HENRY v. CITY OF ALLENTOWN et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE LAWRENCE F. STENGEL ON 1/7/13. 1/8/13 ENTERED & E-MAILED.[fdc]
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CITY OF ALLENTOWN, et al.,
January 7, 2013
Officer Leif Henry filed this employment discrimination action against the City of
Allentown and Chief of Police Roger MacLean (collectively, Defendants). Henry alleges
violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Rehabilitation Act (RA), 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. He also asserts a
procedural due process claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants moved to
dismiss Counts I, II, and IV in their entirety and Count III as to Defendant MacLean. For
the following reasons, I will grant the motion.
Henry, a Hispanic officer in the Allentown City Police Department’s K-9 unit,
was “reassigned to a lesser position after the death of his dog,” purportedly because he
mishandled the donation of a replacement canine. Am. Compl. ¶ 4. He was “replaced by
an officer who did not have the same credentials.” Id. ¶ 13.
Henry also suffers from “severe migraine headaches,” which prompted his
physician to request that Henry “not be required to work night shift.” Id. ¶ 5. Defendants
refused the request. Id. ¶ 6. Additionally, Defendant MacLean sent text messages to a
friend in which MacLean “ridiculed Plaintiff’s accommodation requests and indicated
that he harbored an animus against ADA qualifying officers.” Id. ¶ 9.
Henry alleges that “white officers are being treated preferentially.” Id. ¶ 7. He
claims he was “made to do menial and demeaning tasks . . . due to Hispanic origin,” such
as retrieving his supervisor’s lost pen. Id. ¶ 8. He also claims he was “[o]n many
occasions . . . called upon to ‘translate’ for the Department in its dealings with Hispanic
members of the community.” Id. ¶ 12.
STANDARD OF REVIEW1
A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) examines the
legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The
factual allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just
speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “To survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ A claim has facial plausibility when
the pleaded factual content 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) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “[C]onclusory or ‘bare-bones’ allegations
will no[t] . . . survive a motion to dismiss.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203,
210 (3d Cir. 2009).
Along with his response, Henry filed in opposition to Defendants’ motion an affidavit bolstering the factual
allegations contained in his amended complaint. As a “matter outside the pleading,” I will not consider Henry’s
affidavit in ruling on Defendants’ motion. Rule 12(d); see also Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 339 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989)
(affidavit filed in opposition to motion to dismiss “clearly comprised a matter outside the pleading”).
Section 1981 (Count I)
Absent direct evidence, courts analyze disparate treatment claims under § 1981
pursuant to the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting scheme. Jones v. Sch. Dist. of
Philadelphia, 198 F.3d 403, 410 (3d Cir. 1999). Accordingly, the burden of production
first rests with Henry to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. To do so in the
reassignment context, Henry must show (1) he is a member of a protected class, (2) he
satisfactorily performed the duties required by his position, (3) he suffered an adverse
employment action, and (4) either similarly-situated non-members of the protected class
were treated more favorably or the adverse job action occurred under circumstances that
give rise to an inference of discrimination. Langley v. Merck & Co., Inc., 186 F. App’x
258, 259 (3d Cir. 2006). Defendants contest only the fourth prong. I agree that Henry’s
§ 1981 claim falls short.
Henry’s allegation that “Caucasian employees with similar work records were not
subjected to reassignment under similar circumstances,” Am. Compl. ¶ 14, simply lacks
underlying factual matter sufficient to state a plausible claim. See, e.g., Wise v. Estes,
CIV.A. 10-481 (JLL), 2010 WL 2757273, at *4 (D.N.J. July 6, 2010) (finding plaintiff’s
“broad conclusory statements that he [was] more harshly reprimanded than nonminorities” insufficient to state plausible § 1981 claim). That Henry was asked to
retrieve his supervisor’s lost pen and translate conversations with Hispanic community
members is not revealing of discriminatory animus, see, e.g., Vazquez v. Navistar Int’l
Transp., 2:09-CV-434 JD, 2012 WL 1095223, at *6 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 30, 2012) (“Asking
[a] bilingual person . . . to translate a conversation is not evidence of discriminatory
intent.”), and in any event, these allegations are wholly unconnected to Henry’s
reassignment and thus are not “circumstances that raise an inference of discriminatory
action,” Sarullo v. U.S. Postal Serv., 352 F.3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2003). That leaves
Henry’s claim that he was “replaced by an officer who did not have the same credentials
as [he] possessed.” Am. Compl. ¶ 13. He does not allege the replacement officer was
non-Hispanic. While Henry need not show he was replaced by someone outside his class
in order to make out a prima facie case, Pivirotto v. Innovative Sys., Inc., 191 F.3d 344,
355 (3d Cir. 1999), he ultimately “must establish some causal nexus between his
membership in a protected class and the decision to [reassign] him,” Sarullo, 352 F.3d at
798. Because Henry has not done this, his § 1981 claim fails.
Count I is therefore dismissed, without prejudice. Consistent with this
memorandum and its accompanying order, Henry may file a second amended complaint
stating plausible § 1981 discrimination claims against Defendants City of Allentown and
MacLean.2 Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 245 (3d Cir. 2008) (holding
that district court must grant leave to amend factually deficient complaint, even where
leave is not sought by plaintiff, unless amendment would be inequitable or futile).
