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Parker v. School District of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 21, 2019

ERICA PARKER
v.
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA, et al.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Thomas J. Rueter United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff, Erica Parker, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendants violated her First Amendment rights by retaliating against her after she reported the suspected abuse of a minor child. Plaintiff also asserts a state law claim for wrongful termination.

         Presently before the court are the motions for summary judgment filed by: (1) defendants Intercommunity Action, Inc. (“Interact”), Sharon Stark, and Ursala Wacyk (collectively, the “Interact Defendants”), see Doc. 77; (2) defendants the School District of Philadelphia (“SDP”) and Jamal B. Dennis (collectively, the “SDP Defendants”), see Doc. 78; and (3) defendants Staffing Plus Holdings, Inc. (“Staffing Plus”) and Alison Clark[1] (collectively, the “Staffing Plus Defendants”), see Docs. 79 and 80.[2]

         The parties filed numerous documents in support of, and in response to, the motions for summary judgment.[3] The court has considered all pleadings and documents submitted by the parties, including the exhibits appended to the parties' submissions. For the reasons stated herein, the motions for summary judgment, Docs. 77, 78, and 79, will be GRANTED.[4]

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Throughout her career, plaintiff has worked in various healthcare and counseling roles. See Doc. 79, Exh. Parker-1 (plaintiff's resume). Plaintiff was retained by Staffing Plus, a staffing corporation, as an independent contractor beginning in approximately 2000, and worked periodically over the years for varying periods of time and for various programs. See Doc. 58 (hereinafter “Staffing Plus Answer”) at ¶ 4; Doc. 79, Exh. Parker-13 (Staffing Plus Independent Contractor Agreement); Doc. 86, Exh. A (hereinafter “Pl.'s Dep.”) at 20:24-22:23, 99:20-100:17, 220:12-222:23. At times relevant to this case, Ms. Clark was employed by Staffing Plus as a recruiter and acted as plaintiff's recruiter. (Staffing Plus Answer at ¶ 5; Pl.'s Dep at 64:7-8.) In 2015, Staffing Plus provided orientation and training to plaintiff in a number of areas, including the reporting of suspected child abuse by mandatory reporters.[5] See Doc. 79, Exh. Parker-2 (Independent Contractor Core Orientation Checklist); Doc. 79, Exh. Parker-3 (Plaintiff's Certificate of Completion for Core Orientation); Doc. 79, Exh. Parker-4 (Plaintiff's Certificate of Completion for Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse); Pl.'s Dep at 23:12-24:22; 26:1-27:11). As an independent contractor working for Staffing Plus, plaintiff was a mandatory reporter and was responsible for reporting suspicions of child abuse.[6] (Pl.'s Dep. at 24:23-25:13.)

         Interact provides School Therapeutic Services (“STS”) to students in the School District of Philadelphia pursuant to a contract with Community Behavioral Health. (Doc. 51 (hereinafter “Interact Ans.”) at ¶¶ 15, 16.) In 2015, plaintiff was referred to Interact by Staffing Plus to work as a Lead Clinician. (Interact Ans. at ¶ 15; Pl.'s Dep. at 28:15-22.) Plaintiff was first assigned by Interact to Blaine elementary school, [7] and then began working at Edward T. Steel Elementary School in September 2015. (Pl.'s Dep. at 29:4-8, 31:9-12, 132:10-18, 222:20-23, 235:5-8.)

         While plaintiff was assigned to Steel, Mr. Dennis was the principal of the school and Ms. Stark, an Interact employee, worked as Clinical Coordinator in the STS program and supervised plaintiff. See Interact Ans. at ¶ 17; Doc. 77, Exh. 2 at ¶ 2 (hereinafter “Stark Decl.”); Pl.'s Dep. at 151:11-23, 235:9-236:6.[8] Ms. Wacyk, an Interact employee, directed Interact's STS division. (Stark Decl. at ¶ 3.) Mr. Dennis did not supervise plaintiff while she worked at Steel. (Pl.'s Dep. at 236:7-12.) No. one from Staffing Plus worked onsite at Steel as an administrator or supervisor. (Pl.'s Dep. at 152:8-17.)

