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Pilkington v. Bally's Park Place

SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY


June 16, 2004

EVALYN"JUNE" PILKINGTON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BALLY'S PARK PLACE, INC., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.

On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

(NOTE: This Court wrote no full opinion in this case. Rather, the Court's reversal of the judgment of the Appellate Division is based substantially on the reasons expressed in the dissenting opinion below.)

This matter involves an employment discrimination action brought pursuant to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). June Pilkington, a fifty-nine-year-old casino pit manager, claimed that her employer, Bally's Park Place, Inc., (Bally's) discriminated against her by failing to promote her because of age.

Pilkington worked in the gaming industry since 1961. From 1961 to 1979, she worked as a casino dealer in Nevada. During the course of that employment, she dealt with all major games, including craps. She stopped working at craps tables in either 1965 or 1966. In 1979, Pilkington moved to New Jersey and began working for Bally's in Atlantic City as a pit manager. She served in that capacity until 1996. As part of her duties as a pit manager, Pilkington supervised all dealers and floor personnel in a designated gaming area known as a "pit." While employed with Bally's, Pilkington obtained licenses in blackjack, roulette, pow gai poker, baccarat, and minibaccarat. As a pit manager, Pilkington acted in a supervisory capacity and did not deal any of these games herself. Pilkington was not involved with craps during her employment with Bally's.

From 1994 through 1996, Pilkington received very favorable evaluation ratings as a pit manager. In October 1996, Pilkington applied for the position of "dual rated shift manager," which was one step above a pit manager. As part of the job of shift manager, an employee had to have knowledge of all games, which Bally's concluded could be filled by obtaining a license in each game, by attending gaming school, or by evidence of a set number of hours of experience dealing a particular game. Since 1994, the Casino Control Commission left it up to each casino to define the "knowledge" criterion. According to Bally's, the game of craps required 180 hours of training and instruction.

Between 1994 and 1999, approximately five people were promoted from pit manager to shift manager without showing that they had all games listed on their licenses, but all of these individuals either had the required schooling or an affidavit in their personnel files showing they had sufficient hours of experience dealing in games in which they were not licensed. However, in1988, Samuel Rosetti was promoted to shift manager without knowledge of all games.

Pilkington was not hired for the job. She had an unblemished disciplinary record, yet the person who was hired had several disciplinary infractions. In her lawsuit against Bally's filed under the LAD, Pilkington concluded that she was passed over for a promotion because of her age. She claimed that Bally's promoted a significantly younger, no more qualified person and that Bally's claims that she was not qualified for the position were pretextual. Pilkington pointed to her positive evaluations and the successful candidate's disciplinary record that should have disqualified him from the promotion. Pilkington also noted that Rosetti had been hired as a shift manager and given the opportunity to later obtain the licenses he lacked. In addition, Pilkington pointed to the fact that Bally's had not promoted anyone over the age of fifty to a position above pit manager between 1993 and 1999.

Bally's moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted, finding that Pilkington had failed to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination because she did not know that she was "qualified" for the Pilkington appealed and a majority of the Appellate Division affirmed. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Wecker concluded that Pilkington had established prima facie that she possessed the qualifications for the position.

Pilkington appeals as of right to the Supreme Court based on the dissenting opinion in the Appellate Division.

HELD: Judgment of the Appellate Division is reversed substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Wecker's dissenting opinion below. Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to Pilkington, the record establishes her qualification for the position at issue prima facie; therefore, summary judgment should not have been granted.

1. After carefully reviewing the record in light of the claims advanced by both parties, the Court concludes that Judge Wecker correctly analyzed the issue. Pilkington established her knowledge of the games of chance and her long experience supervising those games, although she did acknowledge the need for a "refresher course" in craps. She also produced evidence that Bally's treated a similarly situated employee as qualified. Thus, she established a prima facie case. (Pp. 2-3)

2. The Court's ruling does not suggest any view on the outcome of this case. Rather, in its present posture, Bally's summary judgment motion should not have been granted. (P. 3) Judgment of the Appellate Division is REVERSED and the matter is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ZAZZALI, ALBIN and WALLACE join in this PER CURIAM opinion. JUSTICE VERNIERO did not participate.

Per curiam.

Argued April 26, 2004

In this employment action brought pursuant to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49, June Pilkington, a fifty-nine-year-old casino pit manager alleged that her employer, Bally's Park Place, Inc., discriminated against her by failing to promote her because of age. (She also alleged retaliatory discharge, but that issue is not before us.) The trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment, declaring that Pilkington had failed to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination because she did not show that she was "qualified" for the position at issue. Pilkington appealed and the Appellate Division majority affirmed. Pilkington v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2003) (slip op. at 2). In a dissenting opinion, Judge Barbara Byrd Wecker concluded that Pilkington had, in fact, established prima facie that she possessed the qualifications for the position. Id. at __ (slip op. at 28) (Wecker, J.A.D., dissenting). Pilkington appeals to us as of right based on that dissent. R. 2:2-1(a)(2).

We have carefully reviewed this record in light of the contentions advanced by both parties and have concluded that Judge Wecker correctly analyzed the issue. Pilkington established her knowledge of the games of chance and her long experience supervising those games, although she did acknowledge that she needed a "refresher" in craps. She also produced evidence that Bally's treated a similarly situated employee as qualified. Viewing that evidence in a light most favorable to Pilkington, see Brill v. Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, 142 N.J. 520, 523 (1995), the record establishes her qualification for the position at issue prima facie. We therefore reverse, substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Wecker's thorough and thoughtful dissenting opinion. Pilkington v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., ___ N.J. Super. ___, ___.

Our ruling is not meant to suggest any tilt on the ultimate outcome in the case, but only that in its present posture, Bally's summary judgment motion should not have been granted.

The judgment of the Appellate Division is reversed. The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ZAZZALI, ALBIN, and WALLACE join in this opinion. JUSTICE VERNIERO did not participate.

Chief Justice Poritz PRESIDING

OPINION BY Per Curiam

20040616

© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.



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