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SMITHGALL v. TRUSTEES OF THE UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA

May 26, 1994

JANET M. SMITHGALL
v.
TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA and HOSPITAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. CURTIS JOYNER

 JOYNER, J.

 This civil action, which was tried before a jury in this court between December 13 and December 17, 1993, resulted in the entry of a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, Janet Smithgall against the defendant Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania in the amount of $ 70,000 on plaintiff's breach of contract claim only. From this verdict, defendants have filed post-trial motions to alter or amend the judgment and/or for a new trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.Nos. 50 and 59.

 I. HISTORY OF THE CASE.

 Janet Smithgall filed the instant suit on July 31, 1992 alleging that the defendants had violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621(a)(1), et. seq., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa.C.S.A. § 955(a) and (d), and the terms of a settlement agreement dated January 10, 1990 which was entered into in resolution of a previously-filed complaint of age discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Specifically, plaintiff alleged that, among other things, defendants discriminated and retaliated against her by "unilaterally and arbitrarily" changing her job as a research dietician so as to exclude all professional duties and to reduce her position to that of a clerk; by segregating her physically from the other personnel in the unit to which she had been assigned to work; by assigning her to work areas which were unsecure, unsafe and degrading; by excluding her from personnel rosters and notices regarding activities, schedules and other information necessary to the performance of her job; and by not informing her of other available positions within the University and University Hospital thereby precluding her from applying and being considered for such positions. *fn1"

 At the time that the plaintiff filed her complaint, she was 61 years of age and had worked as a research dietician for the Harrison Department of Surgical Research and the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania since November, 1988. Prior to that, Mrs. Smithgall had been employed in a variety of clinical and managerial positions in the field of dietetics/food services at several state and private, non-profit hospitals throughout the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area from 1952-1957 and from 1976-1988, including the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Mrs. Smithgall had earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Institutional Administration and Nutrition from the Pennsylvania State University in 1952 and a Master's degree in Nutrition from Drexel University in 1977.

 II. DISCUSSION.

 A. Jurisdiction of this Court to Consider Plaintiff's Breach of Contract Claim.

 Defendants first renew their challenge to this court's jurisdiction to hear and consider the plaintiff's claim that the defendant Trustees breached the settlement agreement which they entered into with her on January 10, 1990. In this regard, it appears to be defendants' contention that because the PHRC refused to re-open the plaintiff's original complaint for purposes of ascertaining whether or not the settlement agreement had been breached, the only remedy available to plaintiff to obtain relief from that decision was to appeal that decision to the state Commonwealth Court and hence this court had no jurisdiction over this aspect of the case. We disagree.

 It is of course, axiomatic under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) that:

 
"Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) or as expressly provided otherwise by Federal statute, in any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution. Such supplemental jurisdiction shall include claims that involve the joinder or intervention of additional parties.

 It has repeatedly been recognized that the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction is proper where the federal and state claims are so related that they derive from a common nucleus of operative facts and are such that the plaintiff would ordinarily be expected to try them in one judicial proceeding, taking into consideration the accepted principles of judicial economy, convenience and fairness to the litigants. Glaziers & Glassworkers Union Local 252 Annuity Fund v. Newbridge Securities, 823 F. Supp. 1191, 1197 (E.D.Pa. 1993). That these principles apply with equal force to discrimination and civil rights actions is likewise well-established. See : Roy v. Russell County Ambulance Service, 809 F. Supp. 517, 519 (W.D.Ky. 1992); Godfrey v. Perkin-Elmer Corp., 794 F. Supp. 1179, 1183-1184 (D.N.H. 1992).

 In this case, of course, this court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Hence, inasmuch as the plaintiff's federal claims and state law breach of contract claim arise out of a common nucleus of operative fact, the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction is, at first blush, proper. These facts notwithstanding, in support of their argument that no jurisdiction exists over the plaintiff's breach of contract claim, the defendant Trustees rely almost exclusively upon the Commonwealth Court's decision in Mechensky v. Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, 134 Pa. Commw. 192, 578 A.2d 589 (1990). In that case, the Commonwealth Court upheld the conclusion of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission that it had the implied authority, under Sections 7(d) and 9(c) of the state Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §§ 957(d) and 959(c), to consider whether an agreement entered into in settlement of certain charges brought under the Act had been breached. In so holding, the Commonwealth Court stated:

 
"The Commission's argument [that its authority to consider a charge of breach of contract may be implied from provisions of the act favoring settlement together with the express powers delegated to the Commission] is persuasive. Section 42.73 of the Special Rules of Administrative Practice and Procedure for the Human Relations Commission, 16 Pa.Code § 42.73, allows a complainant the right to petition the Commission to determine whether a respondent has complied with the terms of a settlement agreement and further specifies that the Commission shall then take whatever action it deems necessary as justice requires. This authority shall not be contravened unless so clearly at odds with ...

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