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Wilt v. Mahoning Township

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 11, 2018

KIM WILT, Plaintiff,
v.
MAHONING TOWNSHIP, T.S. SCOTT individually, and WILLIAM LYNN, individually, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Matthew W. Brann, United States District Judge.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 3, 2017, Plaintiff, Kim Wilt, hereinafter “Wilt, ” filed a four-count complaint against Defendants, her employers, Mahoning Township, hereinafter “the Township, ” T.S. Scott, hereinafter “Scott, ” and William Lynn, hereinafter “Lynn.” Thereafter, on January 16, 2018, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for relief. Plaintiff failed to file an opposing brief, pursuant to Middle District Local Rule 7.6. Although I could have deemed the motion unopposed pursuant to that Local Rule, a dismissal of the action without an opportunity to be heard seemed too drastic a sanction for failure to file a brief in opposition. Accordingly, on March 19, 2018, I ordered Plaintiff to file an opposing brief, which she did. The motion to dismiss, now ripe for disposition, will be granted, but Plaintiff will be provided leave to amend her complaint, if she is able to do so.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, [1] a court assumes the truth of all factual allegations in a plaintiff's complaint and draws all inferences in favor of that party;[2] the Court does not, however, assume the truth of any of the complaint's legal conclusions.[3] If a complaint's factual allegations, so treated, state a claim that is plausible - i.e., if they allow the court to infer the Defendant's liability - the motion is denied; if they fail to do so, the motion is granted.[4]

         B. Facts Alleged in the Complaint

         The facts alleged in the amended complaint, which I must accept as true for the purposes of this motion, are as follows.

