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Goldner v. County of Montgomery

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 11, 2018

SHELLEY GOLDNER Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF MONTGOMERY Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          Darnell Jones, II J.

         Plaintiff, Shelley R. Goldner, is an employee of the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. (ECF No. 1, p. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that she received “an incorrect and inequitable starting salary” due to sex and age discrimination. (ECF No. 1, p. 1.) Plaintiff brings this present action against Defendant, Montgomery County, for violations of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1) (Count I); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. (Count II); the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. (Count III); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (Count IV); and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. (Count V). (ECF No. 1, p. 1.) Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety. (ECF No. 5, p. 2.) After thorough review of Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, and Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion, this Court grants Defendant's Motion in its entirety. This Court also grants Plaintiff leave to amend within fourteen days.

         I. Procedural and Factual Background

         In June 2012, Plaintiff, then a fifty-seven year old woman, applied and interviewed for a Judicial Staff Attorney position with Judge Lois Murphy in the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 21, 27-28.) The Montgomery County Common Pleas Court separated all of its attorneys based on legal experience into three separate categories with separate pay structures. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 30-31.) An attorney with zero to five years of experience was classified as a Judicial Law Clerk, an attorney with five to twelve years of experience was classified as a Judicial Staff Attorney grade I, and an attorney with over twelve years of experience was classified as a Judicial Staff Attorney grade II. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 31-33.) At the time of her interview, Plaintiff had “decades of legal experience in both transactional and litigation practice.” (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 34, 36.) On or about June 21, 2012, Defendant hired Plaintiff as a Judicial Law Clerk, a classification reserved for those with zero to five years of experience. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 37-40.) Said classification was incorrect based on Plaintiff's legal experience, but neither Judge Murphy nor Plaintiff was aware of the misclassification. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 41, 46.)

         In November 2013, over a year after Plaintiff was hired, Judge Gail Weilheimer of the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court hired Marshall Schreibstein (“Schreibstein”), a male employee, as a Staff Attorney. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 63-64.) Schreibstein was originally misclassified as a Judicial Law Clerk. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 63.) Prior to the Salary Board approving Schreibstein's salary, Judge Weilheimer discovered that Schreibstein position was misclassified as a result of not being credited for his past legal experience. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 64-65.) Judge Weilheimer successfully petitioned the Salary Board for a change in Schreibstein's classification and salary. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 66.) Ultimately, Schreibstein was hired as a Judicial Staff Attorney and received a starting salary $7, 319 more than that of Plaintiff. (ECF No.1, ¶¶ 66-67.)

         In April 2015, Judge Murphy discovered that Defendant also misclassified Plaintiff. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 59.) Judge Murphy first recognized said mistake while serving on the budget committee where Judge Weilheimer disclosed to Judge Murphy that Defendant originally misclassified Schreibstein. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 47-49.) Judge Weilheimer further disclosed that Defendant corrected Schreibstein's classification and pay rate almost immediately, and that Defendant credited Schreibstein for his “past non-county employment legal experience.” (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 55-56.) Judge Murphy realized that Plaintiff should have been credited for her past work experience, and was misclassified due to this mistake. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 60.)

         On or about April 27, 2015, Defendant reclassified Plaintiff and adjusted her salary accordingly. (ECF No. 1, p. 1.) However, Plaintiff contends that Defendant failed to compensate her for the pay she would have received had she been properly classified at the outset of employment. (ECF No. 1, p. 2.) Soon after, Plaintiff petitioned Defendant for back pay and benefits. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 80-84.) On June 19, 2015, Plaintiff met with two Court Administrators, Carol Dillon (“Dillon”) and Michael Kehs (“Kehs”), “to discuss the issues surrounding her misclassification.” (ECF No. 1, ¶ 81.) After preparing a memo in support of her position, Plaintiff was informed that her request for back pay and benefits had been approved by President Judge William Furber, but the paperwork could not be finalized until it was submitted to the Salary Board. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 84-85.) In September 2015, “Kehs informed [Plaintiff] that all the paperwork had been completed and submitted to the County.” (ECF No. 1, ¶ 86.) However, in December 2015, Plaintiff was informed that her back pay and benefits request had been denied without ever being submitted to the Salary Board. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 87-88.)

         Plaintiff contends that Defendant's refusal to approve her request for back pay was based on sex and age discrimination. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 90-91.) Plaintiff also contends that Defendant has “failed and refused to compensate” her for work equivalent to her younger male coworkers, specifically referring to Schreibstein. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 92-93.) Finally, Plaintiff contends that she “has suffered and continues to suffer financial losses due to the pay disparity” between her and her younger male coworker. (ECF No. 1, ¶94.)

         Plaintiff filed the Complaint on July 12, 2017, alleging violations of the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) (Count I), Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964 (“Title VII”) (Count II), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”) (Count III), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) (Count IV), and the PHRA (Count V). Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (ECF No. 5, p. 2.)

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Rule 12(b)(6)

         In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts must accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation and citation omitted). After the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, [t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This standard asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. Accord Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (“[A]ll civil complaints must contain more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. Discussion

         In its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a facially plausible claim under the EPA, Title VII, and the ADEA. (ECF No. 5, p. 8.) Furthermore, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims for sex and age discrimination under the PHRA are interpreted concurrently with Title VII and the ADEA respectively; therefore, the PHRA ...


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