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Butler v. Union County Prosecutor's Office

March 5, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini Judge



Dear Litigants:

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 56. There was no oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART, Plaintiff's remaining state law claims are REMANDED, and Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED with prejudice.


The facts of this case arise from staffing changes in the Union County Prosecutor's Office following the appointment of a new Union County Prosecutor. Against this background, Plaintiff, Maryjean Butler, brings this age discrimination lawsuit. Plaintiff claims that Defendants' decision to reassign her and pass her over for promotion was impermissibly based on her age in violation of the Age Discrimination and Employment Act as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. ("ADEA") and New Jersey state law.*fn1 (Pl.'s Compl. 14-15.)

Plaintiff is a fifty-three-year-old woman and is employed as the Chief Clerk for the Union County Prosecutor's Office. (Butler Dep. 5, 10-11.) As Chief Clerk, Plaintiff was responsible for supervising the clerical staff in Elizabeth, NJ. (Id. at 36-37.) Plaintiff held this position from her appointment in February 1994 until staffing reassignments were made following Defendant Theadore Romankow's arrival at the Prosecutor's Office. (Id., Defs.' Statement of Material and Undisputed Facts 2.)

On July 26, 2002, Defendant Romankow was appointed Prosecutor of Union County. (Romankow Dep. 4.) After taking office, Defendant Romankow made several structural changes to the Prosecutor's Office including various reassignments to legal, detective, and clerical staff. (Butler Dep. 42.) In May 2003, after consultation with senior staff, Defendant Romankow decided to reassign Plaintiff to the police academy in Scotch Plains, N.J. and place Plaintiff in charge of in-service training. (Romankow Dep. 21, 32, 35-36.) In addition to a change in venue, this transfer resulted in changes to Plaintiff's duties including a reduction in the number of employees that she supervised from approximately sixty-five employees to two employees. (Butler Dep. 37, 48; Pl.'s Br. 8.) This reassignment, however, did not change Plaintiff's title as Chief Clerk, and her salary has only increased since the reassignment. (Butler Dep. 12, 123; Cernadas Dep. 52.)

Defendant Romankow directed First Assistant Prosecutor Albert Cernadas to communicate Plaintiff's reassignment to her. (Romankow Dep. 33-34.) On May 27, 2003, Defendant Cernadas told Plaintiff that she was being transferred to the police academy effective July 1, 2003 due to "new administration." (Butler Dep. 84.) In response to Plaintiff's comment that she thought she was doing a good job, he stated, "there's always somebody that can do it better." (Id.) Further, Defendant Cernadas said, "We're telling you now because we know you are eligible for the retirement package, in case you change your mind." (Id. at 87-88.)

The retirement package referenced by Defendant Cernadas was Union County's early retirement program. Around April or May 2002, Plaintiff had expressed interest in learning more about the program. (Id. at 52-53, 57.) Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff requested a one-year extension of the applicable deadline for participating in the early retirement program. (Id. at 57.) An extension was granted until June 1, 2003. (Id.) Plaintiff stated that she orally notified Defendant Romankow in November 2002 that she did not intend to retire. (Id. at 52.) On June 2, 2003, she officially declined participation in the retirement program by written memorandum a few days after Defendant Cernadas notified Plaintiff of her reassignment. (Hatfield Aff. Ex. 8.)

Ms. Dina Apuzzio, formerly the Assistant Chief Clerk, assumed Plaintiff's duties at the Prosecutor's Office upon Plaintiff's reassignment. (Butler Dep. 116; Cernadas Dep. 27-29.) Approximately two years later, Ms. Apuzzio was officially promoted to the position of Office Supervisor over Plaintiff. (Cernadas Dep. 21.) Ms. Apuzzio is approximately eight years younger and has less years experience than Plaintiff. (Butler Dep. 134; Cernadas Dep. 65.) Ms. Apuzzio, however, was deemed qualified for the Office Supervisor position by the Merit System Board before her official promotion. (Hatfield Supplemental Aff. Ex. C; Cernadas Dep. 22-23.)

On February 9, 2004, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging age discrimination and retaliation for her decision not to retire. (Hatfield Aff. Ex. 9.) The EEOC complaint was administratively dismissed with an accompanying right-to-sue letter. (Hatfield Aff. Ex. 10.) This complaint was originally filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey. (Pl.'s Compl. 1.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a), Defendants timely removed this case to the District of New Jersey based upon the ADEA claim.

Defendants' motion for summary judgment is now ...

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