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Shahin v. State, Department of Finance

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 8, 2014

NINA SHAHIN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE, Defendant.

Nina Shahin, Pro Se, Dover, Delaware. Plaintiff.

Laura L. Gerard and Stuart B. Drowos, Deputy Attorneys General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorneys for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Nina Shahin ("Plaintiff' or "Shahin") filed this action against Defendant the State of Delaware Department of Finance ("Defendant") alleging employment discrimination and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. 629, et seq. ; the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act ("DDEA"), as amended, 19 Del. C. § 710, et seq. ; and the Delaware Handicapped Persons Employment Protection Act ("DHPEPA"), 19 Del. C. § 720, et seq. (DJ. 2) The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1367. Presently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment (D.I. 60, 62), as well as Plaintiffs motion for sanctions (D.I. 68). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's motion and will deny Shahin's motions.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Shahin filed a charge of discrimination with the Department of Labor of the State of Delaware ("DDOL") on January 7, 2009. (D.I. 21 Ex.) Shahin applied for the position of State Accountant IV on April 26, 2008 and was interviewed for the position on June 2, 2008. She contacted Defendant on October 30, 2008 regarding her status in the application process but failed to obtain an answer clarifying her status. She made another inquiry on October 31, 2008. Defendant's website indicated that the position remained open, but Defendant failed to hire Shahin or advise her of her status. Shahin asserted that she was a qualified individual with a disability who could perform the essential functions of the job in question either with or without an accommodation. The charge of discrimination stated that Defendant failed to hire her based upon her disability, age, national origin (Ukrainian), and in retaliation for filing previous charges of discrimination. The DDOL found no reasonable cause to believe than an unlawful employment practice had occurred, and a notice of right to sue issued on December 7, 2009. (D.I. 2 Ex.) Plaintiff filed this action on March 8, 2010. (D.I. 2)

Thereafter, following a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant, the Court dismissed the ADA and ADEA claims with prejudice and gave Shahin leave to amend. (D.I. 15) She filed an amended complaint on July 1, 2011, alleging Defendant failed to hire her in violation of Title VII, ADA, ADEA, DDEA, and DHPEPA on the bases of age and disability discrimination and retaliation. (D.I. 18) Defendant moved to dismiss the amended complaint. The retaliation, discrimination on the basis of national origin, and the DDEA claims survived the motion to dismiss, while all other claims were dismissed. (D.I. 25) The parties now move for summary judgment. In addition, Shahin moves for sanctions. (D.I. 23)

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In April 2008, the Department of Finance's Division of Human Resources posted and advertised an opening for the position of State Accountant IV Help Desk Manager.[1] (D.I. 64 at A-3) The position was summarized as follows:

This employee will be a key person to assist in the determination [sic] the state's needs and plans for the State of Delaware's Financials ERP Project Help Desk prior to system implementation. The successful candidate will develop and implement initiatives, plans, programs and systems to meet the state's needs and participate in the hiring of staff. The employee will manage approximately 13 staff upon "Go-Live" of the system and be responsible for leading and providing financials help desk services statewide.

(D.I. 61 Ex. A at Ex. 1) According to Cheryl Sipple ("Sipple"), who participated in the hiring process for the position at issue, the position focused more on service help desk and management experience, not merely accounting experience or ability. (D.I. 61 Ex. A at 60-64; D.I. 64 at A-3) The person who filled the position would manage and supervise a team of help desk staff trained specifically to monitor and respond to incoming help requests from any of the 4, 000 end-users throughout the State for any of the eleven modules being used in the First State financials system. (D.I. 64 at A-2) Applicants were compared on a number of factors, including interview questions, and the applicants were compared to others in the applicant pool. ( Id. ) The applications for vacant positions are received online, via the U.S. Postal Service, hand delivered, and/or through state mail. ( Id. ) The applications were reviewed by the Department of Finance/Division of Human Resource staff and thereafter applicants were deemed qualified or not qualified for the position applied for based upon the application, supplemental questionnaire, and resume (if submitted by the applicant). ( Id. )

Sipple's superior, described as the functional manager, identified interview panels for rounds one and two of the interview process. ( Id. ) The interview panels consisted of a male, a female, and a person of "ethnic" origin. ( Id. ) The second round panel usually included the hiring manager for the posted position. ( Id. ) The functional manager, assisted by the hiring manager, compiled interview questions relative to the specific position posted. ( Id. ) The interview panels and interview questions were submitted for approval to the Director of Human Resources for the Department of Finance. ( Id. ) Following approval, a certification list of qualified applicants was sent to the functional manager. ( Id. ) Neither the functional manager nor the interview panels are aware of applicants who did, or did not, qualify for the open position. ( Id. at A-2, A-3) Based upon the number of applications received, the functional manager typically reviewed the applications to determine the applicants selected for interviews. ( Id. at A-3)

On February 6, 2008, Shahin applied for the limited-term position of State Accountant IV with the Department of Finance.[2] (D.I. 63 Ex. A at Ex. 6) Shahin was included on the certification list prepared and selected for the first round of interviews. (D.I. 64 at A-2, A-3) Eight other applicants were also selected for the first round of interviews. (D.I. 37, Answer to Interrog. No. 4) Interviews were scheduled and the interview panel members were provided with the applications selected for interview and interview questions. (D.I. 64 at A-3) The round one ...


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