If Henry chooses to file a second amended complaint, he must allege facts indicating Defendant MacLean’s
personal involvement in his reassignment. See Johnson v. Res. for Human Dev., Inc., 843 F. Supp. 974, 978 (E.D.
Pa. 1994) (“[A] claim seeking to impose personal liability under Section 1981 must be predicated on the actor’s
personal involvement and there must therefore be some affirmative link to causally connect the actor with the
Section 1983 (Count II)
To state a § 1983 procedural due process claim, “a plaintiff must allege that (1) he
was deprived of an individual interest that is encompassed within the Fourteenth
Amendment’s protection of ‘life, liberty, or property,’ and (2) the procedures available to
him did not provide ‘due process of law.’” Hill v. Borough of Kutztown, 455 F.3d 225,
233-34 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 116 (3d Cir. 2000)). Henry
contends that Defendants deprived him of a “property interest in his job . . . by
reassigning him in his employment,” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 26, and that he “was not given
any type of due process,” id. ¶ 22. For the following reasons, I disagree with both
State law determines whether a public employee holds a property interest in his
job. Elmore v. Cleary, 399 F.3d 279, 282 (3d Cir. 2005). Allentown is a third-class city,
subject to the Third Class City Code (Code), 53 P.S. § 35101 et seq. Under the Code,
“no member of the city police force . . . shall be demoted in rank or discharged from the
police force except upon proper cause shown as set forth under the civil service
provisions of this act.” 53 P.S. § 37001. Henry does not claim he was discharged or
demoted in rank; he merely claims he “reassigned to a lesser position.” Am. Compl. ¶ 4.
Thus, at most, he has alleged a constructive demotion.
Interpreting similar language in the Police Tenure Act, 53 P.S. § 811 et seq., the
Third Circuit in Clark v. Twp. of Falls, 890 F.2d 611 (3d Cir. 1989), held that absent an
actual demotion in rank, courts “must look to other traditional indicia of change in rank to
determine whether the employee’s rank constructively has been reduced.” Id. at 618.3
Those indicia include a “change in pay[,] . . . the imposition of duties normally given to
employees of a lower rank, substantially reduced responsibilities, termination of
privileges of rank, and whether the changes or restrictions are temporary.” Id. Finding
that the plaintiff officer was not constructively demoted, the Clark court noted that
although the officer “clearly did not like the changes in his duties” and had experienced
“genuine distress,” he had retained not only his rank but also his salary and, despite
losing many of his duties, “was not left without any job functions.” Id.
Henry, like the plaintiff officer in Clark, was not constructively demoted. He does
not allege that his pay was reduced or that he was deprived of all real job responsibilities.
That Henry was displeased with his reassignment from the K-9 division is insufficient to
establish a constructive demotion. For these reasons, Henry was not deprived of a
property interest in his employment, and his procedural due process claim fails.
Even if Henry had been deprived of a property interest in his employment, he
received due process. “[W]here an adequate grievance/arbitration procedure is in place
and is followed, a plaintiff has received the due process to which he is entitled under the
Fourteenth Amendment.” Dykes v. Se. Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., 68 F.3d 1564, 1565
(3d Cir. 1995); see also Jackson v. Temple University, 721 F.2d 931, 933 (3d Cir. 1983).
The provision at issue in Clark read:
No person employed as a regular full time police officer in any police department of any township
of the second class . . . shall be suspended, removed or reduced in rank except for the following
reasons: [physical or mental disability; violation of any official duty; commission of a crime;
inefficiency, neglect, intemperance, disobedience of orders, or conduct unbecoming an officer;
intoxication while on duty.]
53 P.S. § 812 (emphasis added).
“If a public employee believes that the grievance process was defective, he may seek
relief available under state law.” Dykes, 68 F.3d at 1571.
A recent case in this district is illustrative. In McGinley v. City of Allentown, the
plaintiff, a terminated public employee, alleged that his “union[’s] refus[al] to file a
grievance on [his] behalf” denied him due process. No. 12-645, slip op. at 14 (E.D. Pa.
June 18, 2012). The court dismissed the claim, holding that “[p]laintiff can pursue no
cause of action against [his] own employer for a violation of procedural due process for
the failure of [his] union to file a grievance, and the proper course of action is to pursue a
cause of action under state law against the union.” Id. (citing Dykes, 68 F.3d at 1571-72;
Jackson, 721 F.2d at 933).
