United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT
before the court is a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's
complaint, (Doc. 1), pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), filed by the defendants, East
Lycoming School District (“ELSD”), Kevin Steele,
ELSD Athletic Director, and Michael Pawlik, ELSD
Superintendent. (Doc. 9). The plaintiff, Alyssa
Rogers, brings a gender discrimination claim, pursuant to
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§2000e, and a 14th Amendment Equal Protection
claim, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that
defendants prevented her from applying for an open position
as an assistant coach with the school district based on her
gender and the district's nepotism policy that was
unequally enforced against her due to her gender. For the
reasons discussed herein, the defendants' motion to
dismiss is GRANTED IN ITS ENTIRETY.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
filed the instant action in which she alleges that the
ELSD's Athletic Director Steele and Superintendent Pawlik
precluded her from applying for the Assistant Varsity Girls
Basketball Coach position, based on her gender and familial
relationship to the district's Head Basketball Coach, her
father Ed Rogers. In March 2016, Craig Weaver, Sr. resigned
as the assistant coach. Plaintiff alleges that when Ed Rogers
told Steele he wanted plaintiff to be hired for the open paid
assistant coach position, Steele stated that plaintiff could
not have the job based on ELSD's nepotism policy
“of not hiring family members [of] paid staff”
which applied to “both the varsity and junior high
level coaching positions.” Steele also told plaintiff
that ELSD had a “policy against hiring family members
as paid assistants as it was a conflict of interest and [she]
would have no support in her pursuit of the assistant
coaching position because she was the daughter of the head
coach.” Plaintiff describes the hiring structure at
ELSD for prospective assistant coaches as follows: first,
coaching candidates submit applications and resumes to be
reviewed by the head coach and Steele; second, interviews are
conducted with the head coach and Steele; and third, Steele
and Pawlik make the recommendation for hire to ELSD's
states that in light of the discussions with Steele and his
lack of support, she did not apply for the open
assistant coach position. Also, based on the conversations
with Steele, Ed Rogers resigned from his head coaching
position. Weaver then applied for the head coaching position.
Weaver's application was pending, plaintiff's mother,
Dr. Amy Rogers, who is a member of the ELSD School Board
heard a rumor that Weaver wanted to have his two sons hired
by ELSD as his paid assistant coaches. Amy Rogers then
contacted Steele and asked him whether ELSD's policy
against hiring family members as paid assistant coaches was
still in effect. (See Doc. 3). Steele told
Amy Rogers that “[a]s for bringing family members into
paid positions, nothing has changed and that “[r]umors
are rumors.” (Id.).
Rogers then discussed ELSD's nepotism policy with Pawlik
and he “acknowledged that he first told a prior coach
about the policy when the prior coach inquired about hiring
his daughter as an assistant coach” and that “the
policy was revisited by [ ] Steele during his conversation
with Plaintiff.” Plaintiff alleges that despite these
assurances from Steele and Pawlik that ELSD's nepotism
policy did exist which precluded the hiring of family members
as paid assistants when familial ties to the head coach were
present, Weaver's two sons were hired by ELSD as paid
assistant girls basketball coaches while Weaver was the head
plaintiff alleges that before Ed Rogers became head coach,
ELSD had hired a father and son as paid head and assistant
coaches with the girls basketball team.
such, plaintiff alleges that the real reason she was told by
Steele and Pawlik that a nepotism policy existed in ELSD was
“for the sole purpose of discouraging her to apply for
a paid coaching position due to her gender.” Plaintiff
filed a charge of sexual discrimination with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). On
January 26, 2017, she received a notice of the dismissal of
the charge and of her right to sue from the EEOC. (Doc.
1 at 11). Having exhausted administrative remedies,
plaintiff filed her complaint with this court on April 19,
2017. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff's complaint contains
three counts, (I) Title VII Gender Discrimination against all
defendants, (II) Violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 (Equal
Protection) against all defendants, and (III) Personal
Liability against defendants Steele and Pawlik. Plaintiff
alleges that Steele and Pawlik acted in their official and
personal capacities. She also alleges that Steele and Pawlik
acted recklessly and with a lack of regard for her rights
which caused her to suffer monetary losses, loss of standing
and reputation in the community, and humiliation. As relief,
plaintiff seeks monetary damages, punitive damages, equitable
relief, attorney's fees, and costs.
were then served with the complaint and on May 5, 2017, they
filed waivers of service. (Doc. 5).
