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Marisa Elskamp v. Penn-Delco School District et al

May 18, 2011

MARISA ELSKAMP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PENN-DELCO SCHOOL DISTRICT ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yohn, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff, Marisa Elskamp, filed this employment-discrimination and retaliation action against the Penn-Delco School District and several of its employees (collectively, the "Penn-Delco defendants") and against the Rose Tree Media School District and several of its employees (collectively, the "Rose Tree defendants"). Now pending are the motions filed by the Penn-Delco defendants and the Rose Tree defendants for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, I will grant the defendants' motions.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn2

Elskamp was hired by the Penn-Delco School District as a school-bus driver in 1993. (Penn-Delco Defs.' Statement of Uncontested Facts ("Penn-Delco Facts") ¶ 3.) After her request for medical leave in the spring of 2007 was denied, she refused to return to work. She was ultimately terminated on June 27, 2007. (Id.; Penn-Delco Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Exs. N--R.)

On August 10, 2007, Elskamp filed a charge of employment discrimination and retaliation with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"); the charge was cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Penn-Delco Facts ¶ 4.)

On August 13, 2007, Elskamp went to the Rose Tree Media School District seeking employment as a bus driver. The person responsible for hiring bus drivers was not there at the time, but she spoke with a mechanic, who gave her a job application. (Rose Tree Defs.' Statement of Uncontested Facts ("Rose Tree Facts") ¶ 10.) Elskamp completed the application and mailed it, along with a cover letter, to Bonnie Kinsler, the director of transportation at the Rose Tree Media School District, on August 14. (Id. ¶ 14; Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 15, Reproduced Record in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ("Reproduced Record").)

Kinsler called Elskamp on October 25, 2007, and arranged for Elskamp to meet with her the next day. (Rose Tree Facts ¶ 15--16.) During the interview, Kinsler gave Elskamp the paperwork that she would need for her background checks and asked her to return the following week with the completed paperwork and a money order for the background checks. (Id. ¶ 22; Rose Tree Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A, Dep. of Marisa Elskamp (Sept. 13, 2010) ("Elskamp Dep.") at 46:7--10, 48:19--20.) Later that evening, however, Kinsler called Elskamp and told her that the human-resources department had just told her that she had already reached her hiring limit and that she would not be able to hire any more drivers. Kinsler apologized and said that she would keep Elskamp's application on file. (Rose Tree Facts ¶ 24; Elskamp Dep. at 58:8--21.)

In July 2008, Elskamp went back to see Kinsler and asked whether the school district was hiring bus drivers for the upcoming school year. (Rose Tree Facts ¶ 26.) Elskamp testified that Kinsler told her, "We just hired our last four." (Elskamp Dep. at 154:19--20.) Elskamp reminded Kinsler that she had said that she would keep Elskamp's application on file and asked why she did not call her (Elskamp) before hiring other drivers. (Id. at 154:21--23.) Elskamp testified that Kinsler then said that Al Groer, the director of transportation for the Penn-Delco School District, and a female employee at the school district, whose name Kinsler did not remember, had told her that Elskamp was a "bad employee" and was not a "team player." (Id. at 51:1--3, 59:21--61:3.) Elskamp testified that she then asked Kinsler, "Are you sitting there telling me that I can never work for Rose Tree, ever?" to which Kinsler replied, "Yes; that's what I'm telling you." (Id. at 61:20--24.)

Elskamp filed this action on October 23, 2009, and filed an amended complaint on January 4, 2010, alleging claims of discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 951 et seq. Elskamp brought five counts. In count I, brought under Title VII, she alleged that the Penn-Delco defendants took certain adverse actions against her, including firing her, opposing her claim for unemployment compensation, and interfering with her prospective employment ("blackballing" her) in retaliation for her speaking out against discrimination and for her filing of a discrimination complaint with the PHRC. She further alleged that the Rose Tree defendants, after speaking with Penn-Delco School District employees, retaliated against her for filing the PHRC complaint by refusing to hire her as a school-bus driver. In count IV, she brought a First Amendment retaliation claim, asserting that the Penn-Delco defendants and the Rose Tree defendants were liable for their retaliatory conduct under section 1983. In counts II and III, brought under Title VII and the ADEA, she alleged that the defendants had discriminated against her on the basis of her gender, race, national origin, and age. And finally, in count V, she asserted discrimination and retaliation claims against the defendants under the PHRA.

The Penn-Delco defendants and the Rose Tree defendants filed motions to dismiss the amended complaint. After hearing oral argument on the motions on July 29, 2010, and after holding a hearing on August 24, 2010, I dismissed many of Elskamp's claims. See Order, Aug. 2, 2010 (document no. 30); Order, Aug. 24, 2010 (document no. 40). The following claims remain:

! Count I (Title VII retaliation), against the Penn-Delco School District only, alleging that the school district retaliated against Elskamp for filing a PHRC complaint by telling the Rose Tree defendants that Elskamp was a "bad employee" and was not a "team player."

! Count IV (First Amendment retaliation under section 1983), against the Penn-Delco defendants and the Rose Tree defendants, alleging that the Penn-Delco defendants retaliated against Elskamp for filing a PHRC complaint by telling the Rose Tree defendants that Elskamp was a "bad employee" and was not a "team player," and alleging that the Rose Tree defendants retaliated against Elskamp by not hiring her as a bus driver.

! Count V (PHRA retaliation), asserting the same claim as under count I, but against the individual Penn-Delco defendants as well as the Penn-Delco School District. Both the Rose Tree defendants and the Penn-Delco defendants ...


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