United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION INTRODUCTION
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J.
Brarailty Dowdell (“Plaintiff”) filed an
employment discrimination action based on race and gender
against Defendant Community College of Philadelphia
(“Defendant”), his current employer, pursuant to
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title
VII”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“§
1981”). Presently before this Court is Defendant's
motion for summary judgment to which Plaintiff filed an
opposition, Defendant filed a reply, and Plaintiff filed a
sur-reply. [ECF 21, 22, 23, 26, respectively]. The issues
presented in the motion for summary judgment have been fully
briefed by the parties and are ripe for disposition. For the
reasons stated herein, the motion for summary judgment is
complaint, which was filed on December 24, 2015, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis
of his race and gender when Defendant failed to hire him for
a full-time faculty position in Defendant's English
Department. [ECF 1]. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts Title VII
claims for: intersectional race and gender discrimination
(Count One); race discrimination (Count Three); and gender
discrimination (Count Four); and a race and gender
discrimination claim under § 1981 (Count Two).
required at the summary judgment stage, this Court will
consider all relevant facts in this matter in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party, i.e., Plaintiff.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
255 (1986). The facts relevant to Plaintiff's tenure with
Defendant are summarized as follows:
Plaintiff, an African American male, is currently employed by
Defendant on a part-time basis in the Learning Lab tutoring
students. (Pl.'s Br., [ECF 22-2], at 1) (citing Tr. of
Pl.'s June 20, 2016 Deposition [ECF 22-3] at 6, 10-12,
19-20). Prior to joining Defendant, Plaintiff received a
Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Fisk University and a
Master's of Science degree in Film with a concentration
in screenwriting from Boston University. (Id.).
Plaintiff's thesis was a screenplay for Train
Ride, which became his first feature film. (Id. at
1-2) In 1999, after Plaintiff had graduated, Boston
University changed its graduate Film degree to a Master's
of Fine Arts degree; and, in 2015, it added a Screenwriting
sub-discipline, not previously offered. (Id. at 2).
In 2003, Plaintiff began his employment with Defendant as an
adjunct professor in the English Department. (Id.).
Plaintiff remained in this position for three or four years,
before working as a tutor in Defendant's Learning Lab in
2006, tutoring students primarily in English courses.
(Id.). In 2012 or 2013, Plaintiff taught a
Scriptwriting course, considered a course in the English
Department. (Id.). Plaintiff notes that Defendant
has advertised Plaintiff on Facebook, poster board, and
Defendant's February 2014 Report for Reaccreditation, and
has also recognized him as “Accomplished
Faculty.” (Id. at 2-3).
In 2005, Plaintiff applied for a full-time faculty position
in the English Department. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff
interviewed with Dr. Judith Gay, Vice President of Academic
Affairs, and Dr. Sharon Thompson, Dean of Liberal Arts and
Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs. (Id.).
Dr. Gay is an African American woman, and Dr. Thompson is a
Caucasian woman. (Id.). At the time, Dr. John Howe
was the English Department Chair and Doug Swauger was the
Hiring Committee Chair. (Id.). Of the 207 applicants
for the full-time position, forty were interviewed, and of
those interviewed, eighteen were recommended to the English
Department Chair, and eight were hired, none of whom were
African American men. (Id.). No reason was given for
Plaintiff's non-hiring. (Id.).
In December 2014, Defendant posted a full-time faculty
position for an English Generalist professor for the Fall
2015 semester in Defendant's English Department.
(Def.'s Br. at 2; [ECF 21-2]). The posting indicated that
a “Master's or Ph.D. degree in English,
Composition, or closely-related field [is] required. The MFA
degree will also be considered.” [ECF 21-2 at 2]. For
an English Generalist position, “closely-related
fields” are those that:
involve advanced study in language, literature, developmental
English or reading. Closely related fields are: Rhetoric,
Composition, Reading, American Studies, Literature,
Humanities, Classics, Communications, the M.F.A in Creative
Writing and certain other M.F.A and master's degrees
depending on inclusion of literary study and whether the
applicant has a credible undergraduate degree in English.
The normal expectation for closely-related degrees is that
either the degree is earned in a humanities department from a
graduate school of Arts and Sciences, with methods of study
approximating those used in the study of English, or that the
degree is earned in an education department, with the focus
on developmental English studies not administrative duties.
