United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
BISSOON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Court of Common Pleas of Butler
County's ("Court of Common Pleas") and
Defendant Thomas Holman's ("Holman"
collectively with Court of Common Pleas, "Court
Defendants") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 22) and Defendant
Thomas Doerr's ("Judge Doerr" or
"Doerr," with Court Defendants,
"Defendants") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 25).
following reasons, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss will be
GRANTED in part and DENIED
in part. Plaintiffs Fourteenth Amendment Gender
Discrimination claim will be dismissed without prejudice to
the extent that Plaintiff claims that Doerr's discrete
discriminatory acts form the basis of it; Plaintiffs
Procedural Due Process claim will be dismissed with
prejudice. Defendants' Motions to Dismiss will be
DENIED as to all remaining claims.
brings this § 1983 action against the Court of Common
Pleas and Judge Doerr and Holman in their individual
capacity. See generally, Second Amended Complaint
("SAC") (Doc. 20). In relevant part, Plaintiff
alleges the following, which, for the purposes of the Motions
to Dismiss, are accepted as true: Since 2005, Plaintiff has
worked as a probation officer for the Court of Common Pleas.
Id., at ¶ 9. In December 2004, Plaintiff met Doerr at a
Christmas party. Li, at ¶ 10. At the Christmas party,
Doerr flirted with Plaintiff, commented on her attractiveness
and suggested that they should stay in touch. Id., at ¶
13. Doerr and Plaintiff eventually exchanged cell phone
numbers. Id. Doerr called Plaintiff numerous times
after the party requesting that they meet. Id., at ¶ 14.
He invited Plaintiff to "visit him or meet him at his
chambers." Li Initially, Plaintiff declined Doerr's
invitations. Li In February 2005, however, Doerr finally
persuaded Plaintiff to meet him in his chambers. Li, at
¶ 15. After Plaintiff entered Doerr's chambers,
Doerr began kissing Plaintiff and insisted that they engage
in sexual intercourse. Id. Although Plaintiff
insists that the sexual intercourse was not welcome, she did
engage in sexual intercourse with him. Id., at ¶ 16.
Following the intercourse, Doerr commented that their sexual
interactions would be a "business relationship."
Id., at ¶ 16-17.
summer of 2005, a job became available in the probation
office at the court. Id., at ¶ 19. "Doerr took
complete control of the hiring process and ensured that
Plaintiff was hired." Id. After starting the
new job, Doerr began to summon Plaintiff to his chambers for
sexual relations. Id., at ¶ 21. Additionally, Doerr
often would share pornography with Plaintiff and discuss sex
on the telephone. Id., at ¶ 23. The sexual relationship
continued for approximately four years after the probation
office hired Plaintiff. Id., at ¶ 24. After the sexual
relationship ended, Doerr continued to influence and control
Plaintiff. Id., at ¶ 26. Among other things, Doerr's
conduct-after the sexual relationship ended-included:
• Requesting that Plaintiff film herself performing
sexual acts, Id., at ¶ 26;
• Demanding that that the two interact in a normal
manner, despite their previous sexual relationship, Id., at
• Using his position to force Plaintiffs continued
interaction with him by assigning her duties that required
her to be in his court, Id;
• Telling Plaintiff that judges were unhappy with her
using a standardized order despite Plaintiff never receiving
a complaint regarding her use of this order, Id., at ¶
• Making Plaintiff feel uncomfortable, forcing social
interactions, singling her out and "looking her
over," Id., at ¶ 40;
• Loudly announcing Plaintiffs presence in court and
coyly waiving at her from behind his computer while on the
• Holding Plaintiff s hand while explaining that he
could help her return to her previous job, Id.,
• Interrupting Plaintiff while she was speaking with
male staff, Id., at ¶ 70.
2010-after the sexual relationship concluded-Plaintiff began
dating her now husband. Id., at ¶ 33. Doerr and the
administration for the Court of Common Pleas subjected
Plaintiffs husband to harassment, which caused Plaintiffs
husband to develop anxiety and eventually retire from his job
after an extended paid leave. Id., at ¶ 34.
