United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
G. SMITH, J.
matter, a former university employee alleges that the
university violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
because she was a victim of a hostile work environment based
on her race and gender, which ultimately resulted in her
constructive discharge from the university. After a non-jury
trial, the court finds that the plaintiff failed to prove by
a preponderance of the evidence that the university violated
Title VII because, inter alia, she did not show (1)
any credible evidence that Lehigh or its employees
intentionally discriminated against her because of her race
or gender and (2) even if there was any discrimination, it
was not severe or pervasive, and it would not have
detrimentally affected a reasonable person in like
circumstances. At bottom, the plaintiff failed to show that
her working conditions at the university were so intolerable
that a reasonable person in the plaintiff's position
would have felt compelled to resign. Accordingly, the court
will enter judgment in favor of the university and against
plaintiff, Angela Scott Ferencin, commenced this action by
filing a complaint against the defendant, Lehigh University
(“Lehigh”), on April 9, 2018. Doc. No. 1. In the
complaint, the plaintiff alleges that she is an
African-American female whom Lehigh, “a private
institution of higher education, ” first employed on
May 31, 2012, as the Director of Academic Diversity and
Outreach. Compl. at ¶¶ 4-6, Doc. No. 1. The
plaintiff remained at Lehigh until her constructive discharge
on June 30, 2017. Id. at ¶ 5. At the time of
the constructive discharge, the plaintiff “had been
reduced in rank to Program Director, Community Education
Initiative.” Id. at ¶ 6.
plaintiff alleges that during her approximately five years of
employment with Lehigh, she encountered “working
conditions so intolerable that she felt compelled to
resign.” Id. at ¶ 8. Those working
conditions included, inter alia: (1) Dr. Henry Odi,
Lehigh's Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion,
yelling at her and telling her that “‘You are
NEVER to disagree with me in public . . . by email or in
person. You do not know your place! . . . You do not know
your place. . . . to [sic] be successful here at Lehigh, you
cannot disagree with leadership[;]” (2) Dr. Odi,
without consulting the plaintiff, undertaking to defund a
Lehigh program for which more than $80, 000 had been raised
by advising current donors to cease their contributions; (3)
a “younger, white woman who [the plaintiff] had hired
two years earlier” accused the plaintiff of retaliating
against her; (4) despite the investigation of
retaliation resolving in the plaintiff's favor, Lehigh
placed her under a new supervisor, who had only two years of
relevant experience; (5) despite the plaintiff having 25
years' experience in higher education, Lehigh's Vice
President of Human Resources told her that the failure to
comply with her new supervisor's request could be seen as
insubordination; and (6) the plaintiff's new position
required her to work in a small cubicle. Id. at
¶¶ 8-12. The plaintiff asserts that during her
employment with Lehigh “there were not any [other]
instances of [Lehigh] subjecting white men, white women, or
African American men to the hostile conditions to which she
was subjected at Lehigh.” Id. at ¶ 14.
plaintiff asserts a cause of action under Title VII, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Id. at ¶ 1. She
seeks monetary damages, attorney's fees and costs, and
any other relief that the court would deem proper.
Id. at p. 4.
filed an answer and affirmative defenses to the complaint on
June 27, 2018. Doc. No. 5. This matter later proceeded
through a non-jury trial before the undersigned from July 8,
2019, through July 11, 2019. Thereafter, the parties
submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Doc. Nos. 25, 42, 43, 46. This matter is now ripe for
FINDINGS OF FACT
carefully considering the evidence presented during the
non-jury trial in this matter from July 8, 2019, to July 11,
2019, and, after assigning such weight to the evidence as the
court deems proper and disregarding the testimony that the
court found to lack credibility, the pertinent facts are as
Lehigh's Hiring of the Plaintiff as Director of Academic
Diversity and Outreach
After completing her doctoral degree coursework at Rowan
University in May 2012, the plaintiff wanted to return to a
higher education administration position. 7-8-19 Tr. I at
9-10; Def.'s Ex. 3. As part of this endeavor, she applied
for the position of Director of Academic Diversity and
Outreach at Lehigh. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 9-10.
plaintiff is an African-American woman. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 95.
Lehigh created the Director of Academic Diversity and
Outreach position after Dr. Henry Odi was promoted to Vice
Provost for Academic Diversity in 2011. June 21, 2019
Videotaped Dep. of Henri Odi, Ed.D. (“Odi Dep.”)
at 19. After Dr. Odi's promotion, he
requested that Provost Patrick Farrell create the Director of
Academic Diversity and Outreach position to continue the
programs Dr. Odi previously administered while Dr. Odi
focused on the “University-wide effort that [he] was
hired to do.” Odi Dep. at 19-20.
the time of Dr. Odi's promotion, he had been employed at
Lehigh for approximately 25 years. Odi Dep. at 7.
