United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is the motion to dismiss (Doc. 11) filed by
Defendants Clair Doll, Mary Sabol, York County Prison
(“YCP”), and John Does 1-10 (collectively,
“Defendants”). Having reviewed the brief in
support of Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 12), the
brief in opposition (Doc. 20) filed by Plaintiffs Iris
Chambers (“Ms. Chambers”) and Lamar DeShields
(“Mr. DeShields”; collectively,
“Plaintiffs”), and Defendants' reply (Doc.
21), the motion is granted in part and denied in part.
purposes of resolving the motion to dismiss, the court will
treat as true all well-pleaded allegations in Plaintiffs'
amended complaint (Doc. 9) and make all reasonable inferences
in favor of Plaintiffs. This is a fairly simple Title VII
discrimination case. Plaintiffs have been employees of YCP
for almost ten years. They complain that they have received,
over the course of their employment- including as late as
March of 2019-a pattern of discriminatory treatment, some of
which involve conduct that would be uniquely offensive to
non-white people, such as: jokes about black people eating
watermelon and fried chicken; insults regarding their hair;
racist insults directly from their supervisors; and coworkers
presenting confederate flags and refusing to take them down.
Importantly, Plaintiffs have repeatedly advised their
supervisors of these actions, and, instead of addressing
them, Plaintiffs' managers have in some ways participated
in them and others have taken no efforts to remedy them.
Plaintiffs have also received disparate treatment which the
white employees have not been subjected to, including: being
passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified white
candidates; intentionally being locked between buildings;
being arbitrarily denied backup; being bullied by coworkers;
having their personal information distributed to inmates; and
having co-workers encourage inmates to file false complaints
14, 2018, Ms. Chambers filed a complaint with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Doc.
12-1.) It includes complaints that Ms. Chambers
has been subjected to bullying and racist comments from
coworkers, despite complaining about these things to her
employers. (See Id. at 3.) It does not include any
complaints regarding Ms. Chambers being passed over for
promotions, being assigned to dangerous areas of the prison,
or failing to receive backup when requested.
14, 2018, Mr. DeShields filed a complaint with the EEOC.
(Doc. 12-2.) It includes complaints that Mr. DeShields has
generally been subjected to racist comments, bullying,
exposure to racist imagery,  and having his son passed over
for a job. (See Id. at p. 3.) It does not
include complaints regarding Mr. DeShields being passed over
for promotions, assigned to more dangerous parts of the
prison, or suspended.
December 17, 2018, Plaintiffs brought suit against
Defendants, asserting four causes of action: (1)
discrimination and retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. §
2000, et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964; (2) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 violation; (3) a
“CIVIL RIGHTS CONSPIRACY” claim; and (4) a
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”)
violation. (Doc. 1.) On February 26, 2019, Defendants filed a
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. (Doc. 5.) On April 2, 2019,
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, adding new facts and
replacing the conspiracy claim with a 42 U.S.C. § 1981
claim. (Doc. 9.) In response, Defendants filed a new motion
to dismiss one week later. (Doc. 11.)
move to dismiss on three general grounds: (1) failure to
allege sufficient facts; (2) failure to exhaust
administrative remedies; and (3) the statute of limitations.
Plaintiffs filed a response on May 20, 2019. (Doc. 20.)
Defendants filed their reply on June 2, 2019. (Doc. 21.) The
issue is thus ripe for review.
Standard of Review
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
plaintiff must allege “factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)).
“When reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion, we ‘accept as
true all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint and
all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from
them.'” Estate of Ginzburg by Ermey v.
Electrolux Home Prods., Inc., ___ Fed.Appx. ___-, 2019
WL 4187372, at *3 (3d Cir. Sept. 4, 2019) (quoting Taksir
v. Vanguard Grp., 903 F.3d 95, 96-97 (3d Cir. 2018)).
The facts alleged must be “construed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff” In re Ins. Brokerage
Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010)
(internal quotations, brackets, and ellipses omitted). The
universe of facts upon which the court may rely includes
those facts alleged in the complaint, facts which the court
may take judicial notice of, and indisputably authentic
documents referred to in the plaintiff's complaint.
Hartig Drug Co., Inc. v. Senju Pharm Co.,
836 F.3d 261, 268 (3d Cir. 2016).
Third Circuit has detailed a three-step process to determine
whether a complaint meets the pleading standard. Bistrian
v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352 (3d Cir. 2014). First, the court
outlines the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim
for relief. Id. at 365. Second, the court must
“peel away those allegations that are no more than
conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Id. Third, the court “look[s]
for well-pled factual allegations, assume[s] their veracity,
and then ‘determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise
to an entitlement to relief.'” Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). The last step is
“a context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Id. In assessing the level of factual
details required under Twombly, the Third Circuit
The Supreme Court reaffirmed that Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 requires
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, and that this standard does not require
detailed factual allegations.
Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d
Cir. 2008) (internal citations and quotations omitted).
Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies
regarding their promotions complaints.
to filing a complaint, a plaintiff alleging discrimination
must exhaust his or her administrative remedies by filing a
charge with the EEOC. Williams v. E. Orange Cmty. Charter
Sch., 396 Fed.Appx. 895, 897 (3d Cir. 2010) (citations
omitted). The lawsuit is “limited to claims that are
within the scope of the initial administrative charge.”
Id. (citing Antol v. Perry, 82 F.3d 1291,
1296 (3d Cir. 1996)). EEOC charges are provided a
“fairly liberal construction, ” and “the
failure to check a particular box on an EEOC charge . . . is
not necessarily indicative of a failure to exhaust the
mandatory administrative remedies.” Lowenstein v.
Catholic Health E., 820 F.Supp.2d 639, 644 (E.D. Pa.
2011) (quoting Schouten v. CSX Transp., Inc., 58
F.Supp.2d 614, 616 (E.D. Pa. 1999)). “[T]he purpose of
the filing requirement is to enable the EEOC to investigate
and, if cause is found, to attempt to use informal means to
reach a settlement of the dispute.” Anjelino v.
N.Y. Times Co., 200 F.3d 73, 94 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing
Hicks v. ABT Assocs., Inc., 572 F.2d 960, 963 (3d
issue arises when a party brings a claim in court that was
not included in a previous EEOC charge. If the plaintiff
failed to file any claim with the EEOC, then the court should
dismiss the claim without prejudice with leave to file a
claim with the EEOC, assuming the statute of limitations has
not run. See Wardlaw v. Cityof Phila.
Street's Dep't, 378 Fed.Appx. 222, 226 (3d Cir.
2010) (“The District Court [properly] stated that the
dismissal of the Title VII claim was without prejudice so
that Wardlaw could file an amended claim once she received a
right-to-sue letter from the EEOC.”); id. at
224 n.1 (dismissal can effectively be a final order if the
statute of limitations has run). If the plaintiff did file a
complaint, but omitted certain events that pre-date the EEOC
filing, they are barred from later bringing those claims in
court. See, e.g., Ford-Greene ...