SEGARA et al v. THORNTON et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE CYNTHIA M. RUFE ON 2/18/2014. 2/20/2014 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(sg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CIVIL ACTION NO. 13-1419
THE PHILADELPHIA PARKING
AUTHORITY, et al.,
FEBRUARY 18, 2014
Before the Court are Defendants’ motion to dismiss Jessica Segarra’s Amended
Complaint and Segarra’s response thereto. For the reasons stated below, the motion will be
granted in part and denied in part. Segarra will be granted leave to amend.
Jessica Segarra was employed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (“PPA”) as a
Parking Enforcement Officer on the evening of August 12, 2011. That night, as she was on the
street having a telephone conversation with Kevin Manzi, another PPA employee, about parking
enforcement strategy, a man wearing ordinary clothes, looking and smelling drunk, accosted her.
He asked her why she was talking on the phone while she was working. Segarra attempted to
walk away, but the man yelled at her and grabbed her, preventing her from leaving. It turned out
that the man was Defendant Elijah Wooden, an official at PPA who outranked Segarra.
Wooden’s friends pulled him off Segarra, and Wooden called Defendant Rob Castor,
Segarra’s immediate supervisor. Castor brought Segarra back to PPA headquarters where she
filled out an incident report and was suspended. After leaving headquarters, she called the police
to report her altercation with Wooden. She returned to work on August 16, 2011, when she was
called into a meeting with Defendants Thorton, Bielecki, O’Connor, and Wooden. She was told
to make another incident report, which she did. She was then suspended again and eventually
fired on August 22.
Segarra sued PPA, Wooden, Castor, and the other defendants who were at the August 16
meeting, alleging that PPA was a hostile work environment for women, that she was fired for
complaining about on-the-job gender discrimination, that she was fired for exercising her First
Amendment right to call the police, and that Wooden committed the common-law torts of assault
and battery. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety. For the reasons
below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part without prejudice.
Standard of Review
In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”1 Additionally, it “must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.”2 A plaintiff who survives a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief
may be granted states facts sufficient to “‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.’”3
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).
Gender discrimination claims are analyzed under the familiar burden-shifting framework
articulated in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green.4 That means Segarra must first make out a
prima facie case of discrimination, after which the burden of production will shift to Defendants
to articulate a non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment actions, and then the
burden will shift back to Segarra to show that the proffered explanations are pretextual.
To state a claim for gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Segarra
must allege “(1) that [s]he is a member of a protected class; (2) that [s]he is qualified for [her]
position;” and (3) that she suffered an adverse employment action “(4) under circumstances that
give rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination such as” when a person not of the protected
class similarly situated to Segarra did not suffer the same adverse treatment.5 Additionally,
Segarra may state a prima facie claim if she sufficiently alleges that PPA was a hostile work
environment. In order to do so, the “sexually objectionable environment must be both objectively
and subjectively offensive, one that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive, and one
that the victim in fact did perceive to be so.”6 Courts must “determine whether an environment is
sufficiently hostile or abusive by looking at all the circumstances, including the frequency of the
discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere
offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work
411 U.S. 792, 802–03 (1973). Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock Univ. State Sys. of Higher Educ., 470 F.3d
535, 539 (3d Cir. 2006).
Jones v. Sch. Dist. of Philadelphia, 198 F.3d 403, 410–11 (3d Cir. 1999).
Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 787 (1998).
Id. at 787–88 (internal quotation marks omitted)
The only allegation in the Complaint that supports the inference that she was suspended
and eventually fired because she is a woman is that she was talking on the phone with Kevin
Manzi, a male PPA employee, when Wooden confronted her, and that Manzi did not suffer
suspension or termination. However, the Complaint does not allege that Manzi occupied the
same position as Segarra or that her supervisors had any basis to assume that talking on the
phone would have interfered with Manzi’s duties. Segarra was outside patrolling her beat when
Wooden approached her, but the Complaint does not disclose where Manzi was, what he was
doing, or whether it was appropriate for him to be on the phone at the time. Even though the
complaint alleges that it was not a violation for Segarra to talk on the phone, the mere fact that
Manzi is a male is not enough to support a claim of gender discrimination where, as here, there is
no reason to infer that the supervisors should have been similarly motivated to suspend Manzi
(or not to suspend Segarra).8 Additionally, Segarra alleges no facts in her complaint to support
the inference of such severe or pervasive hostile conduct as to amount to a change in the terms
and conditions of her employment, as necessary to support a Title VII claim on the basis of a
hostile work environment.9
In her opposition to Defendants’ motion to dismiss, however, Segarra makes some claims
that could support an inference of gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.
