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Chieke v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Welfare

March 10, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge


I. Introduction

On June 29, 2006, Plaintiff Raphael K. Chieke filed this action concerning a promotion to a position at the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare ("PDW"). Chieke's complaint sets forth claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as well as state-law civil conspiracy and unlawful interference with contractual relations claims. (doc. 1).*fn1 Chieke alleges that Defendant Michael Stauffer, a former PDW Deputy Secretary of Administration, discriminated against him on account of his race, sex and national origin, in his decision not to hire plaintiff for the open management position.*fn2 On October 9, 2007, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment which is now ripe for consideration. (doc. 24). Upon careful review of the briefs and the record, we will grant the motion and enter judgment in favor of Stauffer and PDW and against Chieke.

II. Background

Chieke is an African-American male of Nigerian origin. Defendants' Statement of Material Facts ("SMF"), ¶ 1; (doc. 34, ex. 1, p. 50). Since June 1989, Chieke has served as the Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity office for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Id. ¶ 5; Plaintiff's Counterstatement of Material Facts ("CMF") ¶ 5. Chieke's position is the equivalent of an Equal Employment Opportunity Manager ("EEO Manager") II in the Department of Corrections. Plaintiff's CMF ¶ 1. Stauffer is a white male who, prior to his retirement on June 29, 2007, was PDW's Deputy Secretary of Administration. Defendants' SMF ¶¶ 2, 3; (doc. 25, ex. 5, p. 5).*fn3

In March 2004, PDW posted an opening for an EEO Manager III position. Defendants' SMF ¶ 6. Several African- American women and at least one African-American man have previously held the EEO Manager III position at PDW. Defendants' SMF ¶ 30. The individual hired to the position would report directly to Stauffer. Plaintiff's CMF ¶ 6. Six "relatively equal, appointable candidates" responded to the advertisement for the position. Id. PDW, however, reposted the opening for the position, expanding the class of eligible employees to include those holding an Equal Opportunity Specialist 3 position. Defendants' SMF ¶ 7. PDW reposted the opening in order to ensure that Mary Bell, the acting EEO Manager III at PDW, had an opportunity to apply for permanent status in her position. Id. ¶ 8.

PDW's hiring process for the EEO Manager III is governed by the Civil Services Act. Id. ¶ 9. The hiring protocol includes an interview process, to which PDW gives great emphasis in making the hiring decision. Id. ¶ 10. Chieke participated in the hiring process by completing a Civil Service application, anticipating an interview for the position. Id. ¶ 11. Chieke also took a Civil Service exam, viewing the exam as an opportunity to receive an interview for the position as well as a potential promotion. Id. ¶¶ 11-13; Plaintiff's CMF ¶ 13. According to Chieke, the exam, which was not in existence previously and was made up very quickly for the EEO Manager III position, required candidates to write their answers and then defend them before "oral board members." Plaintiff's CMF ¶ 12.

Chieke scored a ninety-four on the exam, the third highest score behind two individuals who were awarded points due to veteran's preference. Defendants' SMF ¶¶ 14, 15. Mary Bell, the acting PDW EEO Manager III, scored lower than Chieke and four others. Id. ¶ 16.

PDW interviewed eleven candidates for the position. Defendants' SMF ¶ 20. This included candidates who had completed the exam, such as Chieke, and at least one candidate, Mary Grace Majors, who had not taken the exam. Plaintiff's CMF ¶ 17. According to Stauffer, candidates who were not already part of the state system had to take the exam to be eligible for consideration. (doc. 34, ex. 5, p. 67). Mary Grace Majors, who was ultimately hired, did not take the exam but was eligible for an interview because she was a member of "the next lower class" of state employees identified in the job posting. Id. at 69. In this two-step interview process, at least three interviewers served on each panel. Defendants' SMF ¶ 18. Stauffer did not participate in Chieke's interview. Id. ¶ 19. During the interviews, panelists asked questions of the candidates and independently scored each candidate. Id. ¶¶ 21, 22. Jim Kroh and Mary Grace Majors received scores of 403 points and 389 points, significantly higher than the other candidates. Id. ¶ 23. Mary Bell, the acting EEO Manager III scored significantly lower with a score of 326. Id. ¶ 24. Chieke, who received a 315, also scored significantly lower than Kroh and Majors and somewhat lower than Mary Bell. Id. ¶ 25.

After the first round of interviews, Stauffer decided that Mary Grace Majors, an African-American female, and Jim Kroh would move to a second round of interviews. Id. ¶ 26; Plaintiff's CMF ¶ 26. In the second round, Majors received a score of 129, and Kroh received a 55. Defendants' SMF ¶ 27. Majors was hired to fill the position. Id. ¶ 28. Stauffer informed Chieke by letter that he was not selected for the position. Id. ¶ 29.

III. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

Pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, we may grant summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, 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; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265, 273 (1986). In reviewing the evidence, we must construe facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538, 553 (1986). Summary judgment must be entered for the moving party "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Id.

The moving party bears the initial responsibility of stating the basis for its motion and identifying portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d at 274. It can discharge that burden by "showing . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. at 2554, 91 L.Ed.2d at 275.

An issue is "genuine" "only if a reasonable jury, considering the evidence presented, could find for the nonmoving party." Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202, 211-12 (1986)). A fact is "material" when it would affect the outcome of the ...

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