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Joseph v. State of New Jersey Civil Service Commission

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 31, 2013



MICHAEL A. SHIPP, District Judge.

Plaintiff Violette Whitney Joseph, an African-American female, alleges that she suffered unlawful discrimination and other wrongs at the hands of her current employer, the State of New Jersey Civil Service Commission ("CSC"), and its predecessor agency, the State of New Jersey Department of Personnel ("DOP"). In this action, she pursues claims against the CSC and several former DOP officials (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging various forms of employment discrimination, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs claims. (Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 51.) Plaintiff filed opposition to the motion (Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 52), and Defendants replied (Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 56.) The Court has carefully considered the parties' submissions and decided the matter without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1. For the reasons stated below, and for other good cause shown, Defendants' motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Summary of Plaintiff's Claims

The Court begins with an overview of Plaintiffs allegations. Unless otherwise noted, the following narrative is drawn from the Complaint.

Plaintiff accepted a temporary position at the DOP in March 2004 with the understanding that she would be appointed to a permanent civil service position at the conclusion of a six-month probationary period. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 9, 44.) The permanent appointment never materialized. Instead, Plaintiff claims that Defendants appointed her to a series of temporary or provisional positions to prevent her from obtaining a permanent civil service title. ( Id. at ¶¶ 12, 16, 18, 31.) At the same time, Plaintiff was shouldering new responsibilities as a result of staff reductions stemming from a multi-year "restructuring" of the DOP that began in late 2005. ( Id. at ¶¶ 18, 25.) Despite repeated requests from Plaintiff and her immediate supervisor, the DOP's management failed to appoint Plaintiff to a permanent position with a civil service classification that was commensurate with her duties and responsibilities. ( Id. at ¶¶ 13, 16, 20, 23, 24, 31, 33.) The imbalance persisted after Plaintiffs unit became part of the Department of Treasury in 2009.[1] ( Id. at ¶ 33.)

Plaintiff claims that two Caucasian males whom the DOP hired within a few months of her received permanent appointments. ( Id. at ¶ 19.) William Linhart, originally hired into the DOP, received a permanent position as a Planning Associate in another state agency. ( Id. ) Frank Girard, who began working at the DOP six months before Plaintiff, received a permanent appointment as a Supervising Education Development Specialist in Plaintiffs unit. ( Id. )

Plaintiff alleges that she has acted as project manager for the "statewide implementation of a Learning Management System" since August 2007. ( Id. at 25.) In this role, she has supervised two Caucasian employees, Dave Smith and Holly Fisher, whose salaries were "significantly" higher than her own. ( Id. at ¶¶ 27, 37.) Plaintiff also alleges that Smith was assigned to an office that was larger than her own, and that Smith and Foster both received better office equipment and IT support than Plaintiff. ( Id. at¶¶ 34, 41.)

The charging section of Plaintiffs Complaint contains twelve claims. Counts One, Two, and Eleven are based on New Jersey state law theories of implied contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In Counts Three through Ten, Plaintiff accuses Defendants of race, color and gender discrimination under namely the Federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 ("EPA"), 29 U.S.C. § 206(d); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J. Stat. Ann. § 59:8-3 et seq. Count Twelve apparently seeks to enjoin the Defendants from further acts of retaliation against Plaintiff.

B. Material Facts

In accordance with Local Civil Rule 56.1(a), Defendants submitted a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("SUMF") with their motion for summary judgment. (SUMF, ECF No. 51-4.) Plaintiff failed to submit a responsive statement. Accordingly, the Court treats each properly-supported fact in Defendants' submission as undisputed unless Plaintiff cites contrary evidence in her opposition brief. See Longoria v. New Jersey, 168 F.Supp.2d 308, 312 & n.1 (D.N.J. 2001). The facts in this case are as follows.

In March 2004, Plaintiff accepted a temporary appointment to a position in the Human Resource Development Institute ("HRDI"), a division of the DOP tasked with training government employees. (SUMF ¶¶ 2-3, 6.) Plaintiffs position carried the title "Supervising Program Development Specialist" and an annual salary of $59, 431.85. ( Id. at ¶ 4.) In June, William Linhart joined HRDI as an "Education Program Specialist" with a starting salary of $69, 861.16. ( Id. at¶ 23; Defs.' Mot., Exh. L.) After approximately six months, Linhart left the DOP for another agency, where he became Planning Associate. (SUMF ¶ 25.) Plaintiff remained at HRDI, where her salary increased steadily, rising to $61, 155.37 in June 2004, $63, 919.39 in March 2005, and $65, 198.33 in June 2005. ( Id. at ¶ 11; Pl.'s Opp'n, Exh. 20.)

In 2005, budget cuts forced HRDI to downsize and restructure its workforce. (SUMF ¶¶ 7-8.) As part ofthis process, Plaintiff was appointed to the title of "Contract Administrator 2" in August 2005. ( Id. at¶¶ 9, 15.) The appointment was "pending open-competitive examination, " which meant that Plaintiff would not be eligible for permanent status until she took a publically announced civil-service examination. ( Id. at ¶ 10; Exh. G). To prevent a reduction in Plaintiffs income-she was then earning $18, 000 more than the Contract Administrator 2 pay range allowed-HRD I "red circled" Plaintiffs salary. ...

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