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MEACHUM v. TEMPLE UNIVERSITY COMMON. HIGHER EDUCA.

March 25, 1999

DANIEL R. MEACHUM
v.
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY — OF THE COMMONWEALTH SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pollak, District Judge.

OPINION

This is an employment discrimination case against a university in which plaintiff alleges causes of action under both Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Presently before this court is defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I.

The facts — viewed in the light most favorable to Meachum — may be summarized as follows. Daniel Meachum, an African American male, was hired by Temple as Associate University Counsel in August 1989. In his nearly six years as Associate University Counsel, Meachum was the in-house counsel chiefly responsible for litigation. His litigation duties included representation of the university in state and federal courts and supervisory responsibility for cases being litigated by outside counsel. While his work concentrated on litigation, he also wrote university policies, attended board of trustee meetings, and advised executive officers of the university on legal matters. During his employment, Meachum consistently received meritbased pay increases of 3.8% or more. The University Counsel, George Moore, never informed Meachum that his work was deficient or gave him a negative review.

Meachum was fired on June 9, 1995. His termination letter did not give reasons for the firing. He was subsequently informed by Moore, his supervisor, that Moore had decided to eliminate Meachum's position in order to transfer litigation responsibilities to outside counsel as part of a university-wide reduction in the number of employees. Though Moore could have chosen to terminate the employment of any of the other Associate University Counsel — none of whom were African American, and four of whom had less seniority than Meachum — Moore chose to eliminate Meachum. The cases on which Meachum was then working were reassigned either to Moore himself or to outside counsel with support from the office of the University Counsel.

II.

Summary judgment may be entered if "the pleadings, deposition, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "An issue is `genuine' only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Hankins v. Temple Univ., 829 F.2d 437, 440 (3d Cir. 1987) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)).

III.

Temple claims that summary judgment on the Title VII claim is justified for two independent reasons: (1) Meachum has failed to demonstrate the existence of a prima facie case; and (2) assuming that Meachum has demonstrated the existence of a prima facie case, Meachum has not carried his burden of casting reasonable doubt on the legitimate non-discriminatory explanations for the employment decision that Temple has averred.

A.

"In a Title VII case such as this one involving a reduction in force, in order to make out a prima facie case the plaintiff must show that (1) she belonged to a protected class, (2) she was qualified for the position from which she was terminated, (3) she was terminated and (4) persons outside of the protected class were retained." In Re Carnegie Center Associates, 129 F.3d 290, 294-95 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994)). Temple admits that Meachum is a member of a protected class and was discharged. Further, it acknowledges, albeit "solely for the prima facie case portion of the analysis," that Meachum was qualified for the position. Def.Br. at 27 n. 20. Defendant claims that, because Moore "transferred [Meachum's] active case load to other African-American attorneys," Meachum cannot satisfy the fourth prong of the prima facie case. Def.Br. at 27. The "other African-American attorneys" to whom defendant refers are two attorneys who work for law firms that Temple has retained to assist it with litigation matters.

In essence, Temple claims that this case should be governed not by the prima facie case requirements that apply to reductions in force, but to the prima facie test requirements that apply when an employee is fired and then replaced by another employee. In the latter situation,

  a Title VII plaintiff must show (1) that she is a
  member of a protected class, (2) she was qualified
  for the position, (3) she was discharged, and (4) the
  position was ultimately ...

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