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Naomi C. Satterwhite v. Montgomery County et al.

September 14, 2011


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


Plaintiff Naomi Satterwhite filed this lawsuit against Defendants Montgomery County and Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Presently before the Court is Defendant Montgomery County's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF. No. 31.) For the following reasons, the Motion will be granted.


Naomi Satterwhite is African-American. (Compl. ¶ 14, ECF No. 1.) She is currently employed by Montgomery County as a part-time on-call judicial secretary.*fn1 (Satterwhite Dep. 9:10-18, ECF Nos. 36-3, 36-4, 36-5.) Her current position is part-time with no set schedule, and she comes to work on an as-needed basis when she receives a call from the court requesting her services. (Id. at 9:18-24.)

Plaintiff began working for Montgomery County in 1976 as a full-time judicial secretary for the Honorable Horace A. Davenport, a highly respected Judge of African-American descent. (Id. at 11:1-4.) She continued in that position until 2000, when she retired from full-time employment. (Id. at 11:12-15.) In 2002, Plaintiff briefly returned to work for Montgomery County as a part-time judicial secretary for both Judge Davenport and the Honorable William W. Vogel, until the retirement of Judge Davenport in December of 2002. (Id. at 11:12-23.)

In November 2005, Plaintiff submitted an application for the position of "tipsta[ff] or floating judicial secretary."*fn2 (Id. at 15:13-17.) There was no judicial secretary position available at that time, but Carol Dillon, the Deputy Court Administrator for Court Services, discussed Plaintiff's application for both positions with Court Administrator Michael Kehs and President Judge S. Gerald Corso. (Dillon Dep. 58:3-60:7, ECF Nos. 36-6, 36-7.) They all agreed that Plaintiff would be best suited for the tipstaff position.*fn3 (Id. at 61:1-9.)

Shortly after Plaintiff submitted her application, Judge Davenport called Judge Corso and requested that Plaintiff be moved to the top of the waiting list for a tipstaff position. (Satterwhite Dep. 15:24-16:24.) On January 2, 2006, Plaintiff was hired as a tipstaff and reported to Tipstaff Supervisor Dolly Strizziere to complete her mandatory sixty-day probationary period. (Id. at 21:18-22:12, 23:10-14.)

At the conclusion of the probationary period, in September of 2006, Plaintiff assisted with secretarial work in Judge Barrett's chambers and became interested in returning to a secretary position. (Satterwhite Dep. 79:7-9.) As a result, Plaintiff contacted Dillon and told her that she was interested in a "floating secretary position." (Id. at 79:11-17.) Plaintiff testified that she was referring to a part-time on-call secretary position. (Id. at 80:17-20.)

In October 2006, a vacancy for "Judicial Secretary (Part-time)" became available. (Dillon Dep. 46:13-17.)*fn4 The position was posted on the Montgomery County website and Dillon received multiple applications for the position. (Id. at 46:21-24.) Dillon narrowed the pool of applicants down to eight, including Plaintiff, and conducted interviews. (Id. at 76:4-7.) Plaintiff was the only African-American candidate to apply. (Id.)

On November 1, 2006, Dillon called Plaintiff to her office to discuss Plaintiff's interest in the available position. (Satterwhite Dep. 79:21-80:24.) Immediately after their meeting, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Dillon confirming their conversation. (Id. at 82:13-17.) Plaintiff's letter states that she informed Dillon that she was interested in a "full-time floater," which was the substitute judicial secretary position, as opposed to a part-time on-call position that Dillon stated was available. (Def.'s Mot. Ex. K.) At her deposition Plaintiff clarified that she was not interested in a substitute judicial secretary position, and only put that in the letter to "see what was going to happen." (Satterwhite Dep. 92:11-12.) Plaintiff testified that when she arrived at the meeting with Dillon on November 1, 2006, she said, "[b]ut Carol, I'm not interested in a full-time job. I'm only interested in an on-call part-time job." (Id. at 82:1-6.) Plaintiff did not want a substitute judicial secretary position because that was a full-time position and she understood that if she went back to working full time for Montgomery County, her pension would be put on hold. (Id. at 90:6-91:6.)

Plaintiff did express interest in a part-time on-call secretary position"provided [she] was given an approximate schedule for services needed rather than waiting for a call." (Def.'s Mot. Ex. K.) At her deposition Plaintiff clarified her position indicating that getting a call at five after eight in the morning just did not work for her schedule back in November of 2006. (Satterwhite Dep. 89:15-20.) Dillon advised Plaintiff that the part-time on-call position did not include a set schedule. (Dillon Dep. 66:1-67:9 ("[T]he nature of the position is that you would get a call between 8:15, even 8:30 and you would have to get here as soon as you could.").) The official description for the part-time on-call position states that the selected applicant "will serve as a substitute secretary to Common Pleas Court Judges, to be utilized on an as needed basis." (Def.'s Mot. Ex. L.)

After conducting interviews, Dillon submitted a memorandum to Judge Corso indicating her top three choices for the position. (Id. Ex. J.) For the remaining applicants, Dillon gave reasons why they might not be best suited for the position. (Id.) With respect to Plaintiff, Dillon stated that, "Naomi also expressed her desire to be considered for one of the full-time positions--however, in her letter she states: 'I would consider [the part-time on-call position] provided I am given an approximate schedule for services needed rather than waiting for a call.'" (Id.)

On November 16, 2006, Dillon sent a letter notifying Plaintiff that she had not been selected for the "judicial secretary position," but that they would keep her resume on file. (Id. Ex. N; Satterwhite Dep. 101:2-13.) Plaintiff believed this letter only addressed her application for the substitute judicial secretary position and did not address the part-time on-call position. (Satterwhite Dep. 101:14-24.) However, the women who were selected for the available positions were hired on a part-time on-call basis. (Dillon Dep. 83:4-8.) Plaintiff was not hired for the position because she needed a "set schedule," which was something the on-call job, by its nature, could not accommodate. (Id. at 66:19-67:1.)

Plaintiff discovered in March or April of 2007, that two part-time on-call secretaries, both white females, had been hired. (Satterwhite Dep. 102:20-24.) Plaintiff did not speak with Dillon or Kehs about the part-time on-call secretary positions until October 31, 2007, when she wrote a letter to Dillon expressing her disappointment and surprise that she had not been considered or hired for the position. (Def.'s Mot. Ex. O.) Plaintiff explained in her deposition that she waited nearly six months to follow up on the position because "I wanted to see just what was going to happen, and especially after I had ...

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