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Chinoy v. Pennsylvania State University

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 17, 2013

MALA R. CHINOY, Plaintiff
v.
THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Before the Court are motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff, Dr. Mala R. Chinoy (Doc. 53), and Defendants, The Pennsylvania State University ("Penn State"), the Milton S. Hershey College of Medicine, and four of its employees. (Doc. 45). Plaintiff filed this civil rights and employment discrimination suit on July 6, 2011. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff raises six separate claims stemming from multiple perceived injuries, that arise from her employment at, and ultimate removal from, Penn State. For the reasons that follow, we will grant summary judgment for Defendants.

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on November 11, 2011, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count 1), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") (Count 2), the Equal Pay Act (Count 3), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") (Count 4), Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972 ("Title IX") (Count 5), and a Pennsylvania state law claim for tortious interference with prospective contractual relations (Count 6). (Doc. 12).

On November 23, 2011, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss certain claims in the amended complaint. (Doc. 13). On March 6, 2012, we dismissed the claims against the Board of Trustees, the claims against the individual defendants in their official capacities, and the Section 1983 due process claim. (Doc. 21). We issued a timeliness ruling on Plaintiff's remaining claims.[1] (Doc. 21). Both parties filed motions for summary judgment on September 16, 2013. (Docs. 45, 53). Plaintiff seeks partial summary judgment on Counts 1 through 4. (Doc. 53). Defendant seeks summary judgment on all counts. (Doc. 45). Because we will grant summary judgment for Defendants as to all counts, we will deny Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

II. Background

A. The Parties

The following facts are undisputed unless noted otherwise.[2] Plaintiff Mala Chinoy is an Asian female, born in India, who practices Hinduism. (Doc. 47, ¶ 1; Doc 65, ¶ 1). She holds a Ph.D in Reproductive Biology. (Doc. 47, ¶ 2; Doc. 65, ¶ 2). Institutional Defendants are Penn State and the Milton S. Hershey College of Medicine. (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 9, 11; Doc. 65, ¶¶ 9, 11). Individual Defendant Wiley Souba served as the Chair of the College of Medicine from 1999 until 2006. (Doc. 47, ¶ 12; Doc. 65, ¶ 12). Defendant Peter Dillon served as Chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery from 1996 through 2001, and Interim Chair of the Surgery Department from 2006 to 2007. (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 18-19; Doc. 65, ¶¶ 18-19). He was appointed Chair of the Surgery Department in 2007, and he continues to hold this position. (Doc. 47, ¶ 20; Doc. 65, ¶ 20). Defendant Kevin Grigsby began working for Penn State in 2000 as the College of Medicine's Vice Dean for Faculty and Administrative Affairs, and held this position until 2009. (Doc. 47, ¶ 22; Doc. 65, ¶ 22). Currently, Grigsby is the Senior Director for Leadership and Talent Development at the Association of American Medical Colleges. (Doc. 47, ¶ 24; Doc. 65, ¶ 24). Defendant Robert Cilley is a professor and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery. (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 25-27; Doc. 65, ¶¶ 25-27).

B. Plaintiff's Employment History at Penn State

Plaintiff was hired by the College of Medicine in 1993 as a non-tenured Assistant Professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology. (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 4, 83; Doc. 65, ¶¶ 4, 83). Plaintiff understood at the time she was hired that the position was a non-tenured one. (Doc. 47, ¶ 84; Doc. 65, ¶ 84). In 1995, she accepted another non-tenured appointment in the Division of Pediatric Surgery. (Doc. 47, ¶ 94; Doc. 65, ¶ 94). She continued in the Surgery Department under a series of one-year appointments until September 30, 2007. (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 97-98; Doc. 65, ¶¶ 94-98).

1. Plaintiff's Funding History

The College of Medicine expects faculty members to obtain external grant funding to "support" their salary and the salaries of personnel working in their labs. (Doc. 47, ¶ 65; Doc. 65, ¶ 65). A faculty member who prepares a grant application is known as the "Principal Investigator" ("PI") and is primarily responsible for the project if it is funded. (Doc. 47, ¶ 60; Doc. 65, ¶ 60). Some grant applications also have co-Investigators, who perform a varied amount of research on the subject project. (Doc. 47, ¶ 61; Doc. 65, ¶ 61). It is a "job expectation" that faculty members fund some part of their salary through external grants. (Doc. 46-73, at 98).

From July 1995 through January 2000, Plaintiff submitted 14 grant proposals as a PI. (Doc. 47, ¶ 120; Doc. 65, ¶ 120). Five of the proposals were funded. (Doc. 47, ¶ 121; Doc. 65, ¶ 121). These grants, which were awarded between 1997 and 2000, totaled $572, 728.00. (Doc. 47, ¶ 121; Doc. 65, ¶ 121). Plaintiff submitted ten proposals to the National Institute of Health that were all were rejected.[3] (Doc. 46-73, at 135; Doc. 46-70, ¶ 23; Doc. 46-71, ¶ 32).