Odi is an African-American male who became a citizen of the
United States after emigrating from Nigeria. 7-8-19 Tr. I at
95; Odi Dep. at 10.
Odi's work experience has included affirmative action
work for Lehigh, outreach work, and undergraduate and
graduate student recruitment to help Lehigh diversify its
work force and student body. Odi Dep. at 12.
Odi's position at Lehigh involved increasing
participation and success of under-represented minorities at
Lehigh. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 100.
with Dr. Odi, the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach
fell under Provost Farrell's “stem” at
Lehigh. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 13. Dr. Odi reported
directly to Provost Farrell. Odi Dep. at 9; 7-10-19 Tr. I at
Odi assembled a search committee, comprised of Lehigh staff
and faculty, for reviewing applicants for the Director of
Academic Diversity and Outreach position. Odi Dep. at 98;
7-8-19 Tr. I at 11.
Jacob Napoleon (“Leon”) Washington (“Mr.
Washington”) was the head of Lehigh's search
committee. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 11, 12; 7-10-19 Tr. I at
Odi participated in reviewing each candidate who came to
campus for an interview. Odi Dep. at 98.
Approximately two months after applying for the Director of
Academic Diversity and Outreach position, the plaintiff
participated in a phone interview with Lehigh's search
committee. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 11. She then came to Lehigh's
campus for a two-day, on-campus interview in late March 2012.
Washington noted that during the interview process, the
plaintiff impressed the search committee because she was very
smart and represented herself well. 7-10-19 Tr. I at 59. In
addition, she had finished all the coursework for her
doctoral degree and was starting the research for her
During the two-day, on-campus interview, the plaintiff met
with Dr. Odi at his office at 618 Broadhead Avenue in
Bethlehem. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 12. The plaintiff and Dr. Odi went
on a vehicle tour of Bethlehem in which Dr. Odi “shared
highlights of the city with [her] and drove through apartment
complexes to show [her] housing options.” Id.
a later date, Dr. Odi offered the position of Director of
Academic Diversity and Outreach to the plaintiff and she
accepted the offer. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 13. Dr. Odi was
instrumental in hiring the plaintiff. Id. at 95-96.
Lehigh human resources representative sent an offer letter to
the plaintiff and with the letter was a position description
for the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach. 7-8-19
Tr. I at 14. This position description matched what the
plaintiff expected when she applied for the job. Id.
After the plaintiff accepted the offer to work at Lehigh, Dr.
Odi sent her a confirmation letter in which he, inter
alia, indicated that he was “looking forward to
working with you, as are others across campus, to leverage
our collective work to promote and advance diversity,
inclusion, engagement and outreach.” Def.'s Ex. 4;
7-8-19 Tr. I at 105-06.
plaintiff was excited to embark on her role with Lehigh
because (1) she had been in higher education for
approximately 25 years and was committed to working with
students and supporting a college or university, and (2) the
position would allow her to work with college students as
well as local middle and high school students, including
students from underrepresented and low income areas. 7-8-19
Tr. I at 15.
plaintiff's new position provided multiple opportunities
that interested her, including, inter alia: (1) the
S.T.A.R. (Students That Are Ready) Academy, which had a STEM
(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focus and
allowed students to come to Lehigh's campus and explore
opportunities there; (2) the High School Scholars Program,
which provided opportunities for high school students to take
courses at Lehigh and earn college credits; (3) the
“LEAPS” program, which involves students from the
Milton Hershey School; and (4) oversight of the annual
Lehigh Valley Science and Engineering Fair (the
“Fair”) in which local students come to Lehigh to
showcase their science projects for Lehigh faculty, local
teachers, and engineers. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 15-18; see
also Odi Dep. at 13-14 (explaining that plaintiff worked
primarily with three or four programs, including S.T.A.R.
Academy, High School Scholars Program, and the Fair; later,
plaintiff was involved with LEAPS).
The Plaintiff's Experiences with Dr. Odi
Odi was the plaintiff's direct supervisor while she
served as the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach.
7-8-19 Tr. I at 19.
plaintiff indicated that she had minimal interaction with Dr.
Odi. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 18. Other than one biweekly one-on-one
meeting, she stated that they did not regularly communicate.
7-8-19 Tr. I at 18.
plaintiff indicated that Dr. Odi's office door was always
closed. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 39.
plaintiff's office was located no more than two feet away
from the door to Dr. Odi's office. Tr. of Specific
Witness Testimony, July 9, 2019 (“7-9-19 Tr. I”)
at 14, Doc. No. 34.
plaintiff attempted to be collegial with Dr. Odi by knocking
on his door, opening the door, and saying good morning each
morning, and by knocking on the door, opening the door, and
saying good night at the end of the day. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 39.