         On Monday, October 5, 2015, plaintiff was sent to a classroom along with the school guidance counselor to conduct an intervention of a student; this student had been suspended the prior week for inappropriately touching other students. (Pl.'s Dep. at 48:5-14, 53:7-54:1.) The following day, October 6, 2015, the student again acted out in class. (Pl.'s Dep. at 54:6-11.) Plaintiff was called to the classroom to speak with the student and learned information that she felt necessitated a report to ChildLine.[9] (Pl.'s Dep. at 54:7-8, 160:18-22, 161:11-16.) Plaintiff notified Ms. Stark of the situation. (Pl.'s Dep. at 54:13-15.) That evening, Ms. Stark left plaintiff a voicemail message advising plaintiff of the necessary procedures for reporting the suspicion of abuse. (Pl.'s Dep. at 54:20-55:1, 123:15-126:11.) Plaintiff made a report by calling ChildLine, including the information that the guidance counselor had not yet made a report, and completed an Interact incident report.[10] (Pl.'s Dep. at 56:24-57:4, 127:1-5.)

         Plaintiff gave the incident report to Ms. Stark on October 7, 2015. (Pl.'s Dep. at 163:8-12.) That day, plaintiff, accompanied by Ms. Stark, informed Mr. Dennis that she had filed the ChildLine report and was dismissed from his office. (Pl.'s Dep. at 238:19-239:6, 251:8-15.) Ms. Stark then conducted a regularly scheduled meeting with Mr. Dennis. (Stark Decl. at ¶ 14.) On October 9, 2015, Ms. Stark left a voicemail message for plaintiff indicating that Ms. Stark was to meet with the principal that morning and sought clarification regarding what the guidance counselor had told plaintiff regarding the student on October 6. (Pl.'s Dep. at 71:18-72:15, 107:7-17.) Plaintiff worked at Steel on October 8 and 9, 2015, but did not work on Monday, October 12, 2015, as it was Columbus Day, a holiday for the School District of Philadelphia. (Pl.'s Dep. at 225:3-23.) On October 13, 14, and 15, 2015, plaintiff did not work because she was ill. (Pl.'s Dep. at 226:3-10.)

         As a Lead Clinician, plaintiff was required to maintain certain documentation, including DAP notes, which documented an individual student's daily progress, quarterly treatment plans, and SALs, which were essentially timesheets. (Pl.'s Dep. at 29:13-30:10, 150:9-24, 152:18-154:4, 154:9-158:1.) While assigned to Steel, plaintiff submitted this paperwork to her supervisor, Ms. Stark. (Pl.'s Dep. at 150:20-151:12, 153:23-154:6, 158:2-13.) Plaintiff acknowledged that her paperwork contained errors. (Pl.'s Dep. at 49:1-10.) Plaintiff also acknowledged that she had difficulty managing her caseload while at Steel. (Pl.'s Dep. at 50:12-51:16.) After plaintiff made the report to ChildLine, she continued to have issues with her time management and paperwork. (Stark Decl. at ¶ 17.) Plaintiff sent an email to Ms. Wacyk dated October 13, 2015, in which she requested a meeting to discuss the difficulty she was having completing her required paperwork in a timely manner. (Pl.'s Dep. at 39:7-40:17.) On or around October 14, 2015, Ms. Stark became convinced that the deficiencies in plaintiff's work required that plaintiff be removed from her assignment at Steel. See Stark Decl. at ¶¶ 18-19; Doc. 77, Exh. 4 (Stark October 14, 2015 Email); Doc. 78, Exh. H (Stark 2016 Letter). Plaintiff was informed by Ms. Stark via text message not to report to work at Steel on October 16, 2019. (Doc. 86, Exh. C.) On October 15 or 16, 2015, plaintiff spoke with Ms. Clark who also informed plaintiff to no longer report to Steel. (Pl.'s Dep. at 171:11-172:1.) After leaving Steel in October 2015, plaintiff worked at a daycare center for several months. (Pl.'s Dep. at 200:24-201:23.)

         In January 2016, plaintiff exchanged email correspondence with Kate Call, an employee of Staffing Plus who had the title of Senior Compliance Representative, regarding plaintiff's certifications and clearances. (Pl.'s Dep. at 133:7-134:15, 270:15-271:2.) Plaintiff recorded a voice memo to herself on August 31, 2016, in which she memorialized that she had stopped by the Staffing Plus offices regarding her certifications and was informed by a woman there that she had been “let go back in January 2016.” (Pl.'s Dep. at 177:13-180:12, 184:16-186:10.)

         Plaintiff presently contends that Mr. Dennis, Ms. Stark, Ms. Wacyk, and Ms. Clark “agreed and conspired to terminate plaintiff due to her statutorily-required report [of suspected child abuse], specifically because plaintiff reported all information, including the fact that [the guidance counselor][11] failed to inform the appropriate authorities.” (Doc. 33, Pl.'s Sec. Am. Compl. at ¶ 30.)

