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DUNLEAVY v. MONTVILLE TOWNSHIP

August 4, 2005.

HARRY DUNLEAVY, Plaintiff,
v.
MONTVILLE TOWNSHIP, MONTVILLE BOARD OF EDUCATION, SANDRA ALON, STEVEN KRAMER, ROSALIE LAMONTE, LORRAINE WATSON and J. FRANK VESPA-PAPALEO, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KATHARINE HAYDEN, District Judge

OPINION

In this employment case, plaintiff has sued for relief under the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"). Defendants Montville Board of Education, Sandra Alon and Steven Kramer (collectively "defendants") have moved for summary judgment on grounds that plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie case of discrimination, or alternatively, has failed to demonstrate that their proffered legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for not hiring him was pretextual.

Background and Procedural History

  The following factual background is established by the record, which includes plaintiff's deposition and certification with attached exhibits, defendant Sandra Alon's certification with attached exhibits, the pleadings, and both parties' statements of material facts submitted pursuant to L. Civ. R. 56.1.

  In order to fill two mathematics teaching positions for the 2002-2003 school year, Montville High School posted an advertisement that indicated a New Jersey Teaching Certification was required, and teaching experience was preferred. On July 3, 2002, plaintiff sent his resume, a cover letter, and a copy of his teaching certification to Dr. Rosalie Lamonte, Montville Township Superintendent of Schools. Plaintiff was then 60 years old, and his resume reflected that he was at least in his mid-to-upper fifties. His credentials showed he had a Master's Degree in Mathematics and Education and teaching certifications for both the State of New Jersey and the State of New York; he had published several articles; he was currently employed as an adjunct professor of Mathematics at Sussex County Community College; and he had worked as a mathematics teacher from 1968 to 1977 in New York. Plaintiff was invited to the school for an initial interview.

  Steven Kramer, Principal of Montville High School, and Sandra Alon, the Supervisor of Business and Mathematics, interviewed numerous applicants, including plaintiff. After the interview, plaintiff was not invited back for the second round of interviews with Superintendent Lamonte. Ultimately, Kimberly Deamer, 28, and Jeffrey Schutzer, 43, were offered and accepted the advertised position.

  Plaintiff filed a complaint based on age discrimination with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, both of which found no probable cause and dismissed the action. Thereafter plaintiff, acting pro se, timely filed in federal court. After amending his complaint several times and retaining counsel, plaintiff dismissed all claims against defendant Montville Township; all civil right claims; and dismissed certain defendants, leaving in the Montville Board of Education, Principal Kramer, and Supervisor Alon.

  Standard of Review

  Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party establishes that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" such that it is "entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A factual dispute will not defeat a summary judgment motion unless the dispute is both genuine and material. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). At the summary judgment stage, the Court's "function is not [itself] to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 249. In so doing, the Court must construe the facts and all inferences that reasonably could be drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Bailey v. United Airlines, 279 F.3d 194, 198 (3d Cir. 2002).

  Discussion

  The parties have analyzed the issues according to the burden-shifting framework originally set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973), and the Court agrees this three-step process is appropriate in assessing whether plaintiff's age discrimination claims survive summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 142 (2000) (applying McDonnell Douglas test in a lawsuit arising under the ADEA); Keller v. Orix Credit Alliance Inc., 130 F.3d 1101, 1108 (3d Cir. 1997) (same).

  Under the familiar analysis, the plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination, and if he does, the burden of production shifts to the employer to "articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection." Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 763 (3d Cir. 1994). Once the employer satisfies its burden of articulating a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action, "the burden of production rebounds to the plaintiff, who must now show by a preponderance of the evidence that the employer's explanation is pretextual." Id. Throughout this burden-shifting paradigm the ultimate burden of proving intentional discrimination always rests with the plaintiff. Id.

  A. Prima Facie Showing

  A plaintiff must show the following to satisfy his initial burden:
(1) that he belongs to a protected class;
(2) that he applied for and was qualified for the job;
(3) that despite his qualifications, he was rejected; and
(4) that the employer either ultimately filled the position with someone sufficiently younger to permit an inference of age discrimination or continued to seek applicants from among those having the plaintiff's qualifications.
See, e.g., Barber v. CSX Distribution Services, 68 F.3d 694, 698 (3d Cir. 1995). There is no dispute that this plaintiff was over 40; defendants rejected his application for a teaching position; and defendants offered the position to two younger applicants. Defendants assert, however, that plaintiff cannot prove he was qualified for the vacant mathematics position at Montville High School simply by pointing to his credentials articulated in his resume, contending these "basic" credentials do not automatically qualify plaintiff for a teaching position. They argue that the decision to hire a particular candidate was also based on that individual's ability to incorporate technology into his/her daily lesson and the amount of recent public high school teaching experience he/she had. (Certification of Sandra Alon, ΒΆΒΆ 17, 21.) Defendants claim plaintiff lacked both. (Defts' Brief, at 13.) There is no hard and fast rule covering what exactly a plaintiff must show in order to establish a McDonnell Douglas prima facie case. Fasold v. Justice, 409 F.3d 178, 185 n. 10 (3d Cir. 2005). Here, plaintiff argues he was qualified for the teaching position because he is certified to teach in the State of New Jersey; completed his Master's Degree in Mathematics and Education; and had recent teaching ...

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