9. Plaintiff, Kim Wilt, is a member of a protected class (sex - female), engaged in protected activity during her employment with Defendants, including filing two complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Wilt is a lifelong resident of the Danville, Pennsylvania area, where she resides with her husband and children.
10. Defendant Mahoning Township (hereinafter “Mahoning Township) is a Pennsylvania municipality with a principal place of business at 849 Bloom Road Danville, Pennsylvania 17821. At all times relevant hereto, Defendant Mahoning Township is engaged in commerce throughout the United States, employs in excess of 15 employees, is an employer pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq. is liable for Plaintiff's damages, and is responsible for the acts of its supervisory employees.
11. Defendant T.S. Scott (hereinafter “Defendant Scott) is an adult male employed as a Supervisor with Mahoning Township and works at 849 Bloom Road Danville, Pennsylvania 17821. At all times relevant hereto, Defendant Scott exercised control over the terms, conditions, and privileges of Ms. Wilt's employment. He is being sued in his individual capacity for First Amendment retaliation against Ms. Wilt as enforced through Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
12. Defendant William Lynn (hereinafter “Defendant Lynn) is an adult male employed as a Supervisor with Mahoning Township and works at 849 Bloom Road Danville, Pennsylvania 17821. At all times relevant hereto, Defendant Lynn exercised control over the terms, conditions, and privileges of Ms. Wilt's employment. He is being sued in his individual capacity for First Amendment retaliation against Ms. Wilt as enforced through Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
16. After attending a year of college, Ms. Wilt applied for a position with Mahoning Township, which is located in Danville, Pennsylvania, Ms. Wilt's hometown.
17. Ms. Wilt was hired on February 13, 1995 for a Secretary position for the Police Department at a rate of pay of $6.25 per hour.
18. Ms. Wilt was the only female employed with the Township.
19. Over the past twenty-two years, Ms. Wilt has performed successfully in her position with the Township and has never received any negative performance reviews or formal discipline.
20. Over the past twenty-two years, Ms. Wilt has earned raises in pay, and she currently earns $22.27 per hour.
21. Ms. Wilt is a member of a union.
22. Ms. Wilt was the only female employee of the Township until December 31, 2015 when the Township hired a female police officer.
23. Ms. Wilt is the only female employee with the Union, AFSCME.
24. Until January 2017, Ms. Wilt was the lowest paid employee of the Township, despite having worked for the Township for over twenty years.
25. Until January 2017, Ms. Wilt was the lowest paid employee with the Union.
26. Ms. Wilt performs her job duties at the Mahoning Township building located at 849 Bloom Road, Danville, Pennsylvania 17821. The Mahoning Township Supervisors control the terms, conditions, and privileges of Ms. Wilt's employment.
28. In June 2015, Ms. Wilt engaged in First Amendment protected speech by providing truthful testimony regarding an issue of public safety.
29. Ms. Wilt reported that Mahoning Township police officers had been “huffing” aerosol inhalants on the job at the Mahoning Township building, and were engaged in an illegal wiretap in the workplace.
30. On July 10, 2015, Ms. Wilt filed a complaint and charge of discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
31. After providing truthful testimony and reporting a matter of public concern, including to the Montour County District Attorney, Ms. Wilt was subjected to disparagement by the Township and in the local media.
32. On April 19, 2016, Ms. Wilt filed a second complaint and charge of discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
33. In July 2016, the Montour County Common Pleas judge appointed Ken Woodruff, Ms. Wilt's father, to a Township Supervisor position that was vacant.
34. In November 2016, Ms. Wilt and the Township reached a settlement on Ms. Wilt's complaint of sex discrimination filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
35. Given that the Township eventually disciplined and removed the police officers that were engaged in the prohibited activities and having reached a resolution to her complaints including an anti-retaliation provision, Ms. Wilt believed the Township would not retaliate against her or discriminate against her for her activity.
36. On December 16, 2016, Defendant Supervisor Lynn advised the Mahoning Township Supervisors that they would be taking over the Water/Sewer Authority.
37. Defendant Supervisor Lynn stated that the Supervisors are going to be raising the wages of Ms. Wilt and Bret LeVan (male employee of the Water/Sewer Authority) so that they would be equal to the other (male) employees of the Street Department.
38. On January 10, 2017, Defendant Supervisor Lynn brought up the wage increase and told Ms. Wilt that her wages would be increased in February when they took over the Water/Sewer Authority.
39. On January 17, 2017, Defendant Supervisors Lynn and Scott asked Ms. Wilt to come into work on her day off, January 20, 2017, to notarize documents for the Water/Sewer Authority take over.
40. Ms. Wilt agreed to come into work, and Supervisor Lynn again stated that once the Water/Sewer takeover was complete, they would bring Bret LeVan into the union and bring her and his wages up to the current Street Department wages.
41. Ms. Wilt learned that she had been paid significantly less than all the other male employees of the Township for over a decade.
42. The male union employees were earning $4.00 per hour more than Ms. Wilt.
43. This pay disparity results in Ms. Wilt being paid approximately $8, 000.00 less the male union employees.
44. Additionally, the pay disparity negatively affects Ms. Wilt's defined benefit retirement plan with the Township, as her retirement is based on her highest wages times years of service.
45. On January 20, 2017, Defendant Supervisor Lynn and Scott asked whether Ms. Wilt would be seeking back pay for the 10 years that she was paid less than the other employees (all of whom were male).
46. Ms. Wilt responded that she should be entitled to receive back pay especially since the Township just awarded two Street Department employees (both male) 10 years on longevity pay.
47. Ms. Wilt requested her salary grade be reviewed and complained that she was not being paid equally to other, male employees.
48. The other, employees with similar job responsibilities as Ms. Wilt, were treated more favorably than Ms. Wilt, and paid a higher grade and hourly rate 49. Ms. Wilt presented the information on the pay disparity to the Township.
50. On January 24, 2017, Ms. Wilt met with Melissa Kelso, the Township's outside counsel.
51. Ms. Wilt specifically told Ms. Kelso that the union members (male) have previously stated that they did not think that a secretary should make as much as a Street Department workers.
52. Ms. Kelso said that it was “silly for them to say that” and advised Ms. Wilt that she should have been brought up to the current Street Department wages in 1995.
53. Ms. Kelso said that if there would be any back pay awarded to Ms, Wilt it would be for the two years prior to the Union coming in and creating the classification.
54. There was no union representative present during Ms. Wilt's meetings with the Township's attorney and supervisors regarding her pay increase.
55. The Township specifically agreed to pay Ms. Wilt two years of back pay and raise her hourly wages to the same as the male union employees.
56. Supervisor Woodruff did not participate in any actions or voting concerning Ms. Wilt's wage complaints.
57. On January 25, 2017, Ms. Wilt's union steward informed her that she was being given a release to sign and return, asking her sarcastically if she “was happy.” 58. Ms, Wilt responded that she ...

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