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Gardner-Lozada v. Septa

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 26, 2015

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

MEMORANDUM

GENE E.K. PRATTER, District Judge.

Debra Gardner-Lozada claims 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 position of Director of Railroad Service - Operations Division ("Operations Director") in May 2012.[1] SEPTA filed two motions in limine (Docket Nos. 28, 41) to preclude the introduction of certain types of evidence at trial. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part SEPTA's motions.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[2]

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, Ms. Gardner-Lozada believed she was assigned additional duties without additional compensation, and formally requested that her position be reclassified as grade 42. SEPTA changed her title to Assistant Director, Railroad Service for Railroad Revenue Operations, but the position 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. 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.

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. However, Ms. Gardner-Lozada claims that the meeting is to finalize the job description to be posted, not merely to discuss the position. Second, SEPTA claims that it generally chooses to interview only the most qualified applicants, but Ms. Gardner-Lozada claims that all applicants meeting the minimum qualifications are normally selected for interviews.

At the interview, the same interview panel asks each of the applicants the same set of questions and ranks the applicants' 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 specified requirement listed expressly 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 for Operations Director 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. 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.

In the week 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 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; 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 initially noted that Ms. Gardner-Lozada was ...


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