Although the plaintiff asked Dr. Odi if they could have
weekly one-on-one meetings, Dr. Odi agreed to only having
biweekly meetings. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 18-19.
Odi occasionally missed the biweekly meeting. 7-8-19 Tr. I
at 19, 41.
the biweekly meetings, the plaintiff would provide Dr. Odi
with an agenda for the meetings, and she gave him the
opportunity to obtain updates on everything she was doing,
including work with the S.T.A.R. Academy. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 19.
plaintiff was dissatisfied with the limited interaction with
Dr. Odi. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 39, 40. She explained that they
“just did not talk and that was challenging to me to be
reporting to someone who [she] thought wanted [her] there and
his actions showed otherwise.” 7-8-19 Tr. I at 40.
Concerning the S.T.A.R. Academy, Dr. Odi's wife, Patricia
Odi, designed and founded the S.T.A.R. Academy in 1988-89
when she was working as the Assistant Director of Admissions
at Lehigh. Odi Dep. at 15-17.
S.T.A.R. Academy is a specifically designed, originally
year-long program to assist and educate students of color
with the process of applying to college, obtaining financial
aid for college, and other aspects of gaining admittance and
achieving success in college. Odi Dep. at 16, 36; 7-8-19 Tr.
I at 105. It is a one-on-one program with up to 100
underserved and unrepresented minority middle and high school
students matching up with undergraduate and graduate students
at Lehigh and 15 to 25 Lehigh professors. Odi Dep. at 36.
They had as many as 12 of the middle or high school students
go to college in a given year. Id. at 38-39.
Bill Beattie, a Lehigh alumnus, funded the S.T.A.R. Academy,
and he and Dr. Odi had a “very strong
relationship.” Odi Dep. at 28-29. Mr. Beattie provided
a significant financial donation to Lehigh to fund the
S.T.A.R. Academy long-term. Id. at 29-30.
Although Mrs. Odi ceased working at Lehigh in 1992, she
continued to work with the S.T.A.R. Academy. Odi Dep. at
18-19. She did so on a volunteer basis. Id.
Odi was previously personally involved in oversight and
day-to-day operations of the S.T.A.R. Academy. 7-8-19 Tr. I
at 19, 59; Def.'s Ex. 5. He continued to be involved in
oversight of the S.T.A.R. Academy after the plaintiff started
at Lehigh, and he did not pass off oversight of it to the
plaintiff after she started. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 19-20.
plaintiff, with the assistance of a colleague, Debra Rubart,
identified multiple concerns with the S.T.A.R. Academy.
7-8-19 Tr. I at 20-23. Those concerns included what the
plaintiff believed were risk management issues, the possible
misappropriation of funds, and the possible inappropriate
promotion of a religious theme at a secular university.
7-8-19 Tr. I at 20- 21. In addition, the plaintiff believed
that Dr. Odi should have passed off responsibility for the
program to the plaintiff because it was part of her job
description. Id. at 19-20, 25.
plaintiff did not believe that Dr. Odi had the right to
decline to pass along all responsibilities for the S.T.A.R.
Academy to her during her first year of employment, even
though he was her supervisor, because responsibility for the
S.T.A.R. Academy was in her job description. 7-9-19 Tr. I at
6-7; see 7-8-19 Tr. I at 25 (“And what
inevitably happened in . . . that year was that the S.T.A.R.
Academy and the oversights [sic] and the implementation of
the program was officially passed off to me. It was on my job
description from day one.”); Def.'s Ex. 6, Apr. 24,
2013 Mem. from Pl. to Dr. Odi (“Since May 31, 2012, I
have had the responsibilities in my job description of
‘oversee[ing] the management and expansion of the
well-established existing academic outreach programs, i.e.
the S.T.A.R. Academies - summer and academic year
programs' and ‘manag[ing] budgets' in the
Office of Academic Outreach.”); 7-8-19 Tr. I at 58-59
(plaintiff indicating that she should have been responsible
for design and implementation of S.T.A.R. Academy but was not
during her first year at Lehigh because Dr. Odi and his wife
ran academy from their home).
plaintiff and Ms. Rubart met with Dr. Odi to discuss these
concerns, and Dr. Odi told them that he would “take
care of things.” 7-8-19 Tr. I at 23.
plaintiff believed that Dr. Odi was not addressing the
concerns she identified, so she and Ms. Rubart met with Frank
Roth, the general counsel at Lehigh, to share with him what
they found. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 23-24. The plaintiff also
discussed her concerns with the former director of risk
management for Lehigh, and Patricia Mann (“Ms.
