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McNamara v. Susquehanna County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 11, 2018

SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY, et al., Defendants.


          JOSEPH F. SAPORITO, JR. United States Magistrate Judge.

         This is an employment discrimination case. In the complaint (Doc. 1), the plaintiff, Maggie McNamara (“McNamara”), claims that the defendants violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §951 et seq., on the basis of gender discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. This matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants. (Doc. 9) The parties have filed their respective briefs. Based upon the courts review of the defendants' motion to dismiss, we will deny it in part and grant it in part.

         I. Procedural History

         On November 29, 2017, McNamara filed a complaint (Doc. 1) seeking damages for gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. She named as defendants: Susquehanna County, her former employer; Elizabeth Arnold, a county commissioner; Mary Ann Warren, a county commissioner; and Richard Ely, the Susquehanna County Director of Veterans Affairs.

         On January 29, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 9). The defendants filed their brief in support on February 12, 2018. (Doc. 12). McNamara filed her brief in opposition on February 23, 2018. (Doc. 23). The defendants filed a timely reply brief. (Doc. 19). In their motion to dismiss, the defendants assert that (1) the complaint fails to establish a claim of sex discrimination or retaliation because it is devoid of allegations of any adverse employment action by McNamara's employer; (2) Title VII does not permit individual liability; and (3) the complaint does not support a claim for punitive damages. The matter is ripe for disposition.

         II. Statement of Facts

         McNamara's complaint consists of three counts under Title VII and three counts under the PHRA each involving (1) sexual harassment; (2) retaliation; and (3) hostile work environment.

         In her complaint, McNamara alleges that in June 2014, she was hired as an administrative assistant to the chief clerk of Susquehanna County. She was promoted to deputy clerk in February 2015. Thereafter, in December 2015, defendant Ely attempted to kiss and hug McNamara at her workplace. On that same day, it is alleged that Ely approached McNamara's car, stuck his face into her car, made a kissing lips facial expression, and stated, “you won't get this offer again.” She reported these incidents to her supervisor, R.S. Stoud.

         Following the reporting of the incident, McNamara contends that she was subjected to pervasive harassment and retaliation by the defendant commissioners. She has alleged that after she reported the incidents, the defendant commissioners were unfairly critical of her work, subjected her to public humiliation at meetings, and complained about her interactions with other employees. In addition, she alleged that despite her allegations about defendant Ely, Commissioner Warren assigned McNamara to work in close quarters with Ely where Ely would yell at her and become angry. At some point, because of the alleged continuing harassment, McNamara felt the necessity to leave her position as deputy chief clerk for a position with the Susquehanna District Attorney's Office where she suffered a loss in pay.

         The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on the following grounds: (1) punitive damages are not recoverable under either Title VII or the PHRA; (2) Commissioner Arnold, Commissioner Warren, and Director Ely should be dismissed in their individual and official capacities because only the employer is the proper defendant in a Title VII case; (3) several of the allegations were not administratively exhausted; and (4) the complaint fails to allege pervasive discrimination.[1] (Doc. 9).

         III. Legal Standards

         Rule 12 (b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a defendant to move to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief is granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss may be granted only if, accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court finds the plaintiff's claims lack facial plausibility.” Warren Gen. Hosp. v. “mgen, Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). Although the Court must accept the fact allegations in the complaint as true, it is not compelled to accept Aunsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007)).

         Under Rule12(b)(6), the defendant has the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991); Johnsrud v. Carter, 620 F.2d 29, 32-33 (3d Cir. 1980); Holocheck v. Luzerne Cty. Head Start, Inc., 385 F.Supp.2d 491, 495 (M.D. Pa. 2005). In deciding the motion, the court may consider the facts alleged on the face of the complaint, as well as ”documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellab, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (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).

         IV. ...

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