Here, the collective bargaining agreement between the City of Allentown and
Henry’s union sets forth grievance procedures. Henry has not alleged those procedures
were inadequate or interfered with by Defendants; rather, he contends his “union took no
realistic steps to assist him when he was reassigned.” Am. Compl. ¶ 23. As in
McGinley, Henry’s cause of action therefore lies against his union, not against
Count II is therefore dismissed, without prejudice. Consistent with this
memorandum and its accompanying order, Henry may file a second amended complaint
Henry’s attempt to distinguish McGinley is unavailing. He cites to various provisions of the Police Tenure Act
and the Borough Code, 53 P.S. § 46171 et seq., which he claims, as a police officer, provide him with protections
not implicated in McGinley. Doc. No. 9 at 14. These provisions are not applicable to the City of Allentown. Even
if they were, they go solely to whether Henry was deprived of a property interest in his job. As indicated, his
procedural due process would fail even if he had been so deprived.
stating plausible § 1983 procedural due process claims against Defendants City of
Allentown and MacLean.5
RA (Count III)
Littered with buzzwords but lacking in clarity, Count III of Henry’s amended
complaint borders on incoherent. He appears to assert failure-to-accommodate and
discrimination claims under the RA. The parties’ briefings shed no light on the matter.
Defendants argue that MacLean cannot be individually liable under the RA, which Henry
concedes in his response, but that is the extent of the discussion. In any event, it does not
appear from Defendants’ proposed order that they are seeking dismissal of Henry’s RA
claims against the City of Allentown.
Henry’s RA claims against Defendant MacLean are therefore dismissed, with
ADA (Count IV)
Finally, Henry asserts a retaliation claim under the ADA. To establish a prima
facie case of retaliation under the ADA, a plaintiff must show: (1) protected employee
activity; (2) adverse action by the employer either after or contemporaneous with the
employee’s protected activity; and (3) a causal connection between the employee’s
protected activity and the employer’s adverse action. Krouse v. Am. Sterilizer Co., 126
F.3d 494, 500 (3d Cir. 1997). Defendants contest the second and third prongs.
Again, if Henry chooses to file a second amended complaint, he must allege facts indicating Defendant MacLean’s
personal involvement in the purported § 1983 due process violation. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d
Although not readily apparent from Henry’s amended complaint, it appears from
his response that Defendant MacLean’s text messages are the allegedly adverse actions
here. Doc. No. 5-2 at 18. Henry claims Defendant MacLean sent text messages to a third
party in which “he ridiculed the Plaintiff’s accommodation requests and indicated that he
harbored an animus against ADA qualifying officers.” Am. Compl. ¶ 9. Defendants
argue that MacLean’s actions were not materially adverse. I agree.
“The antiretaliation provision protects an individual not from all retaliation, but
from retaliation that produces an injury or harm.” Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v.
White, 548 U.S. 53, 68 (2006). Accordingly, “a plaintiff must show that a reasonable
employee would have found the challenged action materially adverse.” Id. An
employment action is materially adverse where “it well might have dissuaded a
reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.” Id. (citations
and internal quotation marks omitted).
Henry has not plausibly alleged that Defendant MacLean’s third-party text
messages were materially adverse. He identifies no injury or harm resulting from the
messages. While it is true that the “standard for judging harm [is an] objective” one, id.,
there must actually be an injury or harm before an employer’s action may be deemed
materially adverse. Morrison v. Carpenter Tech. Corp., 193 F. App’x 148, 154 (3d Cir.
2006) (affirming grant of summary judgment on plaintiff’s retaliation claim where
plaintiff did “not identify, much less establish, any harm or injury produced by the”
allegedly adverse action). Henry’s ADA retaliation claim therefore fails.
I note, however, that even if Defendant MacLean’s text messages were materially
adverse, Henry has failed to plausibly allege a causal link sufficient to satisfy the third
prong of the prima facie case. Two factors are relevant in determining whether a causal
link exists between a plaintiff’s protected activity (in this case, Henry’s request for an
accommodation) and the adverse employment action: timing and evidence of ongoing
antagonism. Abramson v. William Paterson Coll. of New Jersey, 260 F.3d 265, 288 (3d
Cir. 2001). Here, the amended complaint provides no basis for concluding that
Defendant MacLean’s text messages were sent soon enough after Henry’s
accommodation request to be “unusually suggestive of retaliatory motive.” Williams v.
Philadelphia Hous. Auth. Police Dept., 380 F.3d 751, 760 (3d Cir. 2004) (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, Henry provides no dates or timeframe for any
of the events in his amended complaint. Nor are there any facts to suggest a pattern of
antagonism between Henry’s request for an accommodation and Defendant MacLean’s
Count IV is therefore dismissed, without prejudice to Henry’s right to file a second
amended complaint stating a plausible ADA retaliation claim against Defendant City of
For the foregoing reasons, Counts I and II are dismissed without prejudice to
Henry’s right to file a second amended complaint stating plausible § 1981 discrimination
Because “there is no individual liability under Title I or Title V [of the ADA] for discrimination claims arising out
of an employment relationship,” Henry’s retaliation claim against Defendant MacLean is dismissed with prejudice.
Shine v. TD Bank Fin. Group, CIV 09-4377, 2010 WL 2771773, at *7 (D.N.J. July 12, 2010).
and § 1983 procedural due process claims against Defendants City of Allentown and
Maclean; Count III is dismissed with prejudice as to Defendant MacLean; and Count IV
is dismissed with prejudice as to Defendant MacLean but without prejudice to Henry’s
right to file a second amended complaint stating a plausible ADA retaliation claim
against Defendant City of Allentown.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?