Mann”), the Director of Administration in the Provost
Office. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 24; Tr. of Excerpt of Trial, July 9,
2019 (“7-9-19 Tr. II”) at 6, Doc. No. 38.
plaintiff's complaints about Dr. Odi and Mrs. Odi's
roles with the S.T.A.R. Academy, including Dr. Odi not
turning over oversight of the program to the plaintiff upon
her arrival at Lehigh, did not mention race or gender
Odi did not decline to turn over oversight and responsibility
of the S.T.A.R. Academy to the plaintiff because he was
discriminating against her based on her race or gender or
because he had any discriminatory animus toward
Odi continuing to operate the S.T.A.R. Academy after the
plaintiff began her employment at Lehigh, including allowing
his wife to continue to be involved with the program, until
ultimately transferring oversight of the program to the
plaintiff, did not create a hostile work environment on the
basis of race or gender, either alone or in combination with
other interactions that Dr. Odi had with the plaintiff in the
April 2013, after the plaintiff had been in her position for
approximately one year, Dr. Odi passed off the S.T.A.R.
Academy for her to oversee and implement. 7-8-19 Tr. I
at 19, 25, 26; Def.'s Ex. 5; Odi Dep. at 27-28.
plaintiff responded to Dr. Odi's April 12, 2013 letter by
sending him a memorandum dated April 24, 2013. Odi Dep. at
32; Def.'s Ex. 6. In the memorandum, the plaintiff,
inter alia, asked for autonomy over the S.T.A.R.
Academy budget and the sole responsibility for maintaining
relationships with donors. Def.'s Ex. 6.
Odi did not believe that it was a good practice to transition
work with donors to the plaintiff because he had created and
fostered those relationships over many years and the donors
were still comfortable dealing with him. Odi Dep. at 33.
plaintiff asserts that Dr. Odi rarely asked her about the
S.T.A.R. Academy after passing oversight of it to her. 7-8-19
Tr. I at 19.
October 1, 2012, Dr. Odi confronted the plaintiff in their
office over what he deemed were prior actions by her that
contradicted him in a public setting. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 42-44;
Odi Dep. at 20-24. Dr. Odi requested that the plaintiff not
challenge him in public and, if she disagreed with something
he said, she should speak to him privately about
it. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 43; Odi Dep. at 23-24.
plaintiff believes that in the workplace of higher education,
a supervisor should not tell a supervisee not to disagree
with them in public because individuals in higher education
often have disagreements. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 107.
plaintiff does not believe that Dr. Odi had the right to
determine the tasks she should or should not do. 7-8-19 Tr. I
at 109. She believes that an employee's job description
determines the employee's tasks and responsibilities.
Id. at 109-10.
Although doing so was often not part of her job description,
the plaintiff would work with “community
partners” on a regular basis. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 27. She
did so to ensure “that the programs and the initiatives
and the funds that were so very important to doing great work
that they were stewarded well.” Id. The
plaintiff believes that she “made great relationships
and partners with folks both near and far.”
community partner told the plaintiff that she rubbed them the
wrong way. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 27.
Odi never conducted a performance review for the plaintiff,
and she “did not feel comfortable” with the fact
that she never received any performance evaluations at
Lehigh. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 41. She asked Dr. Odi for a
performance review, but he did not give her one. Id.
plaintiff sought a performance review from Dr. Odi in part
because she did not regularly communicate with him and
thought that it would be an opportunity for her to
“develop goals for [her]self, develop feedback,
collaborate with him and really make things happen.”
7-8-19 Tr. I at 41.
Odi never completed a performance evaluation for the
plaintiff even though he had been trained to do so. 7-8-19
Tr. I at 41-42; Odi Dep. at 53.
Odi acknowledged that it was unfortunate that he did not
conduct yearly performance reviews of the plaintiff because
it was part of the best practices at Lehigh. Odi Dep. at 53,
101-02. He takes full responsibility for failing to do that
and regrets not doing so. Id. He has conducted
written performance reviews with other individuals who have
worked for him. Id. at 53-54.
Odi did not fail to complete any performance review for the
plaintiff because he was discriminating against her based
upon her race or gender. It is unclear why he failed to
conduct a performance review, and it is possible that doing
so would have improved his working relationship with the
During her time at Lehigh, the plaintiff never received a cut
in her salary; instead, each year she received an
“annual merit increase” which ranged between 2.5%
and 3.5% of her salary. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 28. Dr. Odi
recommended that the plaintiff receive annual increases in
her salary. Odi Dep. at 54.
plaintiff complained about her issues with Dr. Odi to Provost
Farrell. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 9.
