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Gardner-Lozada v. Septa

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

November 21, 2014

DEBRA V. GARDNER-LOZADA, Plaintiff,
v.
SEPTA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GENE E.K. PRATTER, United States District Judge.

Debra Gardner-Lozada alleges that SEPTA engaged in gender discrimination (Counts I and III) and retaliation (Counts II and IV) under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951 et seq., when it failed to promote her to the following three positions: (1) Director of Railroad Service – Operations Division (May 2012) (“Operations Director”); (2) Senior Director of Railroad Services – Operations (January 2013) (“Senior Director”); and (3) Director of Railroad Services – Personnel Assignment Office (July 2013) (“PAO Director”). SEPTA moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant SEPTA’s motion as it relates to the Senior Director and PAO Director positions, but deny the Motion as it relates to the Operations Director position.

I. Factual and Procedural Background [1]

A. Ms. Gardner-Lozada’s Prior Lawsuit

In October 1999, SEPTA awarded Ms. Gardner-Lozada a Management Analyst (grade 40) position in its Railroad Division. In 2007, after Ms. Gardner-Lozada was assigned additional duties without additional compensation, she formally requested that her position be reclassified as grade 42. SEPTA changed her title to Assistant Director, Railroad Service for Railroad Revenue Operations, but it remained at grade 40.

In September 2008, Ms. Gardner-Lozada filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that SEPTA refused to raise her position to grade 42 because of her gender. After amending her Charge in February 2009, Ms. Gardner-Lozada filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit against SEPTA in July 2009. In July 2010, Ms. Gardner-Lozada accepted SEPTA’s offer of judgment in the amount of $90, 000.

The parties agree that after the settlement, Ms. Gardner-Lozada applied unsuccessfully for four positions: (1) Director of Transportation – Bus Operations (November 2011);[2] (2) Operations Director (May 2012); (3) Senior Director (January 2013); and (4) PAO Director (July 2013). Ms. Gardner-Lozada claims that she was denied the latter three promotions for discriminatory and retaliatory reasons.

B. SEPTA’s Hiring Process

Ordinarily, when a vacancy opens at SEPTA, the Manager looking to hire informs SEPTA’s Recruitment Department of the vacancy. SEPTA’s Recruitment Department then prepares a “Requisition for Personnel Form, ” and submits it through an established approval process. As part of the approval process, the Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action (“EEO/AA”) and Employee Relations Department identifies any affirmative action goals for the vacant position. After the Request for Personnel Form is approved, a Recruiter prepares a posting to advertise the vacant position.

The parties disagree about two key aspects of SEPTA’s hiring process. First, SEPTA claims that before the job opening is posted, the Recruiter meets with the Hiring Manager and an EEO/AA representative to review the job description. (Statement of Uncontested Material Facts (“SUMF”) ¶ 16). Ms. Gardner-Lozada claims that the meeting is to finalize the job description to be posted, not merely to discuss the position. (Resp. to SUMF ¶ 16). Second, SEPTA claims that it generally chooses to interview only the most qualified applicants. (SUMF ¶ 18). Ms. Gardner-Lozada claims that all applicants meeting the minimum qualifications are normally selected for interviews. (Resp. to SUMF ¶ 18).

At the interview, the same interview panel asks each of the applicants the same set of questions and ranks their responses based on established selection criteria. The rankings are then inserted into a document called the Consensus Panel Ranking Chart, and the highest-ranked candidate is selected for the position.

C. Operations Director

In February 2012, James Johnson, Senior Director of Railroad Service Operations, initiated the hiring process to fill the vacant Operations Director position. The previous Operations Director had been certified by the Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee (“NORAC”), but NORAC qualification was not a requirement listed on the job posting.[3]

SEPTA claims that the Recruiter (Odessa Finney, an African-American female), the Director of EEO/AA and Employee Relations (Lorraine McKenzie, an African-American female), and Mr. Johnson discussed the issue of NORAC qualification at the pre-posting meeting. According to SEPTA, they decided that the NORAC qualification would be used to determine which applicants were most qualified, and only the most qualified applicants would be invited to interview for the position. (SUMF ¶ 46-47). Ms. Gardner-Lozada disputes SEPTA’s description of the pre-posting meeting, arguing instead that any additional qualifications required during the pre-posting meeting would have been added to the actual job posting. (Response to SUMF ¶ 48).

From March 8, 2012 to March 15, 2012, SEPTA posted an internal vacancy for the Operations Director position. Ms. Gardner-Lozada applied for the position on March 13, 2012. She was the only female applicant for the Operations Director position.

On April 6, 2012, Ms. Finney, Mr. Johnson, and Affirmative Action Officer Carole O’Neal (an African-American female) reviewed the applications. They offered six NORAC-qualified male candidates the opportunity to interview for the Director of Operations position, but they did not invite Ms. Gardner-Lozada to interview. On the Prospective Employee Processing Form, a document used to determine which applicants will advance to the interview stage, Ms. Finney indicated that Ms. Gardner-Lozada was one of the most qualified candidates and would be granted an interview. (See Pl.’s Ex. 27). However, that marking was ultimately crossed off and Ms. Gardner-Lozada was not invited to interview for the position. Id.

Robert McGowan, a male SEPTA employee who applied for the Operations Director position, learned in late April that he was not invited to interview because he lacked the NORAC qualification. On April 30, 2012, Mr. McGowan submitted a memorandum to SEPTA’s Human Resources requesting to interview because although he was not NORAC certified, he had significant railroad experience and would be willing to become NORAC certified if hired. SEPTA also claims that Mr. McGowan was once NORAC certified. SEPTA ultimately decided to interview Mr. McGowan for the Operations Director position, even though he was not NORAC certified at the time he applied. Ms. Gardner-Lozada disputes that Mr. McGowan was ever NORAC certified. (Response to SUMF ¶ 60).

Mr. Johnson, Director of Operations Kim Kennedy (female), and Bernard Koch (male) ultimately conducted the interviews and awarded the position to Richard Mahon. Ms. Gardner-Lozada learned that she was not selected to interview for the position in late May 2012.

D. Senior Director

In October 2012, Chief Rail Transportation Officer James Foley submitted a Requisition for Personnel Form to fill the vacancy for the position of Senior Director. SEPTA posted internally for the vacant Senior Director position in November 2012. Eight internal candidates applied for the position and six, including Ms. Gardner-Lozada, were selected ...


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