United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
DR. ERNESTO A. LEE
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, SCHOOL OF DENTAL MEDICINE, DR. DANA GRAVES, and DR. MARK WOLFF
MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO DISMISS
case involves alleged violations of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
and state law that occurred during Plaintiff Dr. Ernesto A.
Lee's employment with Defendant University of
Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine (“Penn Dental
School”). Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendant
Penn Dental School and individual Defendants Dr. Dana Graves
and Dr. Mark Wolff. Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF 1,
“Compl.” or “Complaint”) advances
four Counts, each brought against all Defendants
1. Count I: Violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1201, et seq.
2. Count II: Violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq. (“Title VII”);
3. Count III: Violation of the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 954, et seq.
4. Count IV: Defamation (slander and libel)
under 42 P.S. § 8343 and the Restatement (Second) of
Torts § 573.
now move to dismiss all claims pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to provide a short and
plain statement of the facts supporting Plaintiff's
claims as required by Rule 8(a). For the reasons stated
below, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
Plaintiff's allegations as true, the factual background
is as follows. Plaintiff is a naturalized U.S. citizen who
emigrated from Panama and is of Asian ethnic descent. (Compl.
¶ 3.) Plaintiff was employed by Defendant Penn Dental
School in a part-time, two days-per-week clinical position
beginning in 2004, and in 2007, he was appointed Director of
the Periodontal Prosthesis program. (Id.
¶¶ 22-23.) During this time period, Plaintiff was
diagnosed with a chronic terminal illness requiring
chemotherapy treatments for the remainder of his life.
(Id. ¶¶ 4, 24.) Plaintiff previously paid
for an individually-funded health insurance plan, which he
alleges was cancelled because of his medical condition.
(Id. ¶ 25.)
around 2009, former Penn Dental School Dean Kinane converted
Plaintiff's employment status to “full-time”
to enable Plaintiff to qualify for employer-subsidized health
insurance benefits. (Id. ¶ 26.) As an
accommodation for the side effects of chemotherapy, Plaintiff
was not required to attend on-campus or in-office hours in
the mornings. (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff's
employee benefits eligibility and scheduling accommodation
were never formalized in a written job description.
(Id. ¶ 30.) After his designation as a
full-time employee, Plaintiff alleges he was assigned
additional responsibilities, including roles as Director of
the Post-Doctoral Implantology Fellowship and Clinical
Director of Post-Doctoral Periodontics, without any pay
increases or raises. (Id.) Other non-disabled
Program Director level clinicians and administrators,
however, were provided pay raises commensurate with increased
administrative and clinical responsibilities. (Id.
alleges that funding that should have been earmarked as
compensation for Plaintiff's increased responsibilities
was instead paid to a non-disabled, non-Hispanic female
employee specially favored by former Dean Kinane, who was
hired as Assistant Dean. (Id. ¶¶ 34, 40.)
Plaintiff also alleges that he and others were victims of
discrimination and harassment because of former Dean
Kinane's sexual favoritism. (Id. ¶ 43.)
Dean Kinane allegedly departed from Penn Dental School in
connection with allegations of sexual favoritism and
harassment. (Id. ¶ 37.)
after Dean Kinane's departure, Plaintiff was accused of
gender harassment, dishonesty, improper relationships with
students, and theft of patients from Penn Dental Medicine.
(Id. ¶¶ 39, 44-45.) Plaintiff alleges that
he was targeted for false claims of gender harassment because
Defendants calculated that Plaintiff's
“machismo” cultural heritage would make such
false claims believable. (Id. ¶ 41.) Defendant
Interim Dean Graves told Plaintiff that he had to work on
what Graves perceived to be a “cultural problem”
when interacting with colleagues and students. (Id.
¶ 42.) Defendant Graves also told Plaintiff that his
accommodation of limiting his morning hours because of the
effects of daily chemotherapy treatments was good for
Plaintiff because of his “Spanish culture, ”
laughing while saying, “you know, mañana,
mañana.” (Id. ¶ 46.)
about September 2017, Plaintiff was demoted from his position
as Director of the Periodontal Prosthesis program and
restricted to clinical work under appointment to the Penn
Dental Faculty Practice because of the unsupported
accusations of harassment, misconduct, dishonesty, and theft.
(Id. ¶¶ 44-45.) Plaintiff was not informed
of the allegations against him at the time of his demotion,
as required by Defendant Penn Dental School's policies
and practices, but instead was privately informed by
Defendant Graves, who was then employed as Vice Dean of
Research of Penn Dental School. (Id. ¶¶
45-47.) Defendant Graves also told Plaintiff that the ...