In July 2002, Plaintiff received a performance evaluation from her supervisor, Defendant Cilley, noting that "[a]n increase in stable long-term extramural funding is needed." (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 128-130; Doc. 65, ¶¶ 128-130). Two years later, Cilley provided another evaluation stating that he was still concerned with Plaintiff's lack of funding, and that if more funding is not secured, her laboratory space would be reduced.[4] (Doc. 46-31 at 2, 4).

Plaintiff had no salary support during academic year 2004-2005, and she was assigned to a smaller lab in the fall of 2005.[5] (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 135-136; Doc. 65, ¶¶ 135-136). Plaintiff's prior lab space was assigned to a new hire, Steven Abcouwer, Ph.D. (Doc. 47, ¶ 137; Doc. 65, ¶ 137). In December 2006, Defendant Dillon became Interim Chair of the Surgery Department and met with Plaintiff to discuss her funding sources. (Doc. 47, ¶ 145, Doc. 65, ¶ 145). At the time of this meeting, Plaintiff had no grant applications pending.[6] (Doc. 47, ¶ 148; Doc. 65, ¶ 148). During academic years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, Plaintiff's level of salary support from external funding was 6.8% and 5.1%, respectively.[7] (Doc. 46-72, ¶ 69; Doc. 46-71, ¶ 54; Doc. 46-81 (under seal)). By comparison, another professor in the Surgery Department supported his salary during the same years at 12.2% and 49%, respectively.[8] (Doc. 47, ¶ 225; Doc.65, ¶ 225).

In January 2007, Dillon met with Plaintiff again and told her that her appointment would not be renewed when it ended in June 2007. (Doc. 47, ¶153; Doc. 65, ¶ 153). This date was later extended to September 2007. (Doc. 47, ¶ 154; Doc. 65, ¶ 154). So that Plaintiff could continue assisting a graduate student, she accepted an unpaid adjunct appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, effective October 1, 2007. (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 156-157; Doc. 65, ¶¶ 156-157). Plaintiff held this position until her affiliation with Penn State ended in December 2009. (Doc. 47, ¶ 159; Doc. 65, ¶ 159).

The parties agree that five other professors lost their external funding at various times during their appointments in the Department of Surgery. (Doc. 47, ¶ 178; Doc. 65, ¶ 178). Of those five professors, three held tenured positions. (Doc. 47, ¶ 180; Doc. 65, ¶ 180). Tenured faculty members are not subject to termination for lack of funding. (Doc. 47, ¶ 182; Doc. 65, ¶ 182). The remaining two professors were selected for other positions after their appointments in the Department of Surgery ended.[9] (Doc. 47, ¶ 185; Doc. 65, ¶ 185).

2. Plaintiff's Salary

The College of Medicine has no fixed salary schedule and salaries vary widely. (Doc. 47, ¶ 76; Doc. 65, ¶ 76). "[T]o assure salary equity among clinical and basic science employees, " the College has conducted several salary studies. (Doc. 56-18; Doc. 56-19 (under seal); Doc. 56-20). In 2004, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant Grigsby explaining that she would be given a pay increase following a recent study. (Doc. 56-21 (under seal)). The letter stated that Plaintiff's salary would be increased by $12, 228, resulting in an adjusted base salary of $114, 828. (Id.).

Two years later, in November 2006, Plaintiff emailed Defendant Dillon stating that she believed her salary was still significantly lower than several of her male peers. (Doc. 47, ¶ 170; Doc. 65, ¶ 170). The following year, Plaintiff filed complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that her salary had remained $114, 828 for three years, while other male professors were making over $200, 000 a year. (Doc. 56-2, ¶¶ 37-39).

The parties agree that only two male faculty members received higher salaries than Plaintiff: Dr. Ehrlich and Dr. Scaduto. (Doc. 47, ¶ 217; Doc. 65, ¶ 217). Dr. Ehrlich was an Associate Professor for nearly twenty years at Harvard Medical School prior to coming to Penn State.[10] (Doc.46-7; Doc. 46-71, ¶ 49). While at Penn State, he was a non-tenured faculty member who was awarded external grants in the amounts of $600, 000, $780, 000, and $1.1 million. (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 205, 222; Doc. 65, ¶¶ 205, 222). On average, from 2002 to 2009, over 40% of Dr. Ehrlich's salary was supported by external funding. (Doc. 47, ¶ 225; Doc. 65, ¶ 225). Dr. Scaduto is a tenured professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology. (Doc. 47, ¶ 232; Doc. 65, ¶ 232). Dr. Scaduto has a dual role as the IT Director of Research Computing, and as the Director of Education Technology. (Doc. 47, ¶¶ 233-235; Doc. 65, ¶¶233-235). ...


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