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Thompson v. Bridgeton Board of Education

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 27, 2014

ALBERT RONALD THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIDGETON BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants

Page 447

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 448

Appearances: MATTHEW BENJAMIN WEISBERG, PROCHNIAK WEISBERG, PC, MORTON, PA, Attorney for plaintiff.

ERIC L. HARRISON, METHFESSEL & WERBEL, PC, EDISON, NJ, Attorney for defendants Bridgeton Board of Education and Terrell Everett.

OPINION

Page 449

NOEL L. HILLMAN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff has brought claims of reverse employment discrimination on account of race for defendants' failure to rehire him after he was terminated following a reduction

Page 450

in force. Before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons expressed below, defendants' motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Albert Thompson, is a white male who served as an officer in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, and has worked in law enforcement since 1973. Plaintiff retired from the New Jersey State Police in 1998, after attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class. On October 13, 1999, defendant Bridgeton Board of Education (" the District" ) hired plaintiff as an Education Enforcement Officer (" EEO" ). Defendant Terrell Everett served as director of human resources for the District from approximately 1998 to 2003, and returned to that position in December 2010.

In a letter dated April 1, 2010, the District notified plaintiff that his position had been abolished pursuant to a reduction in force (" RIF" ). Plaintiff was terminated on June 30, 2010. During his employment, plaintiff always received positive evaluations, and was described in a 2002 evaluation as doing " an outstanding job."

In or about August 2011, defendants publicly advertised two vacancies for EEO positions which were similar to plaintiff's former position. Plaintiff saw the posting in a newspaper and contacted his former supervisor, Director of Security Robert Stevens. Stevens told plaintiff that he would like to rehire him and would begin the paperwork to rehire plaintiff. However, Stevens later advised plaintiff that he would have to interview for the position. Stevens testified that he told plaintiff that it " would have been nice if [he] could have just recalled [plaintiff]," but that the human resources department advised him that EEOs did not have recall rights so plaintiff would have to apply like everyone else.

The interview committee consisted of defendant Everett, Stevens, elementary school principal Derek Macchia, and high school principal Lynn Williams. Everett, Macchia, and Williams are all equal employment opportunity Officers. Everett and Williams are African American. Stevens and Macchia are white. Because of plaintiff's experience as an EEO, he was selected for an interview.

The committee interviewed plaintiff and three other applicants, Gerald Ward, Jesus Nieves, and Michael Brown. At the interviews, all applicants were asked the same set of questions, which were read by the same person -- Stevens. As a rule, Stevens did not ask follow-up questions. Applicants were expected to give full answers to the questions posed. Each member of the interview committee took notes on his or her impression of the applicants' answers to the questions and assigned a numerical score to each response. Everett and Stevens testified that the race of the applicants was not considered or discussed during the interview process. Williams testified that the District had no affirmative action policy creating a preference for minority candidates; her intention was to hire the best candidate.

At the conclusion of the interviews, members of the interview committee tallied their scores and gave their sheets to Stevens. The committee ultimately recommended all four applicants but in a ranked order according to numerical score, with Nieves and Brown ranking first and second. The original score sheets and notes from the interviewers, however, have been lost and the committee members do not recall the exact scores assigned to each candidate.

Plaintiff does not challenge the District's decision to terminate him as part of the

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RIF. Rather, plaintiff challenges the District's decision to hire Brown and Nieves both of whom did not have plaintiff's extensive job experience in law enforcement which included 11 years' experience as an EEO. Plaintiff asserts that Brown and Nieves, who are minorities, were chosen based on their race.

Plaintiff filed claims against defendants for breach of contract, violations of Title VII, equal protection and violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Plaintiff also requests sanctions on ground of spoliation concerning the lost interview notes and score sheets.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Jurisdiction

The Court has subject matter jurisdiction of this case pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. The Court exercises supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's ...


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