2014, Plaintiff asked Doerr to transfer her to the Butler
County Domestic Relations Office, and he obliged. Id., at
¶ 41. Plaintiff quickly regretted her decision and
"advised the administration that she wished to return to
the Probation Office." Id at ¶ 42. Butler
County personnel policies allow employees to return to their
previous position as a matter of right within 30 days. Id.,
at ¶ 43. But Holman told Plaintiff that she could not
return to her previous position and that Doerr would not
allow her to return. Id., at ¶ 44. Holman
stated that Plaintiff would "have to sue the Judge"
to get her previous job back. Id. In the end, Doerr
agreed to allow Plaintiff to return, but insisted that
Plaintiff sign a general release waiving all claims against
the Court of Common Pleas. Id., at ¶ 46, 49. Plaintiff
was represented by counsel during the release's
execution. Id., at ¶ 47.
executing the release, Plaintiff returned to work as a
probation officer in domestic relations. Id., at ¶ 55.
Upon her return, Plaintiff was not treated the same as other
employees in the domestic relations unit: Plaintiff was
denied her own office; she was physically isolated from other
probation officers and e-mails of general circulation were
not provided to her; she was given a different allotment of
uniforms; she was fingerprinted multiple times without
explanation; she was restricted from going out in the field
to supervise probation officers; and she did not earn
overtime or "comp time." Id., at ¶ 56, 57.
claims that her relationship with Doerr spurred the
differential treatment she received at work. To substantiate
her theory, Plaintiff submitted numerous right-to- know
requests. Id., at ¶ 59. Her rejection from on-call duty,
along with the information she learned from the right-to-know
requests, made Plaintiff believe that her employer was
discriminating and retaliating against her. Id., at ¶
60-61. Subsequently, Plaintiff contacted the EEOC and
indicated her intent to file a discrimination charge in
February 2016 and advised her supervisors of the same. Id.,
at ¶ 62, 63. After advising her supervisors of her
intent to file a discrimination charge, Plaintiff was placed
on a performance improvement plan. Id., at ¶ 64.
Further, to cover their discriminatory conduct, Holman and
Doerr created a policy that precluded probation officers
assigned to the domestic relations office from being eligible
for on-call duty. Id., at ¶ 65. They then backdated this
policy to make it look like the policy took effect in 2013.
Id. On these facts, Plaintiff asserts claims under
Title VII, alleging discrimination, hostile work environment
and retaliation. See Count I. Plaintiff also alleges
claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendment, alleging
violations of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection
Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause and the
First Amendment. See Counts II-V.
Contractual Waiver of Rights/ Release
initial matter, the Court finds Defendants' argument-that
Plaintiff contracted away her right to bring suit-premature.
A "[r]elease is an affirmative defense." PPG
Indus, v. Generon IGS, Inc., 760 F.Supp.2d 520, 525
(W.D. Pa. 2011). "[T]he law of this Circuit (the
so-called 'Third Circuit Rule') permits an
affirmative defense to be raised by a motion under Rule
12(b)(6) in certain circumstances." PPG Indus.,
760 F.Supp.2d at 525. Generally, a district court ruling on a
motion to dismiss may not consider matters extraneous to the
pleadings, unless the document is "undisputedly
authentic" and "integral to or explicitly relied
upon in the complaint." In re Burlington Coat
Factory Sec. Litig., 114F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).
argues that the Court should not consider the release because
Plaintiff did not attach it to her Complaint. Doc. 34 at 16.
Plaintiff, however, relied upon the release in the SAC
(See e.g., Compl. at ¶ 46); accordingly, the
Court may consider it for the purposes of deciding a motion
the Court may consider the release at this juncture, the
Court finds that it does not preclude Plaintiffs claims.
Whether Plaintiff waived her claims through a release
requires the Court to inquire into the "totality of the
circumstances" surrounding the agreement's execution
to determine if Plaintiff knowingly and willingly executed
the release. Coventry v. United States Steel Corp.,
856 F.2d 514, 522-524 (3d Cir. 1988), superseded by
statute on other grounds. This inquiry
considers the following factors:
1) the plaintiffs education and business experience, 2) the
amount of the time the plaintiff had possession of or access
to the agreement before signing it, 3) the role of plaintiff
in deciding the terms of the agreement, 4) the clarity of the
agreement, 5) whether the plaintiff was represented by or
consulted with an attorney, and 6) whether the consideration
given in exchange for ...