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Dean v. Philadelphia Gas Works

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 12, 2019

JOSEPH DEAN et al., Plaintiffs,
PHILADEPHIA GAS WORKS et al., Defendants.


          GERALD PAPPERT, J.

         Joseph Dean sued Philadelphia Gas Works and several individual defendants alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His wife Patricia also brings a loss of consortium claim as a result of the alleged discrimination against her husband. PGW and two individuals, Craig White and Jerry Gaydosh, move to dismiss the PHRA claims without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. They also move to dismiss the § 1983 and loss of consortium claims with prejudice for failing to state a claim.


         Joseph Dean, a white man, was hired by PGW in December of 2017. (Compl. ¶ 20, ECF No. 1.) PGW is a corporation owned and operated by the City of Philadelphia. (Id. ¶ 6.) According to Dean, one of his co-workers, Dean Rutledge, frequently used racial slurs in referring to black employees and was known among his co-workers for doing so. (Id. ¶ 21.) Dean found the slurs to be harmful and offensive so he complained to his union representative, Joseph Cipparone. See (id. ¶ 22). When Cipparone failed to respond, Dean complained to a black supervisor and only then did human resources begin to investigate. See (id. ¶¶ 24-25). Shortly thereafter, PGW terminated Rutledge. (Id. ¶ 26.)

         After Rutledge was fired, Dean alleges that Cipparone and Michael Hudson, both white union representatives, retaliated against him and treated him with hostility. See (id. ¶¶ 9-10, 27). For example, Dean alleges that while at a cadet training class, Cipparone and Hudson publicly denounced him in front of other employees by calling him a “rat.” (Id. ¶ 28.) Not long after this incident, Dean was called into a meeting with Cipparone, Hudson, and PGW's CEO Craig White, at which Dean alleges he was falsely accused of wrongdoing and called “a disgrace to the white race” by White. See (id. ¶¶ 29-31).

         The next month, Dean filed a written complaint of discrimination with PGW. See (id. ¶ 32). He alleges that within one hour of filing it, PGW fired him. (Id. ¶ 33.) According to Dean, the harassment and retaliation continued even after his employment ended. See (id. ¶¶ 34-40). Beginning in December of 2018, unidentified PGW employees allegedly parked their PGW-marked vans in Dean's neighborhood for hours despite not having work scheduled in the area, and they would “pretend to shoot [Dean] with a ‘finger gun.'” (Id. ¶ 35.) When Dean complained about the conduct to PGW through his attorney, it only worsened. (Id. ¶ 36.) Dean also alleges that Jerry Gaydosh, a white supervisor at PGW, has followed him from his home to his new job on multiple occasions. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 37.) And Hudson, one of the union representatives, has also allegedly harassed Dean many times by calling Dean to make threats against his life and by “leaving voice mails consisting of heavy breathing.” (Id. ¶ 38.)

         Dean filed his first charge of discrimination with the EEOC on February 21, 2019 alleging race discrimination and retaliation. (Id. ¶ 15.) He received his Notice of Right to Sue Letter on July 16, 2009. (Id. ¶ 15.) Dean filed a second charge of discrimination with the EEOC on June 28, 2019, (id. ¶ 17), and received his Notice of Right to Sue Letter with respect to that charge on October 30, 2019. (Defs.' Reply 2, ECF No. 9.)


         To survive dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the 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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pled “allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that [a] defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         When the complaint includes well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court “should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” See Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). However, this “presumption of truth attaches only to those allegations for which there is sufficient factual matter to render them plausible on their face.” Schuchardt v. President of the U.S., 839 F.3d 336, 347 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation and citation omitted). This plausibility determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. (quoting Connelly, 809 F.3d at 786-87).



         Defendants initially moved to dismiss the Title VII claims in Counts I, II and III but withdrew their motion with respect to those counts in their Reply. (ECF No. 10.) Count IV of the Complaint alleges that PGW “failed to adequately train, supervise and instruct” the individual defendants who “subjected [him] to race discrimination and retaliation” in violation of his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (Compl. ¶ 55.) The Court interprets this allegation against PGW as a failure to train claim, which is analyzed under the standard for municipal liability set forth in Monell. See Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Municipal liability under § 1983 exists when a constitutional injury results from a city's official policy or informal custom. See Beck v. City of Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d 966, 971 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing Monnell, 436 U.S. 658). Failure to train claims “are generally considered a subcategory of policy or practice liability.” Barkes v. First Corr. Med., Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 316 (3d Cir. 2014), rev'd on other grounds by Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.Ct. 2042 (2015).

         To sufficiently plead a § 1983 municipal liability claim for failure to train, the complaint must “demonstrate that a [municipality's] failure to train its employees ‘reflects a deliberate or conscious choice.'” Estate of Roman v. City of Newark, 914 F.3d 789, 798 (3d Cir. 2019) (quoting Brown v. Muhlenberg Twp., 269 F.3d 205, 215 (3d Cir. 2001)). Deliberate indifference involves three components: “(1) the municipal policymakers know that employees will confront a particular situation; (2) the situation involves a difficult choice or a history of employees mishandling; and (3) the wrong choice by an employee will frequently ...

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