The closely-related field must include a significant
attention to the English language, its structure, history or
the works of art produced in English. Degrees which lack
these elements are unacceptable.
[ECF 22-13 at Ex. S at 2].
December 14, 2014, Plaintiff applied for the full-time
English Generalist vacancy position announcement, (Pl.'s
App., [ECF 21-6], at 1), despite not having a Master's or
Ph.D. degree in English or Composition, an advanced degree in
Rhetoric, Composition, Reading, American Studies, Literature,
Humanities, Classics, or Communications, or a Master's of
Fine Arts. On his application, Plaintiff identified his
Master's of Science in Film as a
“Screenwriting/Film.” (Pl.'s App. at 3).
received 376 applications for the announced English
Generalist position. (Def.'s Br. at 4). The hiring
process consisted of the following: the Human Resource
Department performed an initial review of the materials
received based on the applicant's self-reporting to
determine who met the minimum required qualifications.
(Id. at 4-5). As to Plaintiff's application, the
Human Resources Department concluded that he “[m]ay
meet minimum qualifications.” (Id. at 5;
Pl.'s Br. at 5); [ECF 21-10 at 6]. The list of screened
candidates was reviewed by the Director of Diversity and
Equity to ensure that minority applicants were represented,
and then forwarded to the Hiring Committee to select
candidates for a first round of interviews. (Def.'s Br.
at 5). The Hiring Committee reviewed the forwarded
applications and selected the candidates to interview.
(Id.). Three members of the Hiring Committee
recommended Plaintiff for advancement, four voted
“maybe, ” and one member noted that Plaintiff may
have a “degree issue.” [ECF 21-11 at 9; ECF 21-12
Hiring Committee recommended thirteen candidates for a second
interview before Girija Nagaswami, the English Department
Chair, and Joseph Kenyon, the Assistant Chair. [ECF 21-13 at
3]. Of those referred, six candidates were considered
“First Tier, ” because they received unanimous
support from the Hiring Committee, and seven were considered
“Second Tier, ” because they lacked unanimous
support. (Def.'s Br. at 6); [ECF 21-11 at 9; ECF 21-13 at
3]. Of the thirteen candidates selected for the second
interview, Plaintiff was ranked twelfth. [ECF 21-13 at 3].
the second round of interviews was completed, Ms. Nagaswami
sent Drs. Gay and Thompson a memorandum indicating that ten
of the thirteen candidates, including Plaintiff, in Ms.
Nagaswami's opinion, were qualified for the position.
[ECF 21-14 at 2]. In an October 20, 2016 declaration
submitted with Defendant's motion, Ms. Nagaswami
indicates that the Spring of 2015 was her first experience
interviewing candidates as Chair of the English Department,
and at the time she recommended Plaintiff to proceed to the
third round of interviews with Drs. Gay and Thompson, she had
not reviewed Plaintiff's graduate level coursework. [ECF
21-15 ¶ 4-5]. After discussing Plaintiff's academic
transcript with Drs. Gay and Thompson and reviewing the
relevant descriptions of the courses Plaintiff had taken, Ms.
Nagaswami concluded that Plaintiff did not meet the minimum
qualifications, namely, he did not have either a Master's
degree in English, a M.F.A degree, or a degree in a
closely-related field. (Id. ¶ 6-10).
are encouraged to check candidate's academic transcripts
to ensure that the candidates recommended for further
interviews meet the minimum requirements. [Tr. of Dr. Gay
August 12, 2016 Deposition, [ECF 21-4], at 16-17, 72]. Before
conducting Plaintiff's third interview, Drs. Gay and
Thompson reviewed his academic transcript and discovered that
Plaintiff did not have a Master's degree in Film and
Screenwriting, as represented in his application, but instead
had a Master's of Science degree in Film. (Pl.'s App.
at 4) [ECF 21-17 at 2]. Based on their findings, Plaintiff
would only be qualified for the English Generalist position
if he had a degree in a closely-related field. [ECF 21-2 at
to delving further into Plaintiff's academic transcript
to determine if he met the minimum qualifications, Drs. Gay
and Thompson proceeded with his scheduled interview. [Tr. of
Dr. Thompson August 26, 2016 Deposition, [ECF 21-5], at
89:15-23]. To ensure fairness in the process, Drs. Gay and
Thompson used a set list of questions for all candidates
during the third round of interviews. (Id. at
95:16-24); [ECF 21-18 at 2]. Using these questions, Drs. Gay
and Thompson asked Plaintiff about his grading system,
theories on assessments in student learning, and his
familiarity with developments in the English discipline, all
of which Plaintiff struggled to describe and explain. [Tr. of
Dr. Thompson August 26, 2016 Deposition, [ECF 21-5], at
99:4-100:6]. The questions did not include any inquiries on
Plaintiff's educational credentials.