June 2013, Dr. Odi had a meeting with Provost Farrell and the
plaintiff to discuss the issues in their working
relationship. Odi Dep. at 40. According to Dr. Odi, this
“was probably one of the worst meetings that I've
been a part of in my time at Lehigh” because the
plaintiff blamed him for everything. Id. at 40-41.
Human Resources recommended that the plaintiff and Dr. Odi
work through their issues via a third-party
mediator. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 55; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 14.
plaintiff met with the mediator for a 90-minute session.
7-8-19 Tr. I at 55-56.
Odi refused to participate in the mediation. 7-8-19 Tr. I
at 57‒58; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 15; Odi Dep. at 41‒42,
plaintiff never heard anything else from Dr. Odi or Lehigh
about mediation. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 58.
Although the plaintiff speculates to the contrary, there is
no credible evidence that Dr. Odi refused to participate in
mediation because of her race and/or gender. 7-9-19 Tr. I at
15. Instead, Dr. Odi did not want to participate in any
further discussions where he felt like the plaintiff was
blaming him for every issue in their work relationship.
plaintiff is unaware of any mediations Dr. Odi participated
in with anyone, including white men. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 15.
January 2014, Judy Zavalydriga (“Ms.
Zavalydriga”), who is the Director of Employee
Relations at Lehigh's Human Resources Office, reached out
to the plaintiff to see how things were going with Dr. Odi.
7-9-19 Tr. I at 15; Tr. of Excerpt of Trial, July 10, 2019
(“7-10-19 Tr. II”) at 42-43, Doc. No. 39; Tr. of
Excerpt of Trial, July 8, 2019 (“7-8-19 Tr. II”)
at 21, Doc. No. 37; Def.'s Ex. 9. The plaintiff told Ms.
Zavalydriga that she had no interest in discussing anything.
7-9-19 Tr. I at 15-16; 7-10-19 Tr. II at 43.
Odi and the plaintiff continued to work together for almost
three years after the discussions with Provost Farrell and
the partial attempt at mediation. Odi Dep. at 50; 7-9-19 Tr.
I at 16.
2011, Lehigh started the Faculty and Staff of Color Network
(“FSCN”) after an African-American female, who
was Lehigh's assistant director in multi-cultural
affairs, approached Dr. Odi about a support group for staff
of color at Lehigh. Odi Dep. at 56-57. The FSCN would provide
networking and fellowship opportunities and reach out to
Lehigh's undergraduate and graduate students.
Id. at 57; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 21.
Odi could not chair the FSCN, so he asked two
African-American women, Lydia Benjamin and Jennifer Swan, to
co-chair it. Odi Dep. at 57; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 22.
FSCN was “highly successful, ” and each year they
would organize a welcome reception for all new faculty at
Lehigh. Odi Dep. at 57.
After the plaintiff started at Lehigh, she became Dr.
Odi's liaison to the FSCN. Odi Dep. at 58; 7-9-19 Tr. I
2014/early 2015, Dr. Odi received feedback from the FSCN
co-chairs that the plaintiff was acting as a co-chair instead
of as a liaison. Odi Dep. at 59; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 22. The
co-chairs did not want the plaintiff to continue to act as a
liaison. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 22.
Based on the co-chairs raising this issue, Dr. Odi met with
the co-chairs and the plaintiff to discuss the
responsibilities of co-chairs versus the liaison. Odi Dep. at
59-60, 61. Dr. Odi also drafted a document dated January 22,
2015, which provided a position description for the FSCN
liaison. Id. at 60-61; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 22-23.
After providing the plaintiff with the liaison position
description, she informed Dr. Odi that she was not going to
serve as the liaison anymore. Odi Dep. at 61.
Umoja House is a residential building for students of color
(specifically, African-American and Hispanic students) at
Lehigh that Dr. Odi co-founded. Odi Dep. at 61-62; 7-9-19 Tr.
I at 26, 27; see also 7-9-19 Tr. I at 26 (plaintiff
agreeing that Umoja House was one of number of “themed
residence halls where juniors and seniors can choose to
live” and it “has a focus on fostering a sense of
community through a shared exploration of diversity and
multiculturalism”). It was created to help students of
color foster a community and so the faculty can interact with
these students at receptions or dinners. Odi Dep. at 62;
7-9-19 Tr. I at 26.
When the plaintiff started working under Dr. Odi, he made her
a staff adviser for Umoja House. Odi Dep. at 63; 7-9-19 Tr. I
plaintiff approached Dr. Odi because she learned that certain
incidents occurred in the house, one of which resulted in the
creation of a police report. Odi Dep. at 63-64. She wanted to
see the police reports, but Dr. Odi expressed to her the need
to discuss with Student Affairs about her ability to see the
reports. Id. at 64.
