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Coleman Hill v. Governor Mifflin School District

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 31, 2013

ANDREA COLEMAN HILL, Plaintiff,
v.
GOVERNOR MIFFLIN SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

DARNELL JONES, II, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Andrea Coleman-Hill brings two claims against Governor Mifflin School District ("GMSD") for alleged racial discrimination over the course of her employment. Count One is a claim for racial discrimination in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. 951 et seq. ("PHRA"), and Count Two alleges racial discrimination and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"). Now pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, including their Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Def.'s. SOF") (Dkt. No. 43), as well as Plaintiff's opposition brief ("Pls. Resp.") and factual counterstatement ("Pl.'s SOF") (Dkt. No. 45), and Defendants' Reply (Dkt. No. 50). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's' Motion will be GRANTED.

II. Facts

On April 20, 2008, Plaintiff filed a discrimination claim against GMSD with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Def.'s. SOF ¶ 1; Pl.'s SOF¶ 1. Plaintiff did not file any complaints with the PHRC, Def.'s. SOF ¶ 2, but the EEOC dual-filed Plaintiff's claim with the PHRC. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 2; Ex. A (EEOC's response letter indicating that they have dual filed the complaint with the PHRC). After receiving a right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, Plaintiff initiated this action on November 19, 2009. Def.'s. SOF ¶ 3; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 3. Plaintiff's allegations of racial discrimination are limited to GMSD Superintendent Dr. Mary Weiss. Def.'s. SOF ¶ 6; Pl.'s SOF¶ 6.

Prior to her hiring in June 2005, Plaintiff was interviewed by a three-member administrative team that included Dr. Weiss. Def.'s. SOF ¶ 10. The team recommended hiring Plaintiff as an Intermediate Principal, and GMSD did in fact hire Plaintiff for that position. Def.'s. SOF ¶¶ 17-18; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 17-18. After the hiring, Dr. Weiss was asked about her impression of Plaintiff, and she remarked that Plaintiff would "eat her young, " Def.'s. SOF ¶¶ 19-20; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 19-20, a phrase that Dr. Weiss has allegedly used to describe aggressive Caucasian employees as well.[1] Def.'s. SOF ¶ 22. Plaintiff was unaware of the comment until after filing the Complaint. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 23.

The District reviews administrators and principals twice a year, and in 2006, her first year, Plaintiff received a satisfactory evaluation at both her mid-term and end-of year evaluations from Dr. Weiss and assistant superintendent Dr. Elaine Eib, resulting in a raise. Def.'s. SOF¶¶ 25-28; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 25-28. Because Dr. Eib eventually left GMSD, Dr. Weiss was the sole evaluator in February 2007, where again she gave Plaintiff a satisfactory rating. Def.'s. SOF ¶¶ 30-31; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 30-31. Later in 2007, Plaintiff was tasked with overhauling the music program in the Intermediate School, but the issue "blew up" and became a major point of contention for the District and the community, with "100-300" people expressing their displeasure with Plaintiff's proposed plan at District Board Meetings. Def.'s. SOF ¶¶ 33-34, Dr. Weiss Aff. ¶ 14; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 33.[2] Consequently, Dr. Weiss gave Plaintiff an unsatisfactory rating at her June 2007 evaluation. Def.'s. SOF ¶ 37.[3]

After this negative evaluation, GMSD considered demoting Plaintiff, but ultimately decided to appoint Plaintiff as the newly-created Director of Data Analysis, Assessments, and Research, a position with different responsibilities, but one above Intermediate Principal on the District's Organization Chart. Def.'s. SOF ¶¶ 40-41, 44; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 40-41, 44.[4] Moreover, Plaintiff's salary remained the same after she switched positions, Def.'s. SOF May 23, 2013 ¶ 45; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 45. Plaintiff not only enjoys her new position, but views it as a promotion. Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 42-43.

Along with the aforementioned position transfer, Plaintiff further claims that she suffered racially discriminatory adverse actions at the hands of Defendant-particularly through its agent Dr. Weiss-due to lack of support staff, being placed in an "inferior building and office space to those of her colleagues, being disregarded from administration email lists and emergency email lists, being denied the ability to provide diversity mentoring and support to other minority students, being undermined when attempting to implement programs to assist students... being defamed in front of other colleagues... being spied upon by colleagues and being subjected to a very stressful and hostile work environment." Pl.'s Resp. 31.

Specifically, when discussing Plaintiff's music initiative, Plaintiff claims that Weiss would go behind her back and conduct meetings from which Plaintiff was excluded. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 33.[5] Plaintiff further alleges that she was excluded from e-mail lists, but the record demonstrates that Plaintiff is included on all cabinet group emails and all groups of which she is a part, but not the Education Center group e-mail, which is limited to personnel physically housed in the Educational Center. Ex. CCC, Daniel Bulinski Aff. ¶¶ 29-32. Plaintiff further claims that she was prevented from mentoring minority students, but Plaintiff had originally been asked to help without the consent or knowledge of the District. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. Once a few of these "mentees" got into a fight and the District found out about the situation, Plaintiff was asked not to intervene because these activities were not included in her job description. Id. ¶¶ 12-13, 23; Def.'s Ex. B, Pl.'s Job Description.

Despite admitting that her office is comparable (at least in size) to Dr. Weiss', Pl.'s SOF ¶ 53, Plaintiff argues that the circumstances of her office switch constituted an adverse, racially-motivated action. Id. ¶ 52. Plaintiff claims that she was moved out of her previous office into the Educational Center until Defendant could find a permanent office for her. After she was moved out of the Educational Center, Plaintiff alleges that the District forced her to find her own furniture, that the AC and heat "blow the fuses quite often, " that the Plaintiff must share a bathroom with other teachers/administrators, that she "frequently has to plunge[] the toilets to unclog them, " and that her outside door (one of two) is overgrown with weeds, making exiting "nearly impossible." Id.

Next, Plaintiff claims that Weiss directed Dr. Bulinski to "police" her, Pl.'s SOF ¶ 58, citing an e-mail with that language. See Pl.'s Ex. B, E-mail stamped 000049. Though the referenced e-mail does show Dr. Weiss asking Dr. Bulinski to "police" Plaintiff, not only is there no indication that this is racially motivated, but it seems to follow the chain of command, as Dr. Bulinski, as Assistant Superintendent, would be one of Plaintiff's superiors. Beyond that, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant-through its agent Dr. Weiss-defamed her in front of her colleagues, citing instances where, again, Dr. Weiss described Plaintiff as one who would "eat her young, ", Def.'s. SOF ¶ 20, and as "dumb." Pl.'s Ex. D, Eib Dep., 43:3-12. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that she suffered from a "very stressful and hostile work environment."

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate "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(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). To defeat a motion for summary judgment, disputes must be both (1) material, meaning concerning facts that will affect the outcome of the issue under substantive law; and (2) genuine, meaning the evidence must be "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Summary judgment is mandated "against a party who 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 of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. An issue is genuine if the fact finder could reasonably return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party with respect to that issue. Anderson, 477 ...


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