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Frances Trotman v. Monmouth University

September 20, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bongiovanni, Magistrate Judge



Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff Frances Trotman's motion to amend her Complaint in order to assert at least eight (8) additional causes of action against Defendant Monmouth University ("Monmouth") for race, age and sex discrimination and civil conspiracy. [Docket Entry No. 38]. Defendant opposes Plaintiff's motion. The Court has fully reviewed the papers submitted in support of and in opposition to Plaintiff's motion, and considers same without oral argument pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion to amend her Complaint is DENIED.

I. Background

Defendant Monmouth University is a private, non-profit, non-sectarian, co-education institution of higher education. Plaintiff Frances Trotman is an African American female who was hired as a full time professor at Monmouth in 1995. Plaintiff assisted in developing a Department of Psychological Counseling at Monmouth to which she held the title of Chair of the Department for two consecutive terms from September 2003 through June 2009.

In April, 2008, Plaintiff was appointed to a search committee whose task was to find a suitable candidate for the position of the Dean of the School of Education at Monmouth. Plaintiff was the only non-white member of the search committee. Plaintiff disapproved of the search committee's procedure in that she believed it effectively excluded minorities. She contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee ("EEOC") regarding the alleged discrimination and was told that she would have to file a charge if she wanted the EEOC to review the search procedure. She did not do so. The other members of the search committee were aware of Plaintiff's concerns regarding the search procedure and they also were aware that she had contacted the EEOC. The committee's members submitted a complaint, in writing, to the Monmouth University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Pearson ("Pearson") regarding Plaintiff's position and her actions.

On April 23, 2009, in accordance with Monmouth University policy, Pearson met with Plaintiff to discuss the position of Chair of the Department. In this meeting, Pearson informed Plaintiff that she would not serve as Chair of the Department of Psychological Counseling for a third term. Plaintiff asserts that several ageist remarks were made during this meeting both by Pearson and by another white-male who was present, Dean Green. Defendant contends that the decision not to reappoint Plaintiff as the department chair for the 2009 - 2012 term was "based on the fact that the Provost of Monmouth University had lost confidence in Plaintiff's ability to work collaboratively with other departments and within her own department;" a skill which Defendant claims is critical to the position of department chair. Plaintiff believes that the decision to not reappoint her was based on her age (Plaintiff was sixty-four years old at the time) and she points to the fact that a "significantly younger white male" was appointed chair. He served only four and a half months before resigning. At that time Plaintiff again offered herself as candidate for Chair and was denied. Plaintiff states that another white male, also allegedly younger than Plaintiff, was appointed.

In April, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Monmouth University Director of Affirmative Action; claiming discrimination based on race, sex and age and claiming retaliation. Plaintiff argues that, as a result of the University's investigative procedure, other faculty members became aware that Plaintiff had filed complaints and that this created a hostile work environment for Plaintiff. The investigation concluded without any finding of discrimination or retaliation.

On or about July 24, 2009, Plaintiff filed charges of age, race and sex discrimination and retaliation with the EEOC. Defendant denied all allegations. On November 2, 2009, the EEOC sent to Plaintiff a Dismissal and Notice of Rights. The Dismissal stated that the evidence presented did not establish a violation of the Title VII or of the ADEA and Plaintiff was informed of her right to sue in Federal or State Court for violations based on Title VII or the ADEA. The Dismissal specifically stated, "Your lawsuit must be filed WITHIN 90 DAYS of your receipt of this notice."

On December 7, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Complaint [Docket No. 1] which alleged that the University failed to reappoint her as Chair of the Department as a result of her objections to the search procedure and that her non-reappointment constituted retaliation and thus a violation Plaintiff's Federal and State rights. Plaintiff now seeks to amend that Complaint through this motion.

Plaintiff argues that the events which occurred between December 2009 and the time she filed the present motion are relevant to her position in this motion. In the Fall of 2010, Plaintiff was subject to an internal audit conducted by Monmouth. Plaintiff asserts that she is the "first and only professor to be investigated and audited by the new Director of Internal Audits." Defendant does not deny this allegation. On April 8, 2011, Defendant commenced internal University detenure proceedings against Plaintiff based on alleged evidence revealed during the internal audit. Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement between Monmouth and the Faculty Association of Monmouth University ("FAMCO"), an arbitration hearing is required. As of the date of filing of Defendant's Brief in Opposition of Plaintiff's Motion, the hearing had not yet been scheduled and no decision or findings with regard to the allegations against Plaintiff have been made.

During the internal audit and the initiation of detenure proceedings against Plaintiff, Plaintiff and her former counsel moved forward in this litigation without seeking to amend the Complaint at any time. A joint discovery plan was agreed upon in March 2010. A conference held on April 26, 2010 resulted in a Pretrial Scheduling Order which held that "[a]ny motion to amend the pleadings must be filed no later than 7/23/10 and made returnable on 8/16/10." Significant discovery was exchanged between the parties and depositions were taken. The president of Defendant Monmouth was deposed and Plaintiff herself was subject to two days of deposition. Though the cut off date for discovery was scheduled for June 30, 2010, the parties agreed to put discovery on hold to attempt to mediate all pending matters, including the detenure proceedings. On June 21, 2011, the parties participated in private mediation - which was unsuccessful. Following mediation, Plaintiff's counsel advised the Court that Plaintiff intended on seeking new counsel and requested a status conference so that the parties could discuss the possibility of new counsel entering the case and an extension of the discovery deadlines. Before the status conference could be convened, however, new counsel for Plaintiff entered an appearance and this motion was filed.

Plaintiff argues that her amended Complaint provides supplemental facts and allegations which factually demonstrate that she was subjected to racial, age and sex discrimination. Further, Plaintiff argues that her amended Complaint provides supplemental facts and allegations which factually demonstrate that she was subjected to retaliation, harassment and a hostile work environment as well as a "continuous, clear and repeated pattern and practice of discrimination against Plaintiff based on her race, age and sex."

Plaintiff contends that allowing her to more fully plead the factual allegations related to all her claims will more efficiently resolve matters which she asserts cover parts of the same period of time and which involve overlapping issues of law and fact. In addition, Plaintiff's new counsel claims that there were deficiencies in Plaintiff's former counsel's representation of which Plaintiff was not fully aware; including circumstances surrounding mediation. Current counsel for Plaintiff ...

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