Odi and the plaintiff met with individuals, including Sharon
Basso, the Dean of Students, to discuss the reports, but the
meeting did not go well because the plaintiff blamed them for
excluding her from access to the reports. Odi Dep. at 64.
plaintiff also had an issue pertaining to the Umoja House
when the Dean of Students' Office chose a Griffin
(Lehigh's version of a dorm's residential advisor)
for Umoja House despite the plaintiff's opposition to
that person being the right fit for the house. 7-9-19 Tr. I
at 128, 129.
February 2016, the plaintiff informed Dr. Odi that she would
no longer continue as an advisor for Umoja House. Odi Dep. at
63; Def.'s Ex. 11; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 27, 32-35.
Odi sent the plaintiff a memorandum dated October 15, 2016,
in which he laid out his expectations for her for the year.
Odi Dep. at 78; Def.'s Ex. 27; 7-8-19 Tr. II at 25. Dr.
Odi sent the plaintiff this memorandum because he felt that
the department was falling apart, and the one-on-one meetings
were not very productive. Odi Dep. at 78, 108.
Odi consulted with Chris Halladay (“Mr.
Halladay”), the Associate Vice President of Human
Resources for Lehigh, who was aware that Dr. Odi was
attempting to clarify expectations with the plaintiff and he
suggested that Dr. Odi memorialize the expectations in
writing. Odi Dep. at 78-79; 7-8-19 Tr. II at
Halladay did not assist Dr. Odi with drafting the memorandum,
but he believed that Dr. Odi's document would hopefully
“establish a much better flow of ability to
supervise.” 7-8-19 Tr. II at 25.
Halladay believed that at least some of the conflict between
the plaintiff and Dr. Odi related to not effectively
communicating what the expectations were. 7-8-19 Tr. II at
the time he sent the memorandum to the plaintiff, Dr. Odi
believed that he would continue working with the plaintiff.
Odi Dep. at 80.
plaintiff felt that Dr. Odi's memorandum was “a
strategy that he was using for [her] detriment.”
7-10-19 Tr. I at 41. She felt as such because she had begged
him for performance evaluations for years and now, he wanted
to put something in writing about his expectations. 7-10-19
Tr. I at 41.
Despite the plaintiff's claims to the contrary, there is
no evidence that Dr. Odi's memorandum was being used for
her detriment. It is hypocritical for the plaintiff to
complain of not receiving a performance review from Dr. Odi
and then complain when he is finally attempting to set out
his expectations for her in writing. There is no evidence
that Dr. Odi was discriminating against the plaintiff based
on her race or gender when he created and sent her the
memorandum. Instead, he was clearly attempting to bring
stability to an unstable working relationship.
Odi believed that he and the plaintiff had a civil,
professional working relationship. Odi Dep. at 51. Dr. Odi
admitted that he was mostly hands-off with his supervision,
but he indicated that he would give some oral feedback to the
plaintiff. Odi Dep. at 51-52, 53.
Odi believed that the plaintiff was “okay” in
running her programs. Odi Dep. at 52.
plaintiff claims that Dr. Odi discriminated against her
because of her African-American race. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 96.
her deposition, when asked whether Dr. Odi ever made a
statement that would show an animus against
African-Americans, the plaintiff stated:
So in October 2013 Henry Odi yelled at me at the top of his
lungs and told me that -- and this was the actual quote --
“You do not stay in your place. Alice, who was the
current president, knows her place. Patrick, who was the
current provost, knows his place. You do not know your
He then went on to share that I will not be successful at
Lehigh University if I disagree with leadership. And he was
referring to his leadership. And this was done in an office
at the top of his lungs where others heard it.
Jan. 14, 2019 Dep. of Pl. (“Pl.'s Dep.”) at
37-38; see also 7-8-19 Tr. I at 97-99.
Although the court does not find the plaintiff's
testimony about Dr. Odi yelling at her and what he said to
her to be credible, even if the court did so, his statements
and tone did not show any discriminatory animus towards the
plaintiff based upon her race or gender. Instead, he was
articulating, perhaps not in the most productive manner, his
expectations for his supervisory relationship with the
plaintiff. Dr. Odi's expectation that the plaintiff not
disagree with him publicly is not unreasonable or unlawful,
especially considering that the evidence in the record does
not describe what the plaintiff said and the context in which
the plaintiff said it.
plaintiff does not recall Dr. Odi stating anything
disparaging African-Americans generally. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 100.
