Compton v. Nat. League of Prof. Baseball Clubs

Citation995 F.Supp. 554
Decision Date17 February 1998
Docket NumberNo. Civ.A. 96-4634.,Civ.A. 96-4634.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)

Sol H. Weiss, Kristin Werner, Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss & Schwartz, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, for Plaintiff.

Charles B. Blakinger, Hoyle, Morris & Kerr, Philadelphia, PA, for Defendant.


DITTER, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a former professional baseball umpire, brings this action against various baseball associations claiming, inter alia, that he was the victim of "reverse discrimination" in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq.1 Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.2 For the reasons that follow, I will grant defendants' dispositive motions as to plaintiff's Title VII claims and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.

I. The Facts3

For purposes of the defendants' motion to dismiss, I have accepted as true the following allegations in the plaintiff's complaint:

Craig Compton began his career as a professional minor league baseball umpire in 1984. (Compl. ¶ 14). Initially making the calls as a Class A minor league umpire, Compton was periodically promoted from Class A to Class AA to Class AAA — Class AAA being the highest minor league level. (Id. ¶¶ 14-23). Frequently, Compton was named umpire crew chief, a position assigned to the most qualified of umpires. (Id. ¶¶ 23(a)). Throughout his eleven-year career, Compton umpired numerous minor league all-star and playoff games and was praised for his ability on several occasions. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 23(c), 23(h), 24). Despite his expressed aspirations to umpire in the major leagues, Compton was not selected to be a major league umpire. (Id. ¶ 25). On October 27, 1994, the American Association of Professional Baseball Clubs (American Association) and the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs (National Association) unconditionally released Compton, explaining that neither the American League of Professional Baseball Clubs (American League) nor the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs (National League) wanted to hire him to umpire in the major leagues. (Id. ¶ 26). This release ended Compton's career as a professional umpire and "finally determined that [he] would never be employed as an umpire in major league baseball." (Id.).

On January 20, 1995, a representative of the American League contacted Compton and requested that he return to umpire during the 1995 American League spring training and regular season. (Id. ¶ 28). Compton umpired all of spring training as well as five regular season games. (Id. ¶ 29). On May 2, 1995, the American League unconditionally released Compton from further employment for no good cause. (Id. ¶ 30). On November 9, 1995, Compton filed a complaint against the defendants alleging discrimination based on his status as a white male with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). (Id. ¶ 3). After exhausting his administrative remedies, Compton brought this federal-court action. (Id.).

In count I, Compton alleges that the defendants have engaged in an unlawful employment practice and continuing policy of discrimination against white males and thus have violated Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), by failing to hire or promote him, firing him, and otherwise discriminating against him because of his race. Count II is a parallel state-law claim alleging violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). In count III, Compton asserts a breach of contract claim, in count IV, he claims he was wrongfully discharged with specific intent to harm, and in count V, Compton alleges that the defendants have committed the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Finally, in count VI, Compton alleges that the defendants' actions in failing to hire white males constitute an unlawful restraint of trade in violation of the common law of Pennsylvania.

II. Discussion

The defendants have challenged Compton's employment discrimination claims as follows. They break Compton's employment into two separate periods, his 1984-1994 employment in the minor leagues and his 1995 employment with the American League.4 First applying the motion to dismiss standard, they state that the employment discrimination claims should be dismissed as to all the defendants because such claims are untimely.5 Second, the American League has proffered evidence in support of a partial motion for summary judgment arguing that it is entitled to judgment in its favor on counts I and II.6 I will consider the motion to dismiss as having been made by all five defendants — the American League, the National League, the American Association, the National Association, and the Baseball Office for Umpire Development (BOUD).

A. The Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

In considering the defendants' motion to dismiss, I must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Only if the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief may I dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). However, I do not have to accept as true any conclusory allegations. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 & n. 8 (3d Cir.1997). Ordinarily, I may not grant a motion to dismiss on the basis of an untimely filing; however, if it is apparent from the face of the complaint that the applicable statute of limitations has expired, I must dismiss the complaint. See Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 1 (3d Cir.1994) ("While the language of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c) indicates that a statute of limitations defense cannot be used in the context of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, an exception is made where the complaint facially shows noncompliance with the limitations period and the affirmative defense clearly appears on the face of the pleading."). In addition, the plaintiff has attached various exhibits to his complaint. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(c), I may consider them when deciding this motion.7 In deciding these particular arguments, I have not considered the affidavit or exhibits attached to the defendants' motion, nor have I considered Compton's affidavit in support of his opposition brief.

Generally, when alleging a claim pursuant to Title VII, a plaintiff must initiate charges within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). However, if the plaintiff first filed a complaint with an appropriate state or local agency, the plaintiff then must file a charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory act. Id.8 In order to determine whether a claim has been timely filed, the Supreme Court has instructed me initially to "identify precisely the unlawful employment practice of which [the plaintiff] complains." Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 257, 101 S.Ct. 498, 66 L.Ed.2d 431 (1980). Here Compton is complaining about the defendants' failure to promote him to the major leagues and his subsequent discharge in 1994 from the minor leagues as well as the American League's releasing him from his employment with it in 1995 — all of which allegedly occurred because of his status as a white male.

The defendants argue that Compton's cause of action relating to his 1994 employment accrued, at the very latest, on October 27, 1994, the date he was released. Accordingly, the defendants maintain, his filing of charges with the EEOC and the PHRC on November 9, 1995, clearly exceeded his allotted time, and thus his claim is now barred.

In response, Compton argues that the facts he has alleged in his complaint demonstrate the timeliness of his claim under a "continuing violations" theory. In support of this argument, he refers me to an allegation in his complaint with respect to counts I and II that the defendants engaged in a continuous practice of discrimination against white males. (Compl.¶¶ 36, 39).

Clearly, the motion to dismiss as it relates to the American League must be refused because his employment with this league in 1995 was within the 300-day period. As to his minor league employment, however, I agree that the plaintiff's claims are untimely.

"[F]iling a timely charge of discrimination with the EEOC is not a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit in federal court, but a requirement that, like a statute of limitations, is subject to waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling." Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 393, 102 S.Ct. 1127, 71 L.Ed.2d 234 (1982). The Third Circuit has recognized that the time to file may be extended by operation of certain equitable principles. Two such principles are the discovery rule and the equitable tolling doctrine. Oshiver, 38 F.3d at 1385. In addition, the Third Circuit has held that under the continuing violations theory, a plaintiff may pursue a Title VII claim for discriminatory conduct which began outside the limitations period if he can demonstrate that the conduct alleged constitutes an ongoing practice or pattern of discrimination effected by the employer and that such pattern extended into the statutory period. Jewett v. International Tel. & Tel. Corp., 653 F.2d 89, 91-93 (3d Cir.1981).

Under the discovery rule, Compton's cause of action would accrue on the date that he discovered that he had been injured, Oshiver, 38 F.3d at 1385, and this is so even if he was not then aware that such injury constituted a legal wrong. Id. at 1386. With respect to the first period of employment, clearly Compton discovered that he was injured on the date he was released, October 27, 1994. At that point he "became aware (1) that [he] had been injured, i.e., discharged, and (2) that...

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