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Kajder v. Community College of Allegheny County

December 22, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Caiazza


Judith Kajder held the full time position of System Job Coordinator at the Community College of Allegheny County ("CCAC") from February 1999 until her termination in March 2001. She alleges that her termination was the result of race and age discrimination. She also claims that she was terminated in retaliation for her complaints of race discrimination. The actions alleged are proscribed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Con. Stat. Ann. §951 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. CCAC's Motion for Summary Judgment is pending. Because the court finds that Kajder has failed to establish a prima facie case with respect to any of the alleged causes of action, it will grant the Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. Background

In March 1999, Judith Kajder ("Kajder"), then a fifty-three year old white woman, was hired to work full-time at the Braddock location of CCAC in a year-to-year grant-funded position. Her primary responsibilities focused on helping displaced homemakers, single mothers, and other job seekers to secure employment. She taught classes in resume preparation, time management, stress management, and other related areas. (Kajder Dep. 41). Her supervisor, Dr. Sheila L. Johnson ("Johnson"), was black.

Within months following Kajder's employment, it was clear that there was friction in her relationship with Johnson. The email exchanged between the women beginning in September 1999 shows that the two spent a significant amount of time sparring over what work needed to be done, and when, how, and by whom the work would be accomplished. (Kajder Br. in Opp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 2). The court is left with the impression that Johnson was difficult to satisfy, finding fault with much that Kajder undertook, and changing expectations mid-project. Kajder, in turn, was fiercely resentful of what she saw as Johnson's frequent, unwarranted, and sometimes public interference in her work.

According to Kajder, Johnson applied "irrational policies" only to her. She alleges that she was not permitted to fax as many pages as other members of the staff and was denied permission for her son to attend a class, a perquisite included in her benefit package. She also contends that she was not allowed to attend professional development seminars, taught more classes than other employees, was subjected to public criticism, and was given lengthy assignments that could not be completed in the given time frame. (Kajder Opp. to Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 6). Kajder's irritation with Johnson was severe enough that she began to forward their correspondence to Jeanne Shader, CCAC's Director of Human Resources, seeking advice about how to handle the tension. Shader did not offer a solution, and asked that Kajder stop forwarding email. (Id.)

Kajder came to believe that many of Johnson's decisions were the result of racial bias. According to Kajder, Johnson stated that "all white women look alike," (Kajder Dep. 46), and once referred to Bethel Park women entering the program as "white women on Prozac."(Id., 150). Kajder believes that she also heard about Johnson's terminating only white students from the program, calling them "incompetent."

Later in October, Kajder was told of an alleged incident that seemed to confirm her belief that Johnson was racially biased. Three white woman had been denied admission to the jobs program, allegedly because their income level exceeded applicable guidelines. At about the same time, Johnson's friend, a black woman, was admitted though her income was even higher than the income of any of the white women. (Compl. ¶ 17).

In January 2001, the simmering difficulty between Kajder and Johnson approached the boiling point when Kajder began to suspect that Johnson's resume did not reflect her actual background. Perhaps this was because Johnson allegedly had an unusually strong reaction when she heard a comment that Kajder made to students about the dangers of resume fraud.(Kajder Opp. to Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 6). This suspicion was reinforced by Johnson's alleged breach of confidence in a counseling session, which made Kajder question whether Johnson had a masters degree in counseling. (Kajder Dep. 95-205).

Kajder and her husband began to investigate the veracity of Johnson's credentials, visiting the University of Pittsburgh's library to read her doctoral thesis, contacting the schools listed on her resume, reviewing her transcripts, and traveling to Harrisburg to review grant applications listing Johnson's qualifications. (Kajder Dep. 85-87, 90, 91, 222, 223, 227). Based on their findings, the Kajders concluded that Johnson had misrepresented the areas of study in which she had obtained advanced degrees. Kajder went to Shader with her resume-related findings in February.*fn1 (Id. 195-205). She also complained that Johnson had scheduled CCAC's Penn Hills classes in her husband's church, calling it the "West Penn Hills location," so that the church could collect rent from CCAC. (Kajder Dep. 102).

By this point, Johnson and Kajder had abandoned any pretense of collegiality. Johnson was determined that Kajder not have a March vacation day that had been requested repeatedly, beginning the previous fall. She imposed condition after condition, each more unreasonable than the last, on Kajder's ability to take the day. Kajder, frustrated to the breaking point, consulted Jeff Kandra ("Kandra'" in Human Resources about the vacation impasse. (Kajder Dep. 83). She remembers that he advised her to take the time as a personal day because these days did not require the supervisor's prior approval. Knowing that Johnson objected strongly to her being absent for any reason, Kajder took a personal day. (Kajder Resp. to CCAC Stmt. of Facts ¶ 41).

While Kajder was away, Johnson placed three letters of reprimand in her personnel file. (Kajder Opp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 13). One letter related to Kajder's having taken a member of Johnson's support staff with her to a meeting, allegedly in violation of Johnson's instructions. Another related to Kajder's taking the disputed day of personal leave, and the third involved her failure to report for a meeting that Johnson allegedly insisted take place immediately after Kajder completed an interview for Johnson's position. On March 26, 2002, Johnson sent Kajder a letter of termination citing her "inability to adapt to the program's operating style." (Amended Ans. Ex. A) Although Kajder applied for other job openings at CCAC, she was not hired.

(Kajder Stmt. of Facts ¶ 90).

In early April 2001, Kajder filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") alleging that she had been "discharged . . . and denied alternative jobs because of her race, gender, age, and in retaliation for going to the [PHRC] and for reporting . . . credentials fraud." (PHRC Compl. ΒΆ B.)(App. to Kajder Stmt. of Facts 94-99). Following an investigation, the PHRC ...

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