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Salvato v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 15, 2020




         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (“Mot., ” ECF No. 8). The Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7.1(f). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion will be granted in part and denied in part, but Plaintiff will be given leave to file an amended complaint as explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts and allegations are taken from Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (“FAC, ” ECF No. 6).[1] For the purposes of the instant motion, the Court takes as true all factual allegations contained in Plaintiff's FAC.

         Plaintiff Lisa Salvato is currently employed as a police officer with Defendant City of Philadelphia (“City”) and “has been employed in that capacity since at least 2012.” (Id. ¶¶ 3, 7.) In 2013, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against City alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) In July 2014, Plaintiff and City settled the lawsuit, which included, in part, the transfer of Plaintiff to the Major Crimes Unit. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.)

         “On July 9, 2014, Plaintiff reported to the Major Crime[s] Unit. Plaintiff was immediately told by new coworkers that they had heard about her lawsuit.” (Id. ¶ 13.) Specifically, Captain Roland Lee “approached Plaintiff and said ‘I know who you are and how you got here.'” (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) Captain Lee allegedly “continually harassed Plaintiff about various issues because Plaintiff had filed a discrimination lawsuit” and “frequently ordered Plaintiff to put the names of other employees on her work so that they got credit for the work.” (Id. ¶¶ 16, 18.) In December 2014, Plaintiff approached Captain Lee regarding an internal promotion, to which Captain Lee responded “As long as I am captain, you aren't going anywhere. If you don't like it transfer out.” (Id. ¶ 17.)

         Thereafter, in February 2017, Captain “Lee ordered Plaintiff to move her desk to an isolated location.” (Id. ¶ 19.) Then, on November 11, 2017, “Plaintiff was walking into the building where she worked when a supervisor sped up behind her in his car, forcing Plaintiff to jump out of the way of the speeding car.” (Id. ¶ 20.) “Plaintiff had a severe physical reaction to the stress caused by the accident, ” and on November 13, 2017, Plaintiff reported the incident. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) “Both [Captain] Lee and Plaintiff's supervisor harassed and berated her for reporting the incident.” (Id. ¶ 24.)

         In July 2018, “Plaintiff was subjected to fabricated disciplinary charges” and was “loudly and publicly berated by a coworker.” (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.) Plaintiff further alleges that “[o]n July 31, 2018, Plaintiff was taken off a case she had been working on for almost two years[, ]” and that the “fabricated discipline against Plaintiff is currently pending and could lead to her termination.” (Id. ¶¶ 28-29.)

         Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant City, at the time Plaintiff was sexually harassed and retaliated against and for many years prior, has and had a well settled practice of sexual harassment and retaliation pervading the police department.” (Id. ¶ 30.) More specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the City's police department “maintains a grossly sexist culture[, ]” that “[m]ale employees of all ranks . . . on a weekly basis barrage female officers with demeaning sexist comments and conduct[, ]” and that the department's “culture, policies and practices protect sexual harassers and cover up sexual abuse by officers.” (Id. ¶¶ 31-34.) Accordingly, Plaintiff asserts that “Defendant City's well settled practice of sexually harassing and retaliating against female officers was and is a substantial reason for the discipline and harassment she is currently enduring.” (Id. ¶ 38.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that after “the filing of the complaint in this matter, as of May 21, 2019, Plaintiff was transferred [to a division requiring a longer daily commute], as harassment and in retaliation for her complaints[.]” (Id. ¶ 39.) Plaintiff maintains that the transfer is retaliatory and punitive because “Defendant City knew at the time of the transfer and ongoing, that the transfer creates an unstable, unsafe environment for Plaintiff's daughter[, who suffers from serious disabilities, ] at a crucial time in her therapy.” (Id. ¶¶ 40, 42.) As such, Plaintiff asserts that “Defendant City's refusal to accommodate [the] transfer of Plaintiff to an assignment that allows her to care for her child is retaliation for the filing of this lawsuit, because of her past complaints and because she is a woman.” (Id. ¶ 48.)

         B. Procedural History

         On January 16, 2018, “Plaintiff filed a Charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging race and sex discrimination and retaliation.” (Id. ¶ 27.) On November 30, 2018, the EEOC issued a Notice of Dismissal and Right to Sue letter. (Id. at 10.) On May 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1 at 6.) Defendants removed the action to this Court on May 13, 2019, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. (See id.)

         On June 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed her FAC, in which she asserts four claims for relief:

COUNT 1: “Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Monell), ” against Defendants City and Police Commissioner Richard Ross;
COUNT 2: “Violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Retaliation, ” against Defendant City;
COUNT 3: “Pennsylvania Human Relations Act [(‘PHRA')]: Retaliation, ” against Defendant City; and
COUNT 4: “First Amendment, ” against Defendant City.

(FAC ΒΆΒΆ 49-65.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages as well as attorneys' fees ...

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