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Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock University State System of Higher Education

December 19, 2006

JUDY SCHEIDEMANTLE, APPELLANT
v.
SLIPPERY ROCK UNIVERSITY STATE SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil Action No. 04-CV-00331) District Judge: Honorable Donetta W. Ambrose.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambro, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued October 4, 2006

Before: McKEE, AMBRO, and NYGAARD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

Judy Scheidemantle alleges that Slippery Rock University discriminated against her by refusing twice to promote her for an advertised locksmith position and hiring unqualified male employees instead. Slippery Rock countered, in a motion for summary judgment, that it did not promote Scheidemantle because she was unqualified for the position. The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania agreed with Slippery Rock in granting its motion, determining that Scheidemantle failed to establish a prima facie case of gender discrimination because she did not meet the "objective qualifications" for the position.

Scheidemantle appeals to us. We must decide whether an employer that hires someone who lacks a job posting's objective qualifications can point to the absence of those same qualifications in another applicant as a basis for declining to hire that second applicant. We hold that it cannot, and in so doing conclude that Scheidemantle established a prima facie case of discrimination. We thus reverse the summary judgment and remand.

I. Factual Background

In March 2003, Slippery Rock posted a locksmith position vacancy, requiring two years of locksmithing experience. Scheidemantle, who worked for Slippery Rock as a labor foreman, applied along with three male applicants. She had completed a home study course in locksmithing and subsequently received a professional locksmithing license,*fn1 but neither she nor the other applicants possessed the requisite two years of locksmithing experience.

Scheidemantle was not hired. Instead, Calvin Rippey, a younger employee from the University's "carpenter department," who had no prior coursework and less than two years' locksmithing experience, was selected for the position.

Scheidemantle filed a discrimination claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC),*fn2 alleging age and gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.,*fn3 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §§ 951 et seq. ("PHRA").*fn4 The EEOC dismissed her claim, noting that her home study course was the equivalent of 241 hours of actual locksmithing experience, whereas Rippey's actual experience included at least 941 hours. It concluded that Scheidemantle's "allegations that [she was] discriminated against because of [her] age and/or sex[] [could] not be substantiated. The evidence revealed that [Slippery Rock] selected the candidate with the most experience and/or training for the locksmithing position." App. at 88. Scheidemantle then filed suit in the District Court.

In April 2004, Rippey was promoted out of the locksmith position and the now-vacant position was again posted in June 2004, this time requiring three years of locksmithing experience. Between April and June, Rippey informally had assigned Bradley Winrader, an employee from the carpenter department, to perform locksmithing duties on an ongoing basis. Winrader also had little experience in locksmithing and had completed no locksmithing coursework until November 2004, when he enrolled in a correspondence course after beginning his locksmithing assignment. Based on the record before us, Slippery Rock did not conduct interviews for or fill the 2004 position on a permanent basis.

In October 2004, Scheidemantle filed another complaint with the EEOC, which again rejected her case. She then amended her complaint before the District Court, wherein she alleged age and gender discrimination for both the 2003 and 2004 rejections. She also alleged, in the alternative, that the University's failure to promote her in 2004 was in retaliation for her 2003 EEOC filing.

The District Court determined that Scheidemantle was not qualified for the locksmith position according to the objective criteria listed in the position announcements, and consequently she could not establish a prima facie case of discrimination. She ...


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