Plaintiff's interview, Drs. Gay and Thompson both
reviewed Plaintiff's academic transcript to determine if
he had completed more than eighteen credits of graduate level
work in English, literature, developmental English, or
reading. (Id. at 15:3-16); [Tr. of Dr. Gay August
12, 2016 Deposition, [ECF 21-4], at 54]. Dr. Gay
downloaded the current course descriptions at Boston
University to see if the course numbers and/or course names
that were similar to the courses Plaintiff took twenty years
earlier potentially involved the study of English,
literature, developmental English, or reading. [Tr. of Dr.
Gay August 12, 2016 Deposition, [ECF 21-4], at 37-39]. Dr.
Gay testified that she “thought if [she] could find the
course numbers and some evidence that there was work that
might be considered comparable to what [the] English
composition description - job description was, that
[Defendant] should count that and then [she] might have a
basis for moving [Plaintiff] forward.” (Id. at
31). Ultimately, Dr. Gay concluded that Plaintiff did not
have more than eighteen credits at graduate level work in
English, literature, developmental English, or reading.
(Id. at 39). Both Drs. Gay and Thompson concluded
that Plaintiff did not have a degree in a closely-related
field, did not meet the minimum requirements for the
position, and could not be recommended for the English
Generalist position. (Id. at 5-6); [Tr. of Dr.
Thompson August 26, 2016 Deposition, [ECF 21-5], at 8].
applicants interviewed by Drs. Gay and Thompson, only two
were not recommended for hire: Plaintiff and Alexandra
Fields, a Caucasian woman, who also did not have a
Master's degree in English or in a closely-related field.
[ECF 21-9 ¶ 12].The educational credentials and racial
backgrounds of the seven candidates recommended for hire are
as follows: two were African American women, one had a Ph.D.
in English, and the other had a M.F.A. in Creative Writing (a
closely-related field); two were Caucasian men,
had a Master's of Arts in English and the other had a
Master's of Fine Arts in Nonfiction Writing; two were
Caucasian women, both with a Master's of Arts in English
and one also with a Ph.D. in English; and one was a
Caucasian/Asian/Pacific Islander woman with a Ph.D. and
Master's of Arts in English.
Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 56 governs the
summary judgment motion practice. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
Specifically, this rule provides that summary judgment is
appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Id.
A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or
non-existence might affect the outcome of the litigation, and
a dispute is “genuine” if “the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
Under Rule 56, the court must view the evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. Galena v.
Leone, 638 F.3d 186, 196 (3d Cir. 2011).
56(c) provides that the movant bears the initial burden of
informing the court of the basis for the motion and
identifying those portions of the record which the movant
“believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This burden can be met by showing that
the nonmoving party has “fail[ed] to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case.” Id. at 322.
the moving party has met its initial burden, summary judgment
is appropriate if the nonmoving party fails to rebut the
moving party's claim by “citing to particular parts
of materials in the record, including depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory
answers, or other materials” that show a genuine issue
of material fact or by “showing that the materials
cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine
dispute.” See Rule 56(c)(1)(A-B). The
nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The nonmoving party may
not rely on “bare assertions, conclusory allegations or
suspicions, ” Fireman's Ins. Co. of Newark v.
DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982), nor rest on
the allegations in the pleadings. Celotex, 477 U.S.
at 324. Rather, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the
pleadings” and either by affidavits, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file,
“designate ‘specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial.'” Id.
stated, Plaintiff contends that Defendant unlawfully
discriminated against him in violation of Title VII and
§ 1981 when Defendant denied Plaintiff the English
Generalist position because of his race, gender, or the
combination of the two. Defendant moves for summary judgment on