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Kaite v. Altoona Student Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

October 30, 2017

BONNIE F. KAITE, Plaintiff,
v.
ALTOONA STUDENT TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KIM R. GIBSON JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Before the Court is Defendant's Renewed Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (ECF No. 17.) The motion has been fully briefed (see ECF Nos. 18, 25, 32) and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion will be DENIED.

         II. Jurisdiction

         This Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's civil rights claims under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343, and supplemental jurisdiction over her related state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

         III. Background

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint before this Court on January 12, 2017 (ECF No. 1), which Plaintiff subsequently amended on June 17, 2017. (ECF No. 14.) The Court accepts as true the following facts from the Amended Complaint for the sole purpose of deciding Defendant's Renewed Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.

         Defendant hired Plaintiff to work as a school bus driver in 2001. (Id. at 2.) In November, 2015, Defendant informed Plaintiff that, in accordance with a newly enacted state law, Plaintiff needed to undergo a background check to continue her employment. (Id.) The background check required that Plaintiff be fingerprinted. (Id.)

         Plaintiff is a devout Christian. (Id.) Plaintiff informed Defendant that, according to her sincerely held religious beliefs, "the Book of Revelation prohibits the 'mark of the devil, ' which she believes includes fingerprinting, and that she will not get into Heaven if she submits to fingerprinting." (Id.) Plaintiff asked Defendant for an accommodation, specifically, whether she could perform a different type of background check that did not require her to be fingerprinted. (Id.)

         Defendant informed Plaintiff that no accommodations were available, and terminated her for failing to comply with state law's fingerprinting requirement, effective December 31, 2015. (Id. at 2-3.) However, Defendant allowed at least one employee with "unreadable" fingerprints to participate in an alternative background check for which fingerprinting was not required. (Id. at 3.)

         Plaintiff asserts three claims: (1) religious discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ("Title VII") (see Id. at 3-4); (2) retaliation, also in violation of Title VII (id. at 4-5); and (3) a related claim under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA").[1] (Id. at 5-6.)

         IV. Legal Standard

         "The standard for deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is not materially different from the standard for deciding a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)." Zion v. Nassan, 283 F.R.D. 247, 254 (W.D. Pa. 2012); see Harleysville INS. Co. of New York v. Cerciello, No. 3:08-CV-2060, 2010 WL 11534317, at *2 (M.D. Pa. 2010) ("The standard of review used for a motion for judgment on the pleadings is substantively identical to that of a motion to dismiss."); see also Minnesota Lawyers Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ahrens, 432 Fed.Appx. 143, 147 (3d Cir. 2011).

         Either motion may be used to seek the dismissal of a complaint based on a plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); id. at 12(h)(2)(B). The only difference between the two motions is that a Rule 12(b) motion must be made before a "responsive pleading" is filed, whereas a Rule 12(c) motion can be made "[a]fter the pleadings are closed." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b); id. at 12(c); Cerciello, 2010 WL 11534317, at 2. "A court presented with a motion for judgment on the pleadings must consider the plaintiff's complaint, the defendant's answer, and any written instruments or exhibits attached to the pleadings." Anthony v. ...


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