The plaintiff also is not aware of any conduct by Dr. Odi,
other than with respect to her, that discriminated against
any African-Americans. Id.
plaintiff also claims that Dr. Odi discriminated against her
on the basis of her gender. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 100-01.
her deposition, the plaintiff indicated that when Dr. Odi
yelled at her about her need to know her place, he was
discriminating against her for being a woman even though his
statement about knowing her place referenced both the male
provost and a female executive at Lehigh. 7-8-19 Tr. I at
101-02; Pl.'s Dep. at 43-44.
Odi never discouraged anyone from continuing to donate to
programs administered by the plaintiff. Odi Dep. at 86. Dr.
Odi never disparaged the plaintiff to any donor. Id.
Odi never insulted the plaintiff, yelled at her, or had any
hostility toward her as an African-American woman. Odi Dep.
Odi never encouraged one or more of the plaintiff's
colleagues not to work with her. Odi Dep. at 102.
plaintiff believes that Dr. Odi was entirely at fault and she
was not at fault for issues in their working relationship.
7-9-19 Tr. I at 13.
Provost Farrell did not observe Dr. Odi discriminate against
women or people of color; instead, he found Dr. Odi to be a
“real strong advocate for students of color, faculty
and staff of color.” 7-10-19 Tr. I at 15-16.
Provost Farrell did not observe Dr. Odi scream at anyone, and
he believed that Dr. Odi was more of a conflict avoider.
7-10-19 Tr. I at 16.
Provost Farrell occasionally interacted with the plaintiff on
a variety of projects and he found her to be cooperative.
7-10-19 Tr. I at 7.
March 2, 2017, Lehigh's newly hired Vice President for
Equity and Community, Dr. Donald Outing, stopped by to visit
with Dr. Odi. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 102. While there, he
encountered the plaintiff and they had a discussion in her
office about her job. Id. at 102- 03. During this
conversation, the plaintiff spoke to him about the issues and
concerns that she had with Dr. Odi. Id. at 103. She
indicated to Dr. Outing her suspicions as to how Dr. Odi
managed money, and she did so in a manner that Dr. Outing
could “only describe as embezzlement.”
Id. She also shared with Dr. Outing a letter from
Dr. Odi to a donor in which he suggested that the donor's
funds move from one program to another. Id.
After learning more about the relationship between Dr. Odi
and the plaintiff, Dr. Outing felt that it placed the
plaintiff's conversation with him in a different context
as Lehigh had already been aware of the problems between them
and it appeared that she was expressing to him her
dissatisfaction with the outcome of the resolution of certain
issues. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 116.
During the two years that he has been working with Dr. Odi at
Lehigh, Dr. Outing has never observed Dr. Odi yell at anyone.
7-9-19 Tr. I at 113. He has never heard Dr. Odi make a
disparaging remark about anyone. Id. Even though Dr.
Odi discussed the difficult working relationship he had with
the plaintiff (as Dr. Outing had to have a conversation with
Dr. Odi about this so he could be confident about Dr.
Odi's ability to supervise staff that they had in the
office), he did not disparage her to Dr. Outing. 7-9-19 Tr. I
Dr. Odi did not discriminate against the plaintiff based upon
her race or gender. Dr. Odi did not harbor any discriminatory
animus against the plaintiff based on her race or gender.
Dr. Odi did not create a hostile work environment on the
basis of race or gender, either in the October 2012 incident
(even if the court were to credit the plaintiff's version
of that event) or in combination of the other interactions
that he had with the plaintiff in the workplace.
The Plaintiff's Experiences with Jill Forrest
January 2014, Jill Forrest (“Ms. Forrest”)
transferred from Lehigh's Office of First Year Experience
and began working as a Coordinator in the Academic Outreach
office with the plaintiff and Dr. Odi. 7-9-19 Tr. I
at 18, 120, 121; see also Odi Dep. at 67. She is a
Caucasian female who is younger than the plaintiff. 7-9-19
Tr. I at 36.
her Coordinator role, Ms. Forrest reported to the plaintiff.
Odi Dep. at 67; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 18.
The coordinator position is a non-exempt position, and Ms.
Forrest desired to eventually acquire an exempt position at
Lehigh. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 121-22.
Although Ms. Forrest wanted to be an exempt employee at
Lehigh, she did not talk to Dr. Odi about getting the
plaintiff's job and did not want the plaintiff's job.
7-9-19 Tr. I at 152- 53.
The plaintiff delegated numerous tasks to Ms. Forrest. 7-9-19
Tr. I at 18. These tasks included certain work for the
S.T.A.R. Academy. Id. at 19.
Ms. Forrest's responsibilities for the S.T.A.R. Academy
included, inter alia (1) ordering t-shirts, linens,
supplies, and catering services, (2) reserving the housing
where the students would stay overnight, (3) arranging for
transportation on and off campus, (4) coordinating with
outside vendors to arrange for field trips, (5) publicizing
counselor positions and sitting through interviews, (6) being
present when students and participants arrived to hand out
their keys and ensure they got to their rooms, and (7)
shopping for groceries and submitting food orders. 7-9-19 Tr.
