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Pinese Harris v. Ramapo College of New Jersey

September 28, 2012

PINESE HARRIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
RAMAPO COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-9542-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 19, 2012 -

Before Judges Reisner, Harris, and Hoffman.

On June 30, 2008, sixty-eight-year-old plaintiff Pinese Harris ended her employment at defendant Ramapo College of New Jersey (the College) after working there for almost twenty-nine years. She subsequently sued the College -- seeking remedies under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -42, among several other legal theories -- claiming age discrimination and the creation of a hostile work environment. Judge John J. Langan, Jr. granted summary judgment in favor of the College and dismissed all of Harris's claims. She appeals, arguing that Judge Langan erred when he did not draw all reasonable inferences from the record in favor of [Harris], resolved issues of disputed material facts, made determinations of credibility and intent which are instead appropriate for a jury, and lastly, failed to account for the sensitive context of employment discrimination of which our courts are particularly mindful.

We disagree with Harris's characterization of the judge's decision and conclude that summary judgment was properly granted. Accordingly, we affirm.

I.

A.

In July 1979, Harris began working for the College. By 1982, she had become an affirmative action officer, tasked with investigating claims of discrimination. In 1994, she accepted the position of Coordinator of the Office of Events and Conferences. In that job, Harris administered the rental of campus space for non-academic uses. By 2007, Harris was reporting directly to Rosa Mulryan, Assistant Vice President for Special Projects and Events and Conferences. At that time, Harris was employed pursuant to a fixed-term contract, which began in 2003 and was set to expire on June 30, 2008.

In December 2006, Mulryan proposed the restructuring of the Office of Events and Conferences. Among the planned changes was the creation of a new position, called the Director of Facilities Scheduling/Events and Conferences, "who will serve as the final authority/decision-maker in scheduling campus indoor and outdoor spaces with internal and external users in accordance with established priorities." Mulryan's restructuring memo acknowledged that the new position would take on some of Harris's job responsibilities, noting that

[t]he [C]oordinator of [the Office of]

[E]vents and Conferences position currently filled by Pinese Harris would remain and be adjusted as described in the attached position description. Essentially, the budget/business/accounting and supervisory function would be moved to the [D]irector (in addition to the other duties of the

[D]irector) and Ms. Harris would assist the

[D]irector in producing new rental contracts and in reconciling contracts. She would continue to coordinate the various support units on campus to staff and implement events and communicate necessary requirements to event contacts.

In January 2007,*fn1 the College's administration approved the creation of the new position -- now called Manager, Facilities Scheduling/Events and Conferences -- and in March 2007, advertised for applicants. The job advertisement described the job's requisite skills and responsibilities as follows:

The Manager of Facilities Scheduling Events and Conferences serves as the final authority/decision[-]maker regarding the non-academic use of indoor and outdoor campus facilities while maintaining the balance between institutional, community, and fiscal needs. He/she is responsible for managing the business functions of the unit (budget and revenue). He/she develops and implements an ongoing marketing plan to generate steady rental income to meet specific College goals; oversees a real time online reservation system and accurate and update informational Web site; administers, develops and implements standardized fee structures; creates, develops and produces facility rental contracts and statistical reports; and directs and oversees contract reconciliations, compromising of fees collection, human resources payments, and housing fee and damage deposit administration. He/she develops and administers unit and related campus policies and procedures in accordance with the mission of ...


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