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Harris v. (Septa) Southeastern Pennsylvania Transporation Authority

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 20, 2017



          Goldberg, J.

         Plaintiff Claude Harris filed this civil action against the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA"), "Worker's Comp, " "Christina Barbieri Assoc, " and "any third party that may be involved, " pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12112, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§951-963. He also filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and a request for the appointment of counsel. For the following reasons, I will grant Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. However, I will dismiss Plaintiffs complaint and deny his request for the appointment of counsel.

         I. FACTS[1]

         Plaintiff began working for SEPTA in 1989. He was injured in 1991 and was placed on light duty until 1992. Plaintiff last worked for SEPTA in 1992. Plaintiff subsequently filed a workers compensation claim. He alleges that an appeal of that claim was granted in 2001 and that the appeal is still pending.

         At some point in or after 1999, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On January 29, 2002, through a telephone conversation, the EEOC informed Plaintiff that "the last date of violation in the matter occurred in 1992." The EEOC determined that Plaintiffs charge of discrimination was untimely because Plaintiff did not file it within 300 days. The EEOC also concluded that "notwithstanding the expiration of statutory time limits for filing, the issues [Plaintiff] raise[d] fall within the purview of Workers Compensation." In a letter to Plaintiff dated January 31, 2002, the EEOC reiterated that no further action would be taken on Plaintiffs matter.

         Plaintiff continued to pursue his charge with the EEOC. On July 26, 2017, the EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights. In that document, the EEOC indicated that Plaintiffs charge was not timely filed with the EEOC because he "waited too long after the date(s) of the alleged discrimination to file [his] charge." On August 30, 2017, Plaintiff also received a letter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Human Relations Commission ("the Commission"). In that letter, the Commission informed Plaintiff that his complaint pursuant to the PHRA would not be accepted because it was untimely.[2]

         The instant complaint followed. By marking the appropriate locations on the form complaint, Plaintiff indicated that SEPTA had discriminated against him by failing to hire him, terminating his employment, failing to promote him, failing to accommodate his disability, failing to stop harassment, and by retaliating against him. Plaintiff also indicated that SEPTA had discriminated against him based on his race.


         Plaintiff will be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears he is not capable of prepaying the fees required to commence this action. However, a court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis "at any time" if it fails to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires a court to determine whether the complaint contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). Conclusory statements and naked assertions will not suffice. Id. "[T]he plausibility paradigm announced in Twomblv applies with equal force to analyzing the adequacy of claims of employment discrimination." Fowler v. UMPC Shadvside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009) (quotations omitted). Accordingly, courts evaluating the viability of an employment discrimination complaint should "disregard legal conclusions and recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 128 (3d Cir. 2010) (quotations omitted).

         Additionally, a court may dismiss claims based on an affirmative defense if the affirmative defense is obvious from the face of the complaint. See Ray v. Kertes, 285 F.3d 287, 297 (3d Cir. 2002); see also McPherson v. United States, 392 Fed.Appx. 938, 943 (3d Cir. 2010).

         And because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his allegations must be construed liberally. Higgs v. Att'v Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).


         To establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must show that: (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was qualified for the position he sought; (3) he was rejected for the position despite his qualifications, and; (4) the rejection occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973); see also Sarullo v. U.S. Postal Serv., 352 F.3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2003). To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, a plaintiff must show that (1) he engaged in activity protected by Title VII; (2) his employer took an adverse action against him; and (3) ...

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