Bruffett v. Warner Communications, Inc.

Decision Date25 February 1982
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 81-5162.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Frank B. Baldwin, III, Gary L. Bragg, Philadelphia, Pa., for plaintiff.

Jerome A. Hoffman, John M. Coleman, Philadelphia, Pa., for defendant.


BECHTLE, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment filed in a civil action brought by plaintiff Clare R. Bruffett to challenge the refusal of the Franklin Mint ("Franklin"), now a subsidiary of defendant Warner Communications, Inc. ("Warner"), to offer plaintiff permanent, full-time employment. For the reasons set forth, defendant's motion, treated as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R. Civ.P. 12(b)(6), will be granted.

In reviewing a complaint to determine its sufficiency upon a motion to dismiss, the Court must take as true all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint. Miree v. DeKalb County, 433 U.S. 25, 27 n.2, 97 S.Ct. 2490, 2492 n.2, 63 L.Ed.2d 557 (1977). A complaint should not be dismissed "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). Viewed in light of the foregoing standards, the complaint alleges the following facts.

Plaintiff answered a newspaper advertisement for a job with Franklin as an Advertising Designer. Plaintiff was interviewed on October 25, 1978, and began a two week trial period of employment on November 14, 1978. Upon plaintiff's successful completion of the trial period, plaintiff was offered "full-time, permanent" employment, provided that plaintiff successfully completed a medical examination.

On December 8, 1978, plaintiff underwent the first of several medical examinations. These examinations revealed that the plaintiff had a medical condition not identified in the complaint.1 On January 12, 1979, plaintiff was informed that, because of his medical condition, he could not be hired as a full-time employee. Plaintiff was retained, however, on a "full-time, free-lance" basis until May, 1979. Plaintiff never filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on a "non-job related handicap or disability." Pa.Stat.Ann. tit. 43, § 955(a) (Purdon Supp. 1981-1982). The present action was not filed until December 16, 1981.

Plaintiff's complaint is set forth in four counts. Count I alleges that Franklin "wrongfully refused to hire" plaintiff because Franklin's refusal was "unreasonable and without cause." Count II claims that Franklin's conduct, in reporting to plaintiff that his medical condition suggests that he may later suffer kidney failure, constituted an intentional infliction of mental distress. Count III seeks recovery on the ground that Franklin's conduct violates the "clear mandate of public policy" represented by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act in denying employment to plaintiff because of his medical condition. Finally, in Count IV, plaintiff alleges that Franklin acted without "cause or justification" in terminating plaintiff's employment.

The Court will first address the claims raised in Counts I and IV. Both state essentially the same claim: that Franklin's decision not to employ plaintiff as a fulltime, permanent employee was unjustifiable and without cause. It is necessarily implicit in plaintiff's claim that Franklin's justification, plaintiff's medical condition, was insufficient. Accordingly, both Count I and Count IV can only be read as claims that Franklin wrongfully discharged plaintiff because the discharge was based upon a non-job related handicap or disability.

It is true, as plaintiff argues, that Pennsylvania has apparently recognized a cause of action for an employer's wrongful termination of an at-will contract of employment where the termination violates a "clear mandate of public policy." Geary v. United States Steel Corp., 456 Pa. 171, 184, 319 A.2d 174, 180 (1974). See also Boresen v. Rohm & Haas, Inc., 526 F.Supp. 1230 (E.D.Pa.1981). Nevertheless, in Bonham v. Dresser Industries, Inc., 569 F.2d 187 (3d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 821, 99 S.Ct. 87, 58 L.Ed.2d 113 (1979), the Third Circuit held that a discharge from employment based on age discrimination prohibited by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act could only be brought under that statute, and that no parallel common law right of action was created by the statute's enactment. The court stated:

In the instant case, Pennsylvania's public policy on the question of arbitrary age discrimination is manifest. A termination based on age would violate the duties imposed on employers by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and would trigger the remedies provided by that act. We conclude that the Pennsylvania courts would not hold that termination of an at-will employee on the basis of age gives rise to an independent common law cause of action for breach of contract in addition to those statutory remedies. We do not believe that the courts of Pennsylvania would hold that the mere passage of the Human Relations Act created a separate common law claim where none had existed before, and where that void had been filled by that very legislation. Judicial reluctance to create such a remedy is evident in Geary, and we believe that the courts of Pennsylvania, if

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4 cases
  • Bruffett v. Warner Communications, Inc., 82-1200
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • November 8, 1982 a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and granted the motion to dismiss the complaint. Bruffett v. Warner Communications, Inc., 534 F.Supp. 375 (E.D.Pa.1982). The court viewed Counts I and IV as stating essentially the same claim, and held that they failed to state a comm......
  • Deramo v. Consolidated Rail Corp., Civ. A. No. 83-2423.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 21, 1985 seq. (Purdon 1964 & Supp.1982) ("PHRA") and "wrongful termination of an at-will contract of employment." Bruffett v. Warner Communications, Inc., 534 F.Supp. 375, 377 (E.D.Pa.), aff'd, 692 F.2d 910 (1982). It was the plaintiff's position that to permit employee termination because of a m......
  • Nestor v. Quaker State Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Civ. A. No. 82-842.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • February 10, 1984
    ...statute of limitations applies to claims brought under the Act. However, even a cursory reading of the district court opinion, 534 F.Supp. 375 (E.D. Pa.1982) reveals that the factual basis for dismissal of this count was not the failure to file within 90 days, but the failure to file at "Pl......
  • Loeffler v. Mountaintop Area Joint Sanitary Authority
    • United States
    • Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
    • October 24, 1986
    ...suffered an injury as a consequence of authority's failure to make proper provision for insurance, see Bruffett v. Warner Communications, Inc., 534 F.Supp. 375, (E.D.Pa.1982), aff'd 692 F.2d 910 (3rd Cir.1982), and that injury---inability to collect upon the judgment against the contractor-......

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