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed this action on April 17, 2017, asserting claims of wrongful termination, federal and state whistleblower claims, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff then filed a First Amended Complaint on June 27, 2017, see Doc. 18, and a Second Amended Complaint on June 13, 2018, see Doc. 33. Defendants SDP, Mr. Dennis, Staffing Plus, and Ms. Clark filed motions to dismiss. See Doc. 34, 44, 45. In a decision dated October 15, 2018, the Honorable Jan E. DuBois denied the motions as to defendants SDP, Mr. Dennis and Staffing Plus, but granted the motion to dismiss with respect to the wrongful termination claim against Ms. Clark. See Parker v. Sch. Dist. of Philadelphia, 346 F.Supp.3d 738, 745 n.2 (E.D. Pa. 2018).

         On July 9, 2019, the parties consented to jurisdiction before the undersigned and the case was referred for trial. (Docs. 71, 72.) At plaintiff's request, the court granted an extension of the discovery deadline. (Docs. 74, 75.) Defendants then filed the motions for summary judgment that are presently before the court, asserting that summary judgment should be entered in their favor on all claims brought against them. (Docs. 77, 78, 79, 80.)

         In her responses to the motions for summary judgment, plaintiff withdrew several of her claims. That is, plaintiff voluntarily withdrew the wrongful termination claim presented in Count II against Ms. Stark and Ms. Wacyk. See Doc. 86 at 22. Additionally, plaintiff has voluntarily withdrawn Count III of the Second Amended Complaint against defendant SDP which presented a claim pursuant to Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). See Doc. 85 at 9.[12]

         Therefore, the claims that remain before the court are: the claim for First Amendment retaliation under § 1983 in Count I alleged against all defendants, and the claim for wrongful termination in Count II presented against defendants Staffing Plus and Interact.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is material when “it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law, ” and genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 325 (1986). There is no genuine issue as to any material fact if the non-moving party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id. at 322-23. “[T]he burden on the moving party may be discharged by ‘showing' -- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Id. at 325.

         To defeat summary judgment, however, the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “The non-moving party must oppose the motion and, in doing so, may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [her] pleadings. [Her] response . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Bare assertions, conclusory allegations, or suspicions will not suffice.” D.E. v. Cent. Dauphin Sch. Dist., 765 F.3d 260, 268-69 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal citations and quotations omitted); Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989) (the party adverse to summary judgment cannot survive by relying on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions). A mere “scintilla of evidence . . . will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the evidence must be considered in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all inferences must be drawn in that party's favor. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. However, if “the evidence [offered by the non-moving party] is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Count I - First Amendment Retaliation

         In Count I of the Second Amended Complaint, plaintiff asserts that her First Amendment rights were violated when defendants retaliated against her by terminating her employment after she reported a suspicion of child abuse to ChildLine. Plaintiff's Count I claim, presented against all defendants, fails for several reasons.

         To establish any claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) the conduct at issue was committed by a person acting under the color of state law, and (2) the complained-of conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights secured under the Constitution or federal law. Baloga v. Pittston Area Sch. Dist., 927 F.3d 742, 752 (3d Cir. 2019) (citing Kaucher v. Cty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006)). “A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior.” Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207-08 (3d Cir. 1988). “Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence.” Id. at 1207.

         1. State Actors

         Defendants Interact, Ms. Stark, Ms. Wacyk, Staffing Plus, and Ms. Clark each asserted in their motions for summary judgment that they are not state actors, and therefore, cannot be liable on plaintiff's First Amendment claim. See Doc. 77 at 8-10 and Doc. 79 at 4-7. Defendants' respective state actor arguments are compelling.

         To determine whether state action exists, the court must consider: “(1) whether the private entity has exercised powers that are traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the state; (2) whether the private party has acted with the help of or in concert with state officials; and (3) whether the state has so far insinuated itself into a position of interdependence with the acting party that it must be recognized as a joint participant in the challenged activity.” Borrell v. Bloomsburg Univ., 870 F.3d 154, 160 (3d Cir. 2017) (internal citations and quotations omitted), cert. denied sub nom. Borrell v. Richer, 138 S.Ct. 2028 (2018). Plaintiff claims that defendants Interact, Ms. Stark, Ms. Wacyk, Staffing Plus, and Ms. Clark are state actors because each was a “willful participant in Plaintiff's removal with a state actor, Defendant, Dennis.” (Doc. 84 at 6-8; Doc. 86 at 7).

         Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the record simply does not establish that Mr. Dennis made the decision to remove plaintiff from Steel. Rather, Ms. Stark's July 25, 2019 declaration reflects that she made the determination to remove plaintiff from Steel due to deficiencies in plaintiff's work. See Stark Decl. at ¶¶ 18-20. This is supported by the October 14, 2015, email from Ms. Stark to Ms. Wacyk that reflects the same, see Doc. 77, Exh. 4, as does an October 14, 2016 letter authored by Ms. Stark, see Doc. 78, Exh. H. In addition, Mr. Dennis has represented that he did not know the reason plaintiff was removed from Steel. (Doc. 78, Exh. E at ¶¶ 5-6.) Moreover, plaintiff acknowledged at her deposition that no one from Staffing Plus or Interact told plaintiff that Mr. Dennis directed them not to bring plaintiff back to Steel. (Pl.'s Dep. at 240:19-241:7.) Plaintiff's assertion that Mr. Dennis instructed other defendants to remove plaintiff from Steel is pure conjecture.

         In addition, the evidence does not support that there was some agreement amongst all defendants to remove plaintiff from Steel because she contacted ChildLine, including the information that the guidance counselor had not contacted ChildLine. At her deposition, plaintiff testified that she believes there was a conspiracy among defendants to retaliate against her for the call to ChildLine. (Pl.'s Dep. at 241:19-243:2.) Plaintiff offers as evidence the fact that plaintiff was escorted to Mr. Dennis' office and was instructed to tell Mr. Dennis that she was the individual who contacted ChildLine, and that Ms. Stark then met with Mr. Dennis. (Pl.'s Dep. at 242:16-23, 251:98-15.)[13] Plaintiff also points to an October 9, 2015 voicemail in which Ms. Stark indicated that she was going to meet with Mr. Dennis regarding the incident. (Pl.'s Dep. at 242:24-243-2.) However, plaintiff acknowledged that she did not know what Ms. Stark and Mr. Dennis said in this meeting. (Pl.'s Dep. at 251:17-252:7.) In contrast, Ms. Stark has represented that she and Mr. Dennis did not discuss “whether plaintiff should be removed due to her ChildLine report or reporting that the guidance counselor failed to disclose the suspected abuse.” (Stark Decl. at ¶ 16.) Moreover, Mr. Dennis represented in his answers to interrogatories that he “had weekly or biweekly conversations with [Ms.] Stark regarding students that were being serviced by [plaintiff] and other Intercommunity representatives. Those conversations did not involve [plaintiff's] performance.” (Doc. 78, Exh. E. at ¶¶ 11-12.) Thus, the evidence shows that Ms. Stark and Ms. Dennis met on October 7 and 9, 2015, but does not establish that they discussed the removal of plaintiff from Steel during those meetings, and certainly does not establish that they discussed the removal of plaintiff from Steel for the reasons that she alleges.

         The evidence in no way establishes that Ms. Stark and Mr. Dennis agreed to remove plaintiff from Steel because she made a report to ChildLine. Plaintiff's theory that defendants Interact, Ms. Stark, Ms. Wacyk, Staffing Plus, and Ms. Clark are state actors because each was a “willful participant in Plaintiff's removal with a state actor, Defendant, Dennis” finds no support in the record other than plaintiff's conclusory allegations in her deposition. That is, plaintiff only offers unsupported evidence - her own deposition testimony and her responses to interrogatories. See, e.g., Doc. 86, Exhs. A, B. The record on summary judgment is devoid of any facts supporting plaintiff's claim that Mr. Dennis was involved in the decision to remove plaintiff from Steel, or that defendants acted in agreement to do so. “[U]nsupported deposition testimony, which is contradicted by the record, is insufficient to defeat summary judgment.” Thomas v. Delaware State Univ., 626 Fed.Appx. 384, 389 n.6 (3d Cir. 2015) (not precedential) (citing N.L.R.B. v. FES, (a Div. of Thermo Power), 301 F.3d 83, 95 (3d Cir. 2002)) (“Roche's testimony . . . amounts to an unsupported, conclusory assertion, which we have held is inadequate to satisfy the movant's burden of proof on summary judgment.”) and Arrington v. United States, 473 F.3d 329, 343 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (“[S]ummary judgment is most likely when a plaintiff's claim is supported solely by the plaintiff's own self-serving testimony, unsupported by corroborating evidence, and undermined . . . by other credible evidence. . . .” (internal quotations and emphasis omitted)). See Owens v. Coleman, 629 Fed.Appx. 163, 168 (3d Cir. 2015) (not precedential) (“A party resisting a [summary judgment] motion cannot expect to rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions.”) (citing Gans v. Mundy, 762 F.2d 338, 341 (3d Cir. 1985)).