Specifically, she claims that Wooden “inappropriately touched her breast area,”10 and that the
PPA’s drug and alcohol abuse policy protects against retaliation for reporting violations of it,
while the sexual harassment policy offers no such protection. These allegations are not in the
Amended Complaint, but they do support Segarra’s position. Therefore, the Court will allow
Cf. Orji v. City of Philadelphia, 12-cv-1, 2013 WL 3283463, *13 (E.D. Pa. June 27, 2013).
Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 788 (1998).
Doc. No. 12 at 14.
Segarra to amend her complaint to include any facts that may support her claims of gender
discrimination and a hostile work environment.
Title VII Retaliation11
Segarra also asserts that her suspension and the termination of her employment resulted
from her complaints of gender discrimination. However, she alleges no specific instances of
complaining to anyone at PPA of gender discrimination. She alleges that she filled out an
incident report, but the Amended Complaint does not attach her incident report or make
allegations that it contained anything that could be read as a complaint about gender
discrimination or that it in any way amounted to activity protected by Title VII. Therefore, it
would be inappropriate to infer that she was fired in retaliation for claims of gender
discrimination, and this claim must be dismissed.
First Amendment Retaliation
Segarra argues that she was fired because she exercised her First Amendment rights when
she called the police about Wooden’s assault. However, Defendants correctly point out that she
alleged no facts in the Amended Complaint that could lead a factfinder to conclude that
Defendants knew about her call to the police. Therefore it would be unreasonable to infer that
she was fired for doing so.
In her response to Defendants’ motion to dismiss, Segarra states that she told Defendant
Castor that she intended to call the police and that she told the Head Ticketing Supervisor at PPA
that she did call the police.12 These allegations are missing from the complaint and therefore
Segarra’s retaliation claims are included under both the first and second counts of her complaint. The
counts are discussed together here because they must be dismissed for the same reason.
Doc. No. 12 at 4.
cannot be considered on a motion to dismiss, but they persuade the court that amendment would
not be futile, and therefore leave to amend will be granted.
Segarra’s PHRA claims will be dismissed and leave to amend them will be granted for
the same reasons as her federal claims.13
Assault and Battery
In Pennsylvania, the intentional tort of battery is, simply put, “unconsented touching that
is either harmful or offensive.” 14And “an assault may be described as an act intended to put
another person in reasonable apprehension of an immediate battery, and which succeeds in
causing an apprehension of such battery.”15
Segarra has alleged sufficient facts to state claims for assault and battery: she has alleged
that Wooden approached Segarra with drunken hostility, yelled at her, grabbed her, and
physically prevented her from leaving the scene. Such a confrontation would be offensive to a
reasonable person, and from the fact that it occurred, it can be inferred that Wooden intended it
to occur. Similarly, the yelling and Wooden’s approach lend credibility to the claim that he
intended to put Segarra in reasonable apprehension of the impending battery; the battery itself
also lends plausibility to the claim of assault. Segarra described the time and place of the
altercation with sufficient particularity to inform Wooden of what he must defend against, and
thus her complaint states a cause of action for assault and battery.
See, e.g., Orji, 2013 WL 3283463, *6 n.6.
Cooper ex rel. Cooper v. Lankenau Hosp., 51A.3d 183, 191 (2012)
Cucinotti v. Ortmann, 159 A.2d 216, 217 (1960).
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ motion to dismiss will be granted in part and
denied in part, and Plaintiff will be granted leave to amend. An appropriate Order follows.
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