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James Mcquilkin v. Delaware River Port Authority

November 3, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle


SIMANDLE, District Judge:


This matter is presently before the Court on the Defendant Delaware River Port Authority's ("Defendant") motion to dismiss Plaintiff James McQuilkin's ("Plaintiff") complaint for failure to state a claim. [Docket Item 8.] The instant action alleges discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The Defendant argues that the complaint should be dismissed because a portion of Plaintiff's claim is time barred; the Plaintiff fails to state a claim for discrimination and retaliation; and the Plaintiff seeks compensation for damages which are not cognizable under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The Plaintiff has filed opposition. The Plaintiff maintains that its complaint is timely, sufficiently states a claim for both retaliation and discrimination, and seeks damages which are cognizable under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendant's motion to dismiss.


The instant action alleges that the Defendant violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. ("ADEA"), when the Defendant lowered the job grade level of the Grants Specialist position after the Plaintiff was offered and accepted the position.

The complaint alleges that Plaintiff was hired by the Defendant on or about July 1987 as a toll collector. (Comp. ¶ 16.) On or about 1997, the Plaintiff began attending law school and was reimbursed by the Defendant for his first year of tuition. (Comp. ¶¶ 17-18.) However, the Defendant subsequently told the Plaintiff that he would no longer receive tuition reimbursement despite the continuing tuition reimbursement given to younger employees. (Comp. ¶ 18.) From 2001 to 2004, the Plaintiff made unsuccessful requests to the Defendant for reimbursement of his tuition expense. (Comp. ¶ 20.)

In 2004, the Plaintiff went to the EEOC office in Philadelphia, PA, and filled on an EEOC Intake Questionnaire complaining that the Defendant had discriminated against him on the basis of his age in denying him tuition reimbursement. (Comp. ¶ 23.) The Plaintiff informed the Defendant's Chief of Human Resources and Equal Employment Officer, Toni Brown, that he had filled out the EEOC Intake Questionnaire. (Comp. ¶ 24.) Shortly after his meeting with Ms. Brown, the Defendant approved Plaintiff's request for tuition reimbursement and paid the Plaintiff for his tuition expense. (Comp. ¶ 25.)

In January 2005, the Plaintiff transferred to the government relations department to work as a Grants Specialist. (Comp. ¶ 26.) When the Plaintiff applied for the position, he was informed by the head of the department that a Grants Specialist was a grade level 11. (Comp. ¶ 26.) The application for the Grants Specialist position also indicated the position was a grade level 11. (Comp. ¶ 26.)

After being offered the position as Grants Specialist, the Plaintiff learned that the Defendant had classified the position a grade level 8 which is compensated at a lower rate than grade level 11 positions. (Comp. ¶ 26.) The Plaintiff talked to his supervisor, Linda Hayes, who agreed that the Grants Specialist position should be compensated at grade level 11. (Comp. ¶ 28.)

After several requests by Ms. Hayes, in June 2007, the Defendant hired the Hay Group, an independent Human Resources consultant, to analyze the proper grade for Plaintiff's position. (Comp. ¶ 29.) The Hay Group recommended the position of Grants Specialist be classified as grade level 10. (Comp. ¶ 29.)

From January 2009 to September 2009, Ms. Hayes' supervisor, Mr. Shanahan, met with Ms. Brown, the Chief of Human Resources, about increasing Plaintiff's job grade level to at least grade level 10 which was recommended by the Hay Group. (Comp. ¶¶ 31-32.) The Defendant continued to refuse to raise Plaintiff's grade level beyond level 8 and purportedly stated that education was the reason. (Comp. ¶ 34.)

In January 2010, the Plaintiff retired from the Defendant. (Comp. ¶ 36.) At the time the Plaintiff retired, he was still being compensated at a grade level 8 for his position as a Grants Specialist. (Comp. ¶ 36.)

The Plaintiff then filed the instant action on February 4, 2011. [Docket Item 1.] The Plaintiff was then 63 years old. (Comp. ¶ 15.) The Plaintiff alleges the Defendant's refusal to increase the grade level of the Grants Specialist position violated the ADEA. First, the Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's actions were retaliatory and in response to Plaintiff's complaints of age discrimination with regard to his tuition reimbursement. (Comp. ¶ 27.) The Plaintiff further alleges that Plaintiff's age was a motivating and/or determinative factor in Defendant's discriminatory treatment of Plaintiff. (Comp. ¶ 39.) The Plaintiff maintains that the Defendant's discriminatory failure to reclassify Plaintiff's position at the appropriate grade level adversely affected Plaintiff's salary since 2005 and Plaintiff's pension benefits. (Comp. ¶¶ 37-38.)

The Plaintiff alleges he suffered a loss of earnings, loss of benefits, pain and suffering, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of self-esteem, mental anguish and loss of life's pleasures as a result of the Defendant's conduct. (Comp. ¶ 42.) The Plaintiff also seeks liquidated damages against the Defendant as he alleges the Defendant's discriminatory and retaliatory acts were willful and intentional. (Comp. ¶ 43.)

The Defendant then filed the instant motion to dismiss. The Defendant argues that the Complaint should be dismissed on several grounds. First, the Defendant maintains that Plaintiff's claim as to pay received before December 27, 2008 is time-bared under the ADEA. Second, the Defendant argues that the Plaintiff has failed to state claim for retaliation or discrimination because there was no adverse employment action, there are no facts pled which show a causal nexus between the tuition reimbursement and the salary for his position as a Grants Specialist and the complaint does not identify any person sufficiently younger than the Plaintiff in a similar position who was not subject to the alleged adverse action. Finally, the Defendant argues that courts have consistently held that damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress or punitive damages are not cognizable under the ADEA and Plaintiff's claims for these damages should be dismissed.

The Plaintiff opposes the motion to dismiss. First, the Plaintiff argues that his complaint is timely and that whether the Plaintiff can seek a claim for pay received before December 27, 2008 is a damages issue that is not properly considered at this early stage of the litigation. Second, the Plaintiff contends that he has stated a claim for both discrimination and retaliation under the ADEA. Finally, the Plaintiff concedes that he is not entitled to a recovery for emotional distress or ...

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