United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
CHRISTOPHER A. ORZECH, Plaintiff,
MUHLENBERG TOWNSHIP, Defendant.
OPINION DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS, ECF NO. 8
- GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART
F. LEESON, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a former employee of the Defendant township, brought this
action against the township based on an employment dispute.
Claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and Pennsylvania common law
have been asserted. Defendant has moved to dismiss these
claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For
the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss is granted
in part and denied in part.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND 
Muhlenberg Township is a municipal township in Pennsylvania.
Plaintiff Christopher Orzech worked for Defendant as a police
officer since March 1989. In August 2015, Plaintiff suffered
an injury to his left shoulder which caused an extended
absence from his position as a police officer.
a year after Plaintiff's ongoing absence began, Defendant
offered Plaintiff the opportunity to return to work as a
temporary “Property Maintenance Officer and Park
Attendant/Caretaker.” This position was with another
department within the township. The position generally
involved looking after Defendant's parks and comprised of
tasks such as cleaning restrooms, emptying trashcans,
sweeping walks and pavilions, and cleaning tables. These
tasks necessarily involved the use of Plaintiff's injured
the tasks associated with the position involved the use of
Plaintiff's injured left shoulder, Defendant did not
consult Plaintiff or Plaintiff's surgeon with respect to
the position and its responsibilities. According to
Plaintiff, the appointment to this position allegedly
violated a recommendation made to Defendant. The
recommendation came from an independent medical evaluation
that Defendant required Plaintiff to undergo because of his
ongoing absence from his position as a police officer.
alleges that Defendant appointed Plaintiff to this position
even though it knew the Plaintiff could not fulfill the
essential functions of the position because of his injured
left shoulder. Defendant allegedly knew that Plaintiff's
shoulder injury prevented him from picking up litter,
sweeping walks and pavilions, spot cleaning the restrooms,
cleaning tables, or all of those tasks. Defendant also
allegedly knew that Plaintiff could not clear snow and did
not possess the necessary physical agility to ascend or
descend steps of various heights because of Plaintiff's
significant restrictions on his ability to lift.
further alleges that Defendant knew that Plaintiff did not
possess the proper qualifications for the position. Plaintiff
had no experience maintaining property or inspecting new
property. Plaintiff was also unfamiliar with the legal and
weight-bearing requirements of new construction. Defendant
also knew that Plaintiff did not possess familiarity with
general park rules or regulations and was unqualified to
though Defendant knew that Plaintiff physically could not
fulfill the essential functions of the position and that
Plaintiff did not possess the proper understanding or
qualifications for the position, Defendant still instructed
Plaintiff to show up for work on July 25, 2016.
addition to those factors related to the position as a
temporary “Property Maintenance Officer and Park
Attendant/Caretaker, ” Defendant allegedly took actions
to generally humiliate and embarrass Plaintiff. For example,
Defendant required Plaintiff to wear a visitor's badge to
enter a township building despite the fact that Plaintiff
still had access to the building through his key fob.
Defendant's employee in charge of payroll also wrote
hostile emails to Plaintiff because he requested copies of
his pay stubs from August 2016 to December 2016.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a court to dismiss a
complaint for its “failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.” Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The
Rules generally demand “only a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what
the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786
(3d Cir. 2016) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations omitted)).
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In rendering a decision
on a motion to dismiss, this Court must “accept all
factual allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”
Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d at 233
(quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d
361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002) (internal quotations omitted)).
Only if “the ‘[f]actual allegations . . . raise a
right to relief above a speculative level'” has the
plaintiff stated a plausible claim. Id. at 234
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. However,
“the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the
allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal
conclusions.” Id. (explaining that determining
“whether a complaint states a plausible claim for
relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense”). The defendant bears the burden of
demonstrating that a plaintiff has failed to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. Hodges v. United
States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing
Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d
1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).
generally argues for dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint
on two grounds: (1) that certain legal doctrines bar the
claims; and (2) that Plaintiff failed to properly plead the
claims asserted. The Court considers these arguments below.
The Rooker-Feldman, Younger abstention, and
preclusion doctrines do not bar Plaintiff's
takes a “shotgun” approach to dismissal and
argues that several legal doctrines (Rooker-Feldman,
Younger abstention, and preclusion) prohibit the
federal courts from presiding over this case. As discussed
below, these legal doctrines to not prohibit the Court from
presiding over this case.
argues first that Plaintiff's entire complaint is barred
by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine divests the federal courts
of subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate a complaint of
injury caused by a state-court judgment. Exxon Mobil
Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 287-88
(2005) (holding that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is
confined to “cases brought by state-court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments
rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and
inviting district court review and rejection of those
judgments”); Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v.
Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 166 (3d Cir. 2010).
The doctrine is a narrow one that “applies only in
limited circumstances.” Lance v. Dennis, 546
U.S. 459, 466 (2006) (internal quotation marks &
citations omitted). Following Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi
Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280 (2005), the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that
there are four requirements for the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine to apply:
(1) the federal plaintiff lost in state court; (2) the
plaintiff “complain[s] of injuries caused by [the]
state-court judgments”; (3) those judgments were
rendered before the federal suit was filed; and (4) the
plaintiff is inviting the district court to review and reject
the state judgments.
Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild
LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 166 (3d Cir. 2010) (quotation and
alteration in original) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). A
finding that Rooker-Feldman bars Plaintiff's
federal claims would divest this Court of subject matter
jurisdiction over those claims. See Desi's ...