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Schengrund v. Pennsylvania State University

September 30, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Before the Court is Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). (Doc. No. 29.) The motion, addressed solely to the issue of the statute of limitations, has been fully briefed and is ripe before the Court for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiffs Cara-Lynne Schengrund, Joanna Floros, Kathryn Lanoue, Carol Whitfield, Judith Weisz, Margaret Goldman,*fn1 Patricia S. Grigson, and Kathleen Mulder are female professors ("Professors") at the Penn State College of Medicine, also known as the Penn State Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine ("COM"), a division of the Pennsylvania State University ("PSU" or "the University"). (Doc. No. 31, at 2-4.) PSU Professors are paid a base salary, which is reviewed annually and augmented pursuant to a University-wide salary increase percentage established by the PSU President. (Doc. No. 31 ¶¶ 30-34.) An individual professor's base salary then may be potentially increased by a "research incentive," an additional amount based on the level of external grant funding obtained by the faculty member under review. (Id. ¶ 36.)

Faculty Senate Salary Studies

Over the years, multiple reports and analyses have been undertaken to address salary disparity and compensation at PSU and COM. In the years 1984, 1997-99, 2001, and 2003, the PSU Faculty Senate conducted salary reports to which all professors at PSU had access. (Doc. No. 31, at 8-13.) The 1984 study noted a gender-based disparity in salary of between $500 and $1,000, but COM faculty was not included in the study. (Id. ¶¶ 43-44.) The 1997 study, however, did include COM faculty. It observed "no significant differences" in salary by gender throughout the University "with the exception of Hershey [COM] where male faculty appeared to have notably higher salaries" even when time in rank is considered. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48.) In 1998, the Faculty Senate released a COM addendum to their 1997 report confirming the finding that there was an unexplainable difference in salaries between men and women at COM. (Id. ¶ 51.) The study did not use regression analysis or account for different salaries by specialty, and the Faculty Senate stated that it was unable to further explain the salary differential due to the University's policy of maintaining confidential salary information. (Doc. No. 36 ¶¶ 50-51.) In 1999, the Faculty Senate released another salary report, which again recognized a salary differential between male and female professors at COM that could not be fully explained by differences in years in rank. (Doc. No. 31 ¶ 57.) The report also cautioned that the mean and standard deviation put forth therein did "not provide a complete picture of faculty salary data." (Doc. No. 36 ¶ 57.) The Faculty Senate released additional faculty salary studies in 2001 and 2003. Those studies analyzed mean and median salary data but did not delineate data on the basis of gender. (Doc. No. 31 ¶¶ 59, 61; Doc. No. 36 ¶¶ 59, 62.) In 2000, the University's Affirmative Action Office ("AAO") studied faculty salaries, and in a report entitled "College of Medicine Basic Science Departments Salary Analyses," stated that "sex is not a significant factor in explaining salary in this population and there is no indication of systemic bias on the basis of sex." (Doc. No. 31 ¶ 90.)

The Women's Faculty Group

In 1999 or 2000, Dr. Joan Summy-Long formed the Women's Faculty Group*fn2 ("WFG") to address the specific concerns of female faculty at COM. (Doc. No. 31 ¶ 72.) All female faculty were occasionally notified of WFG meetings and invited to participate; all Plaintiffs did participate in the group at some point, but to differing degrees. (Id. ¶ 73.) Notably, Dr. Kathleen Mulder did not participate in the group until 2006. (Id. ¶ 75.)

As early as 2000, WFG identified salary inequity as a concern to address. (Id. ¶¶ 77-83.) WFG discussed the disparate salary compensation issue at a meeting with COM Dean Darrell Kirch in August of 2000 and again with Vice Dean for Faculty and Administrative Affairs Kevin Grigsby in October of 2000. (Id. ¶¶ 80-83.) In a January 2001 memorandum addressed to Vice Dean Grigsby, WFG questioned the results of the 2000 AAO study that had found sex was not a factor in COM salary determinations. (Id. ¶ 93.) In that correspondence, WFG based its challenge to the AAO study on knowledge that studies previously conducted by the Faculty Senate had shown a gender bias to exist. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, in March of 2001, Wayne Zolko, COM Controller, presented mean and median salary figures for all COM scientists, categorized by the rank of Professor, Associate Professor, and Assistant Professor. (Id. ¶ 96, 98.) At the conclusion of the presentation, Plaintiff LaNoue prepared a chart of the median and mean salaries reported by Zolko and asked each female faculty member to mark where her salary fell in comparison to the mean and median data. (Id. ¶¶ 98-100.) Twenty of the twenty-two female faculty members who identified their salary on LaNoue's graph had a salary below the mean and median figures provided by Zolko. (Id. ¶ 103.) Chart in hand, WFG contacted the AAO office to determine whether the numbers used to produce the 2000 study were accurate. (Id. ¶ 105.) The AAO discovered that their study had used salary data that included research incentives and other salary supplements rather than solely base salary figures. (Id. ¶ 110.)