I at 136-37.
The plaintiff believed that Ms. Forrest was “good at
fulfilling the responsibilities of the S.T.A.R. Academy
program.” 7-9-19 Tr. I at 20.
Ms. Forrest testified that the plaintiff informed her that
Lehigh would not fire the plaintiff because she was
African-American. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 123.
Ms. Forrest observed that Dr. Odi was “super friendly,
very nice.” 7-9-19 Tr. I at 124.
Ms. Forrest did not see Dr. Odi treat the plaintiff any
differently than he treated her. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 124. Dr. Odi
did not “overly engage [with] anybody in the
office.” Id. at 125.
Ms. Forrest never saw Dr. Odi yell at the plaintiff. 7-9-19
Tr. I at 124. She never saw him get angry. Id. at
124, 125. She never saw him disparage anyone. Id. at
Ms. Forrest observed that the plaintiff and Dr. Odi had a
professional, but “minimal” relationship. 7-9-19
Tr. I at 125.
From 2014 until the summer of 2016, the plaintiff and Ms.
Forrest got along well. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 20, 122. Ms. Forrest
even attended the plaintiff's wedding in 2016.
Id. at 20.
Ms. Forrest spent considerable time planning and implementing
the S.T.A.R. Academy program for the summer of 2016. 7-9-19
Tr. I at 36-37.
During the summer of 2016, the relationship between the
plaintiff and Ms. Forrest deteriorated. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 20,
137, 138. According to Ms. Forrest, near the end of the
S.T.A.R. Academy program that summer, the plaintiff made
passive-aggressive statements about Ms. Forrest not being an
exempt employee and her thinking she can come and go as she
pleases. Id. at 137-38. Ms. Forrest was very
surprised when she heard these statements because she
previously had worked very well with the plaintiff.
Id. at 138. The plaintiff did not directly explain
to Ms. Forrest what she thought Ms. Forrest was doing wrong.
Although the plaintiff permitted Ms. Forrest to leave the
office and join the program onsite, the plaintiff criticized
her for spending too much time out of the office and for
being too friendly with the student workers in the program.
7-9-19 Tr. I at 37.
Ms. Forrest became more concerned because on the last day of
the camp, the plaintiff told her to go back to the office and
check her e-mail. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 139. When Ms. Forrest did
so, there was an email for her to complete her
self-assessment portion of her performance review.
Id. Getting notice to complete this concerned Ms.
Forrest because prior to this, the plaintiff, ironically, had
not conducted performance reviews of Ms. Forrest.
Id. at 139- 40.
Ms. Forrest was concerned because the plaintiff was now
acting differently toward her and she had observed the
plaintiff's “pattern of behavior” toward
other individuals, namely, “once she's mad at you,
there's no coming back. She cuts you off. You're dead
to her.” 7-9-19 Tr. I at 140.
During the summer of 2016, Ms. Forrest and the plaintiff also
had a conflict about Ms. Forrest's submission for mileage
reimbursement after she was using her personal vehicle for
transportation for the S.T.A.R. Academy. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 42,
149, 150; see also Def.'s Ex. 17. The plaintiff
declined to approve the request because Ms. Forrest had
handwritten the mileage log and the plaintiff believed that
she needed to include the information on a standard form that
the controller's office used. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 42-43.
Upon receiving word from the plaintiff that she would not
approve the mileage, Ms. Forrest contacted Ms. Mann, who told
her that the controller said that she did not need to
complete the written form to be reimbursed. 7-9-19 Tr. I at
Ms. Forrest, despite telling the plaintiff that she had
contacted the controller's office and was told that the
handwritten log would suffice, completed the written form at
the plaintiff's request; however, she submitted it a day
late. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 43; see also Def.'s Ex. 19
(showing Ms. Forrest's attempts to get mileage approved
after deadline). She did ultimately get reimbursed, but not
until the following month. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 152.
Because Ms. Forrest was concerned with maintaining her
employment, she reached out to Ms. Mann and indicated that
she was concerned that the plaintiff was “gunning for
[her].” 7-9-19 Tr. I at 141.
the suggestion of Ms. Mann, Ms. Forrest reached out to Dr.
Odi because he was the plaintiff's supervisor. 7-9-19 Tr.
I at 141.
July 2016, Ms. Forrest sent Dr. Odi an e-mail and requested a
meeting with him to discuss issues that she was having with
the plaintiff. Odi Dep. at 67; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 141. They met
at a location off ...