” More specifically, the Court in these two
decisions “retired” the lenient
“no-set-of-facts test” set forth in Conley v.
Gibson and replaced it with a more exacting
after Twombly and Iqbal, “[t]o survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” “Although the plausibility
standard does not impose a probability requirement, it does
require a pleading to show more than a sheer possibility that
a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Moreover,
“[a]sking for plausible grounds . . . calls for enough
facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of [wrongdoing].”
plausibility determination is “a context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” No matter the context,
however, “[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are
‘merely consistent with' a defendant's
liability, it ‘stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of entitlement to
disposing of a motion to dismiss, a court must “accept
as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all
inferences from the facts alleged in the light most favorable
to [the plaintiff].” However, “the tenet that
a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained
in the complaint is inapplicable to legal
conclusions.” “After Iqbal, it is clear that
conclusory or ‘bare-bones' allegations will no
longer survive a motion to dismiss.”
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
matter of procedure, the United States Court of Appeals for
the Third Circuit has instructed that:
Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, a
court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take
three steps. First, it must tak[e] note of the elements [the]
plaintiff must plead to state a claim. Second, it should
identify allegations that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.
Finally, [w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
[the] court should assume their veracity and then determine
whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
now to the Plaintiff's factual allegations, which I must
accept as true on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.
Facts Alleged in the Complaint
Joseph Patrick Guerriero, hereinafter “Guerriero,
” has been employed by Defendants Lock Haven University
of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher
Education, hereinafter, collectively, “LHU, ”
since 1998. Guerriero first filed a complaint against LHU in
2003, pursuant to the retaliation provisions of both Title
VII and the PHRA. This action was settled by the parties, and
subsequently dismissed in accordance with the settlement
agreement in 2006.
2008, Guerriero filed a second action against LHU. The 2008
action was, again, premised as a claim of retaliation in
violation of Title VII and the PHRA. It also proceeded as a
breach of contract action for breach of the 2006 settlement
agreement. On November 10, 2009, following a jury trial, a
verdict of sixty- thousand dollars ($60, 000) was returned in
favor of Guerriero.
following paragraphs from the complaint comprise
Guerriero's factual assertions.
13). In or around September of 2011, Defendants hired a new
President, Michael Fiorentino. In an attempt to assist Mr.
Fiorentino in his new position, Plaintiff sent an email
offering his expertise and willingness to return to
Defendants' athletics department.
14). Despite never having met Plaintiff and regardless of
Plaintiff's extensive and laudatory career in athletics,
Mr. Fiorentino responded dismissively of Plaintiff's
offer stating that, after speaking to former Presidents, as
well as the Chancellor, Mr. Fiorentino had no intention of
assisting Plaintiff in any fashion in working in Athletics.
15). Nearly a month later in October of 2011, Defendants made
unfounded allegations that Plaintiff had improperly provided
benefits to a student-athlete in an attempt to harm
Plaintiff's standing within his profession and to ensure
that Plaintiff would not work within Athletics.
16). As a result of the allegations, Defendants forbade
Plaintiff's professional interaction with
student-athletes, as well as compelled Plaintiff to undergo
training for supposed violations of NCAA rules and
17). Despite the aforementioned supposed violations,
Plaintiff never received an admonishment, never received
sanctions, and never received punishment of any kind on
behalf of the NCAA.
18). The allegations were baseless and motivated by
Defendants to marginalize Plaintiff's interaction within
athletics, decrease his standing within his own profession
and/or Athletics, and subject Plaintiff to unfounded
criticism and shame.
19). Four months later, in or around February of 2012,
Defendant removed then-Athletic Director Sharon Taylor from
her capacity as Athletic Director.
20). Despite Plaintiff's extensive career in athletics,
his previous and considerable experience as Assistant
Athletic Director for Defendants, and Plaintiff's
credentials being comparable to the eventual hires for
Interim AD and Assistant AD, Defendants never offered
Plaintiff the chance to interview nor was Plaintiff given any
consideration for either position.
21). In a meeting a month later with Carl Poff and Dave
Bower, Interim AD and Assistant AD, respectively, both
informed Plaintiff that he was to “tread lightly”
and that there were “others in the department”
who “did not like him because of his previous
22). In the Spring of 2013, Defendants announced the position
of “Summer Camps” director.
23). Once again, despite Plaintiff's past experience
directing multiple camps and clinics on behalf of Defendants
and other institutions, as well as his work as Assistant
Athletic Director, Plaintiff was not spoken to nor granted an
interview for the position of “Summer Camps”
director despite him expressing his interest in the position.
24). Defendants' decision to not interview nor even
consider Plaintiff for the position of Summer Camps director,
despite his qualifications and past experience in this very
field, was retaliatory conduct motivated primarily by their
anger at Plaintiff for filing previous lawsuits against
25). In the Fall of 2013, Plaintiff approached the then
recently appointed Athletic Director, Mark Sherburne,
offering to work on various projects within Athletics, even
on a voluntary basis.
26). However, similarly to the response received from Mr.
Fiorentino previously, Mr. Sherburne, despite never worked
alongside Plaintiff, replied that Plaintiff was prohibited
from working within Athletics, even on a voluntary basis.
27). Defendants were fully aware of Plaintiff's desire,
experience, and wish to work in Athletics and continually
refused to offer a position within athletics, even by way of
a perk to Plaintiff on a voluntary basis. Defendants'
motivation in not permitting Plaintiff to work within
Athletics was primarily motivated by and in retaliation of
their anger at Plaintiff for filing previous lawsuits against
28). Next, in January of 2014, Plaintiff requested a meeting
with Defendants' recently appointed Vice President of
University Relations, Mr. Rodney Jenkins, to both introduce