United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Oral argument on the motions was heard on May 21, 2015 and the record of that proceeding is incorporated here. For the reasons discussed on the record and those below, the motions will be granted.
Plaintiff Yulanda Haddix was an employee of Defendant Camden County Educational Services Commission ("CCESC"). She was hired as a special education teacher in 1998 and worked at Defendant Camden County Youth Detention Center ("CCYDC") until June 30, 2012.
CCYDC is a detention center for troubled and/or incarcerated youth under the control of the County of Camden. The County of Camden contracts with CCESC to provide education services to the detained youth housed at the CCYDC. (DelVecchio Aff., ¶2; Hardy Dep., 11:20-25). CCESC hires the teachers to work at the Center on a contract basis. (DelVecchio Aff., ¶3).
Plaintiff held a Special Education certification from the State of New Jersey Department of Education ("NJDOE"). Earlier in her career, she taught all academic subjects including math, science, reading, and English. She became highly qualified in science by the NJDOE. She then started to teach life skills, vocational education, and family. (Haddix Dep., 24:13-25, 114:17-20; Hardy Aff., ¶ 4.) The NJDOE requires a Certification to teach certain subjects, including family life. (Hardy Dep., 23:13-24:2; Hardy Aff., ¶6.) Plaintiff did not have the required Certification in Family and Consumer Sciences. (Haddix Dep., 114:23-115:10.)
Tammy Hardy, the CCESC site education supervisor at CCYDC, communicated the NJDOE requirement to Plaintiff and others during her monthly staff meetings as far back as 2009. (Hardy Dep., 24:7-26:12, Hardy Aff., ¶ 3 and 5.) In February 2012, then-Superintendent of CCESC, Dr. Edward Wasilewski, held a meeting with Plaintiff and two other teachers, Kathleen Hyatt and Bernadette Swietanski, about their continued employment with CCESC. They were informed that to continue working at CCYDC they were to obtain subject matter Certifications from the NJDOE which required all three teachers to take a Praxis exam through the State of New Jersey and finish any remaining coursework to obtain the Certifications. (Hardy Dep., 24:3-6, 27:11; Wasilewski Aff., ¶3, 11; Hardy Aff., ¶6.) The Certification requirement for the three CCESC employees was mandated by the County Superintendent, Margaret Nicolosi. (Hardy Dep., 22:13-17; Wasilewski Aff., ¶2 and 3; Hardy Aff. ¶6.)
Thereafter, Plaintiff took the Praxis and failed. She had an opportunity to take the examination a second time, but chose not to do so. (Haddix Dep., XXX-XX-XXX:1; 117:19-118:4; Wasilewski Aff., ¶8 and 11; Hardy Aff., ¶9.) On April 2, 2012, CCESC issued a Rice Notice to Plaintiff informing her that her employment would be discussed at the next CCESC board meeting scheduled for April 4, 2012. (Letter to Haddix from Dr. Wasilewski dated April 2, 2012.) On April 4, 2012 CCESC voted to terminate Plaintiff's, Ms. Hyatt's, and Ms. Swietanski's employment because they did not hold the required certification mandated by the Camden County Superintendent of Schools and the State. However, during Dr. Wasilewski's presentation to the Board, he made it clear that if Plaintiff were to obtain the proper certification, the CCESC would rescind her termination. (Wasilewski Aff., ¶8.) Plaintiff was notified of her termination on April 5, 2012, which was to be effective on June 30, 2012. (Superintendent's Report to the CCESC's Board of Directors dated April 4, 2012, ¶5.)
On April 5, 2012, Plaintiff signed a sexual harassment complaint against Defendant Captain Elaris Robinson, a guard at CCYDC employed by the County of Camden; the County received the completed Affirmative Action Complaint form on April 10, 2012. (Robinson Dep., 10:25-11:4, 13:15-25.) Plaintiff has alleged in this case that over a number of years, Robinson made unwanted sexual advances toward Plaintiff asking for kisses, dates, and sexual relations/favors. Plaintiff refused these, but did not voice or file any complaints allegedly for fear of possible retaliation. (Hardy Dep., 15:10-19; Edwards Dep., 45:10-17.) On April 11, 2012 the County notified Hardy that Plaintiff filed a Complaint. (Memorandum from Cirii copied to Hardy dated April 11, 2012.) This was the first that Hardy learned Plaintiff had an issue with Robinson. (Hardy Dep., 14:8-151, 63:9-64:11, 66:2-16; Wasilewski Aff., ¶12; Hardy Aff., ¶16.) Hardy immediately notified CCESC. (Hardy Dep., 15:8-9.)
The County's Affirmative Action Officer initially investigated the Complaint. The Action Officer did not sustain the allegation. (Letter to Haddix from Affirmative Action Officer dated April 16, 2012.) On April 20, 2012, Plaintiff complained to CCESC and the County that Robinson confronted her in CCYDC's parking lot about the sexual harassment complaint she filed against him. Robinson's supervisors were immediately called and directed to inform Robinson that he was to have no contact with Plaintiff. (Memo to file dated April 20, 2012 and Plaintiff's Incident Report dated April 24, 2012.) The CCESC Superintendent also contacted the County to address Plaintiff's complaint. (Memo to file dated May 1, 2012; Wasilewski Aff., ¶15.) On April 24, 2012, the County's Human Resources Department issued an investigation report regarding the sexual harassment complaint. It also did not find that Plaintiff's allegations rose to the level of sexual harassment. (Memo dated April 24, 2012.) Plaintiff filed a Complaint with the EEOC on April 24, 2012.
Plaintiff's April 5, 2012 sexual harassment complaint alleged that she received two text messages from Robinson that she felt were inappropriate. The texts that came from "Eva" read "Happy Valentine's Day!" on February 14, 2012 and "Can you meet for cocktails or a quick bite? I really need to talk with you" on March 22, 2014. (Eisen Dep., 22:2-12; Haddix Dep., 74:14-75:10.) The complaint did not allege a request for a kiss or any other sexually inappropriate information. (Haddix Dep., 81:23-82:6.) Plaintiff also did not provide any other instances of inappropriate comments or other inappropriate behavior when she was interviewed during the investigation. (Eisen Dep., 34:23, 62:19-63:16, 64:2-16, 70:15-71:5.) The investigator found the information provided by Plaintiff was not a violation of the County policy; he "couldn't prove that Mr. Robinson was involved, in any way, and there was very little to go on, so [he] found that it didn't rise to the level of violating the policy." (Eisen Dep., 16:4-17:3.)
Count One of the Complaint alleges Plaintiff was subjected to an adverse employment action (unlawful discharge) based on race discrimination and gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.A. §2000(e). Count Two of the Complaint alleges retaliatory discharge after Plaintiff offered statements in conjunction with investigations, and filed charges in her own right, involving sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, in violation of Title VII. Count Three of the Complaint alleges Plaintiff was subjected to an adverse employment action (unlawful termination) based on race discrimination and gender discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J. Stat. Ann. §10:5-1. Count Four of the Complaint alleges sexual harassment and hostile environment workplace discrimination in violation of the NJLAD. Count Five of the Complaint alleges retaliatory discharge in violation of the NJLAD. Count Six alleges a claim for ...