23, 2017, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.
(Doc. 9). After being granted leave to file their
brief in support out of time, defendants filed it on July 19,
2017. (Doc. 15). Plaintiff filed her brief in
opposition to the motion on August 2, 2017. (Doc.
18). Defendants then filed a reply brief on August
8, 2017. (Doc. 19).
court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§1331 and 1343. Venue is appropriate in this court
since the alleged constitutional violations occurred in this
district and all parties are located here. See 28
Motion to Dismiss
defendants' motion to dismiss is brought pursuant to the
provisions of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). This rule provides for
the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the
plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no
claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States, 404
F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and dismissal is appropriate
only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint
as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face, ” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (abrogating “no
set of facts” language found in Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged
must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
127 S.Ct. at 1965. This requirement “calls for enough
fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of” necessary elements of the
plaintiff's cause of action. Id. Furthermore, in
order to satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff
must “provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief,
” which “requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Phillips v. County of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (brackets
and quotations marks omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65).
considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies
on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public
record. See Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263 (3d
Cir. 2007). The court may also consider “undisputedly
authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit
to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are
based on the [attached] documents.” Pension Benefit
Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196
(3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, “documents whose contents are
alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party
questions, but which are not physically attached to the
pleading, may be considered.” Pryor v. Nat'l
Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d
Cir. 2002). However, the court may not rely on other parts of
the record in determining a motion to dismiss. See Jordan
v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d
1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).
the court should grant leave to amend a complaint before
dismissing it as merely deficient. See,
e.g., Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete
Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247, 252 (3d Cir. 2007);
Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108
(3d Cir. 2002); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113,
116-17 (3d Cir. 2000). However, “[d]ismissal without
leave to amend is justified only on the grounds of bad faith,
undue delay, prejudice, or futility.” Alston v.
Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 236 (3d Cir. 2004).
school district and the school officials are state actors for
purpose of §1983. See Kline ex rel. Arndt v.
Mansfield, 454 F.Supp.2d 258, 262 (E.D.Pa. 2006).
state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must meet two
threshold requirements: 1) that the alleged misconduct was
committed by a person acting under color of state law; and 2)
that as a result, she was deprived of rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988);
Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981),
overruled in part on other grounds, Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-331 (1986). If a defendant
fails to act under color of state law when engaged in the
alleged misconduct, a civil rights claim under section 1983
fails as a matter of jurisdiction, Polk Cnty. v.
Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 315 (1981), and there is no need
to determine whether a federal right has been violated.
Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 838 (1982).
defendant in a civil rights action must have personal
involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be
predicated solely on the operation of respondeat
superior.” Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845
F.2d 1195, 1207-08 (3d Cir. 1988). See also Sutton v.
Rasheed, 323 F.3d 236, 249 (3d Cir. 2003)(citing
Rode). “Personal involvement can be shown
through allegations of personal direction or of actual
knowledge and acquiescence.” Rode, 845 F.2d at
1207. Accord Robinson v. City of Pittsburgh, 120
F.3d 1286, 1293-96 (3d Cir. 1997); Baker v. Monroe
Twp., 50 F.3d 1186, 1190-91 (3d Cir. 1995).
respect to actions against public officials acting in a
supervisory capacity, the United States Supreme Court has
held that claims must be differentiated based upon whether
the defendant acted in his personal capacity or in his
official capacity. Kentucky v. Graham,473 U.S. 159,
155-65 (1985). Personal capacity suits “seek to impose
personal liability upon a government official for actions he
takes under color of state law.” Id. (citing
Scheuer v. Rhodes,416 U.S. 232, 237-238 (1974)).
Official capacity suits “generally represent only
another way of pleading an action against an entity for which
an officer is an agent.” Id. (quoting
Monell v. New York City Dep't Soc. Serv., 436
U.S. 658, 690 (1978)). The Supreme Court has also held that
official capacity suits cannot succeed against officials
acting in their official capacity on behalf of the state.
Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991). “The law is
well established on this point, and courts sitting in the
Third Circuit ...