Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ali v. Rep. Joanna McClinton

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 14, 2017

EL SHAFIYQ ASAD ALI, Plaintiff,
v.
REP. JOANNA MCCLINTON, Individually and in her official capacity as Pennsylvania State Representative, and PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Gerald Austin McHugh United States District Judge

         This case concerns a suit by Plaintiff El Shafiyq Asad Ali against his former employers, Defendants Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Representative Joanna McClinton. Ali maintains that Defendants violated the First Amendment and Pennsylvania's Whistleblower Law when they fired him for reporting McClinton's use of state resources to promote her church. The primary legal issue before me now is whether Ali's claims are barred by statutory and Eleventh Amendment immunity. I conclude that his claims against the House of Representatives and against McClinton in her official capacity must be dismissed. But because Pennsylvania's Whistleblower Law waives statutory immunity, and because Eleventh Amendment immunity does not bar suits against individual state officers in their personal capacity, Ali may proceed with his First Amendment and whistleblower claims against McClinton in her personal capacity.

         I. FACTS

         For roughly nine months, from September 2015 until June 2016, El Shafiyq Asad Ali worked as Director of Constituent Services for Joanna McClinton, a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Ali, who describes himself as an "American-Indian" and a practicing Muslim, claims that his ethnicity and religious beliefs set him apart from his African-American, Christian boss and co-workers. For instance, Ali claims that "McClinton and members of her staff asked [him] on multiple occasions how he became an American-Indian, " Compl. ¶ 10, and that his coworkers (though apparently not McClinton herself) "repeatedly asked [him] whether he was a practicing Muslim, " ¶ 11. Ali further maintains that McClinton invited her staff members to worship with her at the Open Door Mission True Light Church (Church), where she served as a minister. Ali never accepted McClinton's invitation and contends that he was treated less favorably than staff members who did. ¶ 12.

         The events giving rise to this case occurred in the spring of 2016, when McClinton asked Ali to organize an event at the Philadelphia Housing Authority's Bartram Village site. According to Ali, the purpose of the event was to promote a "facility" that the Church planned to open nearby. ¶ 14. Ali claims that McClinton told him to "ensure that only Christian music, and not any 'worldly' music would be played at the event, " ¶ 15, and further directed him to work closely with her mother, Rachel, who was also a minister at the Church, ¶ 13. Ali maintains that the Church held a similar event at Bartram Village the year before, which it paid for itself. By contrast, the event that he was asked to organize was to be paid for using Housing Authority funds. ¶ 16.

         Uncomfortable with what he perceived to be state-sponsored religious advocacy, Ali expressed doubts to McClinton about the propriety of the Bartram Village event, but was told to proceed with planning. Ali next raised his concerns in an e-mail to Eric Fillman, Ethics Counselor for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Fillman replied the following day, and told Ali that he had spoken to McClinton and concluded that the Bartram Village event did not present "any ethical conflicts of interest." ¶ 19. "Approximately a week later, " McClinton allegedly told Ali that he "had been doing things without her approval, " and instructed him "to write daily logs detailing his work activity." ¶ 20. Roughly two weeks after that conversation, Ali claims that McClinton falsely accused him of failing to schedule a meeting with two of her constituents and then fired him without further explanation.

         Ali filed suit against McClinton and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania's Whistleblower Law, 43 Pa. Stat, and Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 1421-1428. Before me now is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, that motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         II. STANDARD

         This motion is governed by the well-established standards of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as amplified by Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Claims under Pennsylvania's Whistleblower Law

         Ali brings claims under Pennsylvania's Whistleblower Law against the House of Representatives and against McClinton in her official and personal capacity. The Whistleblower Law provides that "[n]o employer may discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee ... because the employee .. . makes a good faith report or is about to report ... an instance of [(1)] wrongdoing or [(2)] waste by a public body." § 1423. Employers covered by the law include "state officer[s], " like McClinton, as well as the "General Assembly and its agencies." § 1422. The law empowers a "person who alleges a violation of this act [to] bring a civil action ... for appropriate injunctive relief or damages, or both." § 1424. Ali characterizes his e-mail to Eric Fillman, the House Ethics Counselor, as a good faith report of both waste and of wrongdoing. He argues that McClinton and the House of Representatives violated the Whistleblower Law when they fired him for making this report.

         The threshold question is whether Defendants enjoy immunity from Ali's whistleblower suit. In support of immunity, they point to 1 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2310, which provides that:

         The Commonwealth, and its officials and employees acting within the scope of their duties, shall continue to enjoy sovereign immunity and official immunity and remain immune from suit except as ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.