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Watson v. Commonwealth

January 21, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure



On November 9, 2007, plaintiff, Anna Marie Watson, instituted this civil action against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare ("DPW"), setting forth claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), and under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §§ 951, et seq. ("PHRA"). On November 22, 2007, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Rec. Doc. No. 7). In her two-part amended complaint, plaintiff contends she was discriminated against, as the result of her gender, when her seniority was stripped from her, resulting in the loss of a permanent employment position, and when defendant failed to promote her to a supervisory position for which she was qualified.

Defendant asserts that plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie case of gender discrimination, and that, even if she did, defendant has refuted the prima facie case with non-pretextual, legitimate, non-discriminatory explanations for its actions.

The parties have completed discovery. On August 29, 2008, defendant filed its motion for summary judgment. Opposing and reply briefs have been filed and the matter is ripe for disposition. (Rec. Doc. No. 16). For the following reasons, we will deny defendant's motion.


I. Standard of Review

It is appropriate for a court to grant a motion for summary judgment "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). An issue is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Material facts" are those which might affect the outcome of the suit. Id.; Justofin v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 517, 521 (3d Cir. 2004).

"If the nonmoving party has the burden of persuasion at trial, 'the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial.'" Jalil v. Avdel Corp., 873 F.2d 701, 706 (3d Cir. 1989) (quoting Chippolini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d. Cir. 1987)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

In evaluating a motion for summary judgment the court will draw all reasonable inferences from the evidence in the record in favor of the nonmoving party. Am. Flint Glass Workers Union v. Beaumont Glass Co., 62 F.3d 574, 578 (3d Cir. 1995). The nonmoving party, however, cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment by merely offering general denials, vague allegations, or conclusory statements; rather the party must point to specific evidence in the record that demonstrates that there is a genuine issue as to a material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 321; Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. N.E. ex rel. M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999).

II. Statement of Facts

The plaintiff began working at the DPW's Trough Creek Youth Forestry Camp #3 ("YFC #3") as a limited term wage (or temporary) Youth Development Aide ("YDA"), responsible for supervising the camp's residents, on October 18, 2004. Two males, Chad Ramper and Matthew Mellott, were also hired as temporary YDAs at the same time.

The temporary YDA positions, mirroring the permanent YDA positions, were union positions covered by a contract negotiated by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Under this contract, union employees who had the same start dates were required to establish seniority via some reasonable method. In this instance, Watson, Ramper and Mellott drew straws on November 2, 2008. The lottery resulted in plaintiff's acquiring seniority over Mellott and Ramper.

On January 15, 2005, Neil May, a permanent YDA at DPW's North Central Secure Treatment Unit who had also been hired on October 18, 2004, transferred into a temporary YDA position at YFC #3. In May 2005, plaintiff and her colleagues applied for an open permanent YDA position at Camp #3. On June 22, 2005, as a result of May's arrival, another seniority lottery was conducted. The results of this second seniority drawing were as follows: 1) Mellott; 2) May; 3) Ramper; and 4) Watson. ...

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