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Sanders v. University of Medicine

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

August 20, 2013

AARON SANDERS, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Submitted March 20, 2013.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. L-1877-09.

Susan E. Babb and Dennis K. Kuroishi, attorneys for appellant.

Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Melissa Raksa, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Noreen P. Kemether, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Before Judges Simonelli and Accurso.


In this employment matter, plaintiff Aaron Sanders appeals from the November 4, 2011 Law Division order, which granted summary judgment to defendant University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and dismissed with prejudice plaintiff's remaining claims of race discrimination-based failure-to-hire and retaliation in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -42.[2] On appeal, plaintiff contends the trial judge did not properly apply the burden-shifting analysis applicable to his claims, the judge failed to afford him all reasonable inferences, and he presented adequate proof to withstand summary judgment. We disagree with these contentions and affirm.

The competent evidence in the record reveals the following. From approximately July 2000 to April 2007, plaintiff, an African-American, was employed in the at-will position of manager of the Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity (AA/EEO) Office at the School of Osteopathic Medicine (UMDNJ-SOM or the Stratford Campus). His responsibilities included investigating employee complaints of discrimination and harassment. UMDNJ's then Associate Vice-President of AA/EEO, Catherine Bolder (Bolder), an African-American, was plaintiff's direct supervisor. Her office was located at UMDNJ's Newark Campus. Until 2007, Bolder supervised all of UMDNJ's AA/EEO Offices, which were located on the Stratford and Newark Campuses and the New Brunswick Campus.

Plaintiff alleged that Bolder and the former Dean of UMDNJ-SOM, R. Michael Gallagher (Gallagher), conspired to eliminate all of the AA/EEO Offices and prevent plaintiff's re-hire in another UMDNJ position in retaliation for plaintiff's participation in a federal investigation involving Gallagher and reporting of discrimination complaints plaintiff had investigated and found meritorious. Plaintiff also claimed that UMDNJ failed to re-hire him based on race discrimination.


In December 2005, a federal monitor was appointed to investigate Medicaid fraud and other financial improprieties at UMDNJ. The investigation did not include the AA/EEO Offices. On September 18, 2006, the federal monitor issued a report, which revealed that Gallagher had arranged a salaried "no-show" job for former New Jersey State Senator Wayne Bryant in exchange for Bryant steering State funds to UMDNJ-SOM. As a result, in November 2006, UMDNJ began proceedings to revoke Gallagher's tenure and terminate his employment.

Plaintiff claimed that on November 28, 2006, he told attorneys involved in the de-tenure and termination proceedings about employee discrimination and harassment complaints involving Gallagher and Gallagher's attempt to influence the outcome of AA/EEO investigations. By this time, however, the federal monitor had already reported Gallagher's improper conduct and UMDNJ had begun proceedings to de-tenure and terminate him. In addition, plaintiff presented no evidence of the alleged complaints involving Gallagher and did not explain how his involvement in the de-tenure and termination proceedings constituted protected activity or resulted in retaliation against him.

After completing an investigation of an employee's complaint, plaintiff prepared a draft report summarizing his findings and conclusions, which he submitted to Bolder. Plaintiff claimed that on November 28, 2006, he reported to Jim DiGiulio (DiGiulio), who plaintiff said was a representative of the federal monitor, that Bolder was rejecting or delaying resolution of the draft reports that found merit to the claims until after the employee was terminated. However, DiGiulio was ...

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