         2. Whether Plaintiff Engaged in Constitutionally Protected Conduct

         Assuming arguendo that plaintiff has demonstrated that defendants are state actors, to establish a First Amendment retaliation claim, plaintiff must prove that “(1) [s]he engaged in ‘constitutionally protected conduct,' (2) the defendant engaged in ‘retaliatory action sufficient to deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercising his constitutional rights,' and (3) ‘a causal link [existed] between the constitutionally protected conduct and the retaliatory action.'” Palardy v. Twp. of Millburn, 906 F.3d 76, 81 (3d Cir. 2018), cert. denied sub nom. Twp. of Millburn N.J. v. Palardy, 139 S.Ct. 2011 (2019). “If a plaintiff satisfies these elements, the government may avoid liability if it can show by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have taken the adverse action even in the absence of the protected conduct.” Baloga, 927 F.3d at 752 (internal citations and quotations omitted).

         The Third Circuit recently explained the constraints that a public employee faces when presenting a First Amendment retaliation claim as follows:

Not all First Amendment activity is constitutionally protected in the public workplace. “When a citizen enters government service, the citizen by necessity must accept certain limitations on his or her freedom.” [Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, 418 (2006) (citation omitted)]. Insofar as workplace speech is concerned, the Supreme Court has long held that public employees only receive First Amendment protection from retaliation in the workplace when they speak out on a matter of public concern and their interest in speaking outweighs the government's interest in promoting workplace efficiency and avoiding disruption. See Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138, 147, 103 S.Ct. 1684, 75 L.Ed.2d 708 (1983); Pickering v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563, 568, 88 S.Ct. 1731, 20 L.Ed.2d 811 (1968). In Garcetti, the Court added a further wrinkle to its workplace speech jurisprudence, holding that “when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” Garcetti, 547 U.S. at 421, 126 S.Ct. 1951. Following Garcetti, then, “[a] public employee's statement is protected activity when (1) in making it, the employee spoke as a citizen, (2) the statement involved a matter of public concern, and (3) the government employer did not have ‘an adequate justification for treating the employee differently from any other member of the general public.'” Hill v. Borough of Kutztown, 455 F.3d 225, 241-42 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Garcetti, 547 U.S. at 418, 126 S.Ct. 1951).

Palardy, 906 F.3d at 81. The first prong of this three-part test, whether plaintiff spoke as an employee or as a citizen when she made the suspicion of abuse report to ChildLine, is of particular import to the case at bar.

         In Lane v. Franks, 573 U.S. 228, 240 (2014), the Supreme Court stated that “the mere fact that a citizen's speech concerns information acquired by virtue of his public employment does not transform that speech into employee - rather than citizen - speech.” The Court explained that the “critical question” is “whether the speech at issue is itself ordinarily within the scope of an employee's duties, not whether it merely concerns those duties.” Id. Third Circuit case law following this Supreme Court precedent has “focused its inquiry on whether a public employee's speech was informed by or the result of his or her primary job duties.” Javitz v. Cnty. of Luzerne, 940 F.3d 858, 864 (3d Cir. 2019). A court must “make a practical inquiry and assess whether the speech at issue is itself ordinarily within the scope of an employee's duties.” De Ritis v. McGarrigle, 861 F.3d 444, 453 (3d Cir. 2017) (internal citations and quotations omitted). See Flora v. Cty. of Luzerne, 776 F.3d 169, 179 (3d Cir. 2015) (“[T]he responsibility of a district court in evaluating whether a public employee's speech was made as a private citizen is to ask whether the speech at issue was outside the scope of his ordinary job responsibilities.”) (internal citation omitted). The Third Circuit has reasoned that “[w]hether a person speaks as a citizen depends less on the subject matter -- though that is relevant -- than on the manner of speech, specifically whether the plaintiff is ‘expected, pursuant to [his or her] job duties,' to make the speech that is at issue.” Jerri v. Harran, 625 Fed.Appx. 574, 580 (3d Cir. 2015) (not precedential) (citing Foraker v. Chaffinch, 501 F.3d 231, 241 (3d Cir. 2007), abrogated on other grounds by Borough of Duryea, Pa. v. Guarnieri, 564 U.S. 379 (2011)). In Javitz, the Third Circuit recently explained that in analyzing the citizen speech issue, it considered who the plaintiff spoke to, what she spoke about, and why she spoke, to determine whether the speech fell outside the scope of the plaintiff's primary job duties. 940 F.3d at 865-66.[14]

         Applying these standards to the present case, it is clear that plaintiff spoke as an employee and not as a citizen when making the report of suspected abuse; therefore, ...


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