Following this discovery, on July 11, 2001, WFG sent a letter to Dean Kirch requesting that an independent consultant be hired to conduct a regression analysis of COM salaries on the basis that "the problem of gender inequity has not been addressed satisfactorily," despite over "ten years" of indications of gender-based salary inequity demonstrated by Faculty Senate reports. (Id. ¶¶ 115, 116.) The letter was individually signed by Plaintiffs Schengrund, Floros, LaNoue, Whitfield, Weisz, and Goldman. (Id. ¶ 118.) Plaintiff Grigson admitted knowledge of the letter and its contents at the time it was sent. (Id. ¶¶ 119.) Plaintiff Mulder was not aware of and did not participate in the production of this letter, though she did become aware at some point that WFG sought an external salary analysis. (Doc. No. 32-4 at 78-85.)

PSU did not immediately accept WFG's suggestion to hire an independent consultant. Instead, the Office of Human Resources ("OHR") initiated a follow-up study to the AAO study, which analyzed COM faculty salaries using only base salary data. (Doc. No. 31 ¶ 124.) The preliminary findings of the OHR report, which demonstrated that female basic scientists at COM were paid less than male basic scientists, were reported to COM administration in September of 2001. (Id. ¶¶ 124-25). Instead of completing the OHR study, COM determined that it should accept WFG's suggestion to commission an independent salary study; the University retained Haignere, Inc. ("Haignere") to conduct the study in January of 2002. The preliminary results of the OHR study were not disclosed to WFG or other faculty members. (Doc. No. 36 ¶ 125.)

Haignere Report

Haignere conducted a multiple regression analysis of the 2001-02 academic year base salaries at COM to determine whether salary disparities existed by gender or race. (Doc. No. 36 ¶¶ 131-32, 137.) On October 14, 2003, Haignere presented the preliminary findings to WFG, Dean Kirch, and Dr. Grigsby: Haignere found that a class-based salary disparity with respect to gender existed at COM. (Doc. No. 31 ¶ 141.) At the meeting, Dean Kirch expressed his intent to take corrective action in the form of class-based adjustments once further analysis had been completed to determine the magnitude of the problem. (Id. ¶¶ 144-47.) Haignere completed her report of COM salary equity in June of 2004. (Id. ¶ 168.) At the time Haignere's final report was released, COM administration represented that a longevity correction would be made to compensate for past pay disparity. (Doc. No. 36 ¶ 155.) In September of 2004, WFG learned that all white female basic scientists would receive a 3.8% salary adjustment retroactive to July 1, 2004, but that no other longevity correction would be made. (Doc. No. 31 ¶ 173; Doc. No. 36 ¶ 155.)

Procedural History

On April 19, 2005, Plaintiffs filed charges with the EEOC against PSU alleging sex discrimination in pay dating back to 1997 or earlier. (Doc. No. 31 ¶¶ 177-78.) This action was filed on April 23, 2007, with an amended complaint filed June 25, 2007. By Court order, discovery has been limited to the timeliness issue, which is now before the Court on summary judgment. In this motion for partial summary judgment, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs make allegations and seek recovery for actions which are barred by the statute of limitations. Specifically, Defendants allege that Plaintiffs should not be able to recover for events occurring prior to: June 18, 2004 for the Title VII claims, October 14, 2004 for the PHRA claims, April 23, 2005 for the Title IX, § 1983, § 1985, and PERA claims; and April 23, 2004 for the EPA claims. Since the filing of this motion, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has become law, prompting the Court to order supplemental briefing regarding the impact of that statute on this case. (Doc. No. 72.) Briefing has now been completed and the issue is ripe before the Court for disposition.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary judgment is appropriate "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). A factual dispute is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law, and it is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). At summary judgment, the inquiry is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. Id. at 251-52. In making this determination, the Court must "consider all evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." A.W. v. Jersey City Pub. Schs., 486 F.3d 791, 794 (3d Cir. 2007).

The moving party has the initial burden of identifying evidence that it believes shows an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2004). Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's claims, "the non-moving party must rebut the motion with facts in the record and cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memoranda, or oral argument." Berckeley Inv. Group. Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). If the nonmoving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial," summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

With respect to the sufficiency of the evidence that the nonmoving party must provide, a court should grant summary judgment where the non-movant's evidence is merely colorable, conclusory, or speculative. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. There must be more than a scintilla of evidence supporting the nonmoving party and more than some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Id. at 252; see also, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).


In this motion for partial summary judgment, Defendants seek a determination that the statutes of limitations attached to the laws at issue (Title VII, Title IX, EPA, § 1983, § 1985, PHRA, and PERA) foreclose Plaintiffs' recovery for events occurring prior to 2004 despite the fact some of Plaintiffs' allegations date back to the 1970s. Plaintiffs respond that the respective statutes of limitations do not prelude their claims because the Fair Pay Act, the discovery rule, and equitable tolling apply. Each statute under which Plaintiffs ...

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