United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge
parties are immersed in a procedural quagmire. The dispute
involves alleged discrimination and retaliation that took
place over the course of three years. It also invokes
questions of timeliness and exhaustion of administrative
remedies. As an added wrinkle, the plaintiff, Loretta
Washington-Morris, filed two complaints with the EEOC about
the supposed discriminatory conduct but only filed suit after
receiving her right-to-sue letter as to her second EEOC
complaint. The defendants seek to partially dismiss the
reasons discussed in this Memorandum, the Court grants the
motion in part and denies it in part. The Court concludes
that Ms. Washington-Morris has alleged discrete
discriminatory acts (as opposed to one continuous violation),
and that she was therefore required to file timely EEOC
complaints as to each discriminatory event. Thus, Ms.
Washington-Morris' amended complaint only recounts two
instances of discrimination that are timely. The first
occurred in January 2016 when Bucks County Transport
allegedly required Ms. Washington-Morris to come to work
during inclement weather while similarly situated white
employees were allowed to work from home. The second incident
of discrimination occurred in June 2016 when Ms.
Washington-Morris attempted to return to work after being on
leave for carpal tunnel surgery. The Court also concludes
that Ms. Washington-Morris exhausted her administrative
remedies as to her disability discrimination and retaliation
Washington-Morris is an African-American woman who started
working for Bucks County Transport in 2012 as a driver. For
the whole time she was employed at Bucks, Ms.
Washington-Morris also had another job that Bucks
accommodated in her schedule. Bucks is a private, non-profit
organization that provides shared ride transportation
services to people with disabilities. Ms. Washington-Morris
obtained full-time status as a scheduler in January 2014.
that time, Ms. Washington-Morris learned that she needed to
have surgery on her foot to alleviate pain from a heel spur.
She requested time off for surgery and Bucks asked that she
reschedule her surgery so that Bucks could train a
replacement. One day after her surgery, Bucks asked Ms.
Washington-Morris to complete scheduling work from home,
which she did. Bucks then asked Ms. Washington-Morris to
return to the office before her leave ended. She again
complied . . . despite the fact that she was in a cast and on
crutches. As she recounts events, Ms. Washington-Morris
struggled to get to the second floor of the office building
and fell several times in winter weather conditions. In
contrast, white co-workers were allowed to work from home
during inclement weather.
over a year later, in February 2015, Bucks' doctor
diagnosed Ms. Washington-Morris as legally blind. Ms.
Washington-Morris suffers from amblyopia, a medical condition
she has had since birth that affects the vision in her left
eye. As a result of the diagnosis, Bucks told her that she
could no longer be a driver and stopped allowing her to use a
company car to commute to and from work. Another employee
whose driving privileges were revoked due to a disability was
still allowed to use a company car. The day after Ms.
Washington-Morris lost her company car privileges, James
Raymond, the Bucks Chief Financial Officer and one of Ms.
Washington-Morris' supervisors, joked about her vision.
Washington-Morris did not experience any performance issues
at work until she began working with Melissa Barnett, the
Bristol Terminal Manager and another supervisor. It is not
clear from the amended complaint when the two began working
together. Ms. Barnett reprimanded Ms. Washington-Morris when
drivers were late to pick up passengers and stopped allowing
her to schedule certain drivers at particular times. Ms.
Washington-Morris felt that these acts were discriminatory
because she was the only African-American scheduler and the
only person targeted by Ms. Barnett.
result of Ms. Barnett's treatment, Ms. Washington-Morris
began meeting regularly with Mr. Raymond in April 2015. At
one of these meetings in late May, she told Mr. Raymond that
Ms. Barnett lied. Mr. Raymond became upset with her and
refused to continue their regular meetings. He told Ms.
Washington-Morris, for the first time, that Ms. Barnett was
her supervisor. Ms. Washington-Morris was so upset from this
interaction that she called her doctor to get her blood
pressure checked. She was worried that the “stress from
Defendant Barnett's discriminatory conduct was having an
effect on her health.” Compl. ¶ 51.
next day, on May 28, Mr. Raymond and Ellen Melson, a Terminal
Manager and also a supervisor, asked Ms. Washington-Morris to
consider taking a position in the reservations department.
The defendants told Ms. Washington-Morris that she could
return to scheduling if she did not like reservations and she
agreed to try the position. Ultimately, she preferred
scheduling but was told that the scheduling positions were
full when she asked to return.
30, 2015, Ms. Washington-Morris filed a complaint with the
EEOC alleging only race
discrimination. Two and a half months later, the EEOC
issued a right-to-sue letter, which gave Ms.
Washington-Morris 90 days to file suit. She never filed.
inclement weather in January 2016, Bucks again required Ms.
Washington-Morris to go into the office even though,
according to Ms. Washington-Morris, other, similarly situated
white employees were allowed to work from home. Around this
time, Ms. Barnett and her daughters, who were also employed
at Bucks, continued to make false allegations about Ms.
Washington-Morris by stating that she (Ms. Washington-Morris)
refused to relay information about passengers to dispatch.
April 20, 2016, Ms. Washington-Morris filed a second
complaint with the EEOC and the PHRC alleging discrimination
and retaliation based on her race and disabilities.
2016, Ms. Washington-Morris needed carpal tunnel surgery.
After the surgery, Bucks required Ms. Washington-Morris to
return to work but only offered her hours that conflicted
with her other job. She felt that Bucks' offer was an act
of retaliation for filing complaints of discrimination and
EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter based on the second EEOC
complaint on May 17, 2017. Ms. Washington-Morris filed this
suit on August 11. She alleges that she has suffered
psychological trauma and lost income.
amended complaint, Ms. Washington-Morris brings claims
against Bucks County Transport, Inc., Ellen Melson, Melissa
Barnett, and James Raymond. She brings claims solely against
Bucks for discrimination and retaliation under the Americans
with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964. She brings claims against all the defendants for
race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 as well as
discrimination and retaliation under the PHRA.
defendants moved to partially dismiss the amended complaint
and the Court heard oral argument. The defendants seek to
dismiss all of the claims except for race discrimination
under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a
complaint. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, “to ‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests, '” the plaintiff must
provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted) (alteration in
survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead
“factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Specifically, “[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555. The question is not whether the claimant “will
ultimately prevail . . . but whether his complaint [is]
sufficient to cross the federal court's threshold.”
Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 530 (2011)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Thus,
assessment of the sufficiency of a complaint is “a
context-dependent exercise” ...