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Kirschling v. Atlantic City Board of Education

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 31, 2014

THOMAS KIRSCHLING, Plaintiff,
v.
ATLANTIC CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Robert P. Merenich, Esquire, Gemmel, Todd & Merenich, P.A., Linwood, New Jersey, Attorney for Plaintiff Thomas Kirschling.

Cynthia E. Ringel, Esquire, Erin Leigh Henderson, Esquire, Peter P. Perla, Esquire, Jasinski, P.C., Newark, New Jersey, Attorney for Defendant Atlantic City Board of Education.

OPINION

Page 590

NOEL L. HILLMAN, United States District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court by way of Defendant Atlantic City Board of Education's motion [Doc. No. 58] for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and decides this matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

For the reasons expressed below, Defendant's motion will be granted.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff brings this action against Defendant Atlantic City Board of Education (" Defendant" or " the Board" ) asserting claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (" NJLAD" ), N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-1, et seq. Plaintiff originally filed suit against the Board in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Atlantic County, Law Division. The Board subsequently removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, et seq., asserting that original jurisdiction exists over Plaintiff's state law claim based on diversity of citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

On November 15, 2011, the Court issued an Order directing the defendant to clarify its assertion of diversity jurisdiction. In response, the Board filed an amended notice of removal. The Court having been satisfied that complete diversity of citizenship exists [1] and that the exercise of jurisdiction here is proper,[2] the case proceeded

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through discovery to the filing of the Board's motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

The Board " is a public entity responsible for the education and well-being of more than 7,000 students in the Atlantic city area." (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [Doc. No. 58-5] (hereinafter, " Board's SOF" ), ¶ 1; Pl.'s Reply to Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [Doc. No. 64] (hereinafter, " Pl.'s Reply SOF" ), ¶ 1.) Plaintiff, a Caucasian [3] male, is a former employee of the Board who was hired in July 2000 as the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources - a position he held until July 31, 2009. (Board's SOF ¶ ¶ 4-5, 8; Pl.'s Reply SOF ¶ ¶ 4-5, 8.) Approximately two years after his employment by the Board ended, Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action alleging that the Board violated the NJLAD when it constructively discharged Plaintiff because of his Caucasian race. (Board's SOF ¶ ¶ 18-19; Pl.'s Reply SOF ¶ ¶ 18-19.)

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was constructively discharged " because, as was directly told to Plaintiff, the [Board] sought to place a black (African-American) in his position" in order to " ensure the hiring of African-Americans with personal, familial and financial ties to ... African-American Board members" and to " increase the number of African-American employees" in the Atlantic City School District. (Compl., Ex. A to Amended Notice of Removal, [Doc. No. 10-1] ¶ ¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff further alleges that the Board " replaced Plaintiff with an African-American female." (Id. ¶ 10.) The Board, however, denies that it discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of his race and disputes Plaintiff's characterization of his separation from employment with the Board on July 31, 2009. The Board contends that " [t]oward the end of his 2007 employment contract, Plaintiff retired and tendered his resignation." (Board's SOF ¶ 11; see also Pl.'s July 13, 2009 Resignation Letter, Ex. K to Certification of Peter Perla, Esq. [Doc. No. 58-4].)

Plaintiff denies that his " resignation was done voluntarily" and contends that he was " forced to retire and did so a year before the expiration of his three year contract." (Pl.'s Reply SOF ¶ 11.) Plaintiff contends that ultimately he believed that the Board " would stop at [nothing] to remove him" and therefore, he resigned his position effective July 31, 2009. (Pl.'s Counter Statement of Material Facts [Doc. No. 64] (hereinafter, " Pl.'s Counter SOF" ), ¶ 97.) According to Plaintiff's testimony, his belief that the Board would stop at nothing to remove him stemmed from the following: (1) he was told that the Board " wanted a black administrator in his position" and informed him " of the individual who would replace him" ; (2) he was told by a Board member that the Board member was " going to get him" ; (3) he was subjected to " so much unfounded criticism" for his implementation of a drug testing policy that the Superintendent attended " Personnel Committee meetings to act as a buffer" between Plaintiff and Board members on the Committee; (4) he was subjected to " rehashed challenges to his accumulated sick, comp and vacation time" despite ...


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