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Osborne v. University of Delaware Library Administrative

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 9, 2018

MARLENE OSBORNE, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARI LIBRARY ADMINISTRATIVE Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Marlene Osborne ("Osborne") filed this action against her employer, University of Delaware (the "University"), alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2OOOe, et seq.[1](D.I. 1, D.I. 12-1, Ex. A). Although the parties have not yet engaged in formal discovery, the University has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (D.I. 11). The court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3). For the reasons stated below, the University's motion is denied.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Osborne, an African-American female, is a long-time employee of the University's Morris Library (the "Library"). (D.I. 14 at 1). From 1996 to 1999, Osborne worked as an administrative assistant in the Library's Administrative Services group. (Id. at 2). She sat in the Library's ! Reception Area, greeted visitors, answered phones, took messages, and performed other "menial tasks." (Id.). In 1999, the University moved Osborne to the Office of Vice Provost, where she reported to the Assistant Director of Library Collections, Craig Wilson ("Wilson"). (Id.). Osborne considered her job duties in the Office of Vice Provost to be "more complex and sophisticated" than her job duties in the Reception Area. (D.I. 14-1, Ex. 1 ¶ 5). In addition to general secretarial duties, Osborne was responsible for gift-processing, ordering supplies and furniture, reconciling payments with monthly credit card statements, typing acknowledgment letters to donors, maintaining the donor-file, maintaining payroll for student assistants, and serving as the Library representative to the University's Salaried Staff Advisory Council. (Id.; D.I. 14-1, Ex. 2). From 1999 to 2011, Osborne consistently received high performance ratings. (D.I. 14 at 2).

         After Wilson retired in 2012, another Assistant Director, Dina Giambi ("Giambi"), assumed his responsibilities. (Id. at 3). So, Osborne began supporting Giambi. (Id.). Osborne and Giambi had worked for years in the same area, allowing Osborne to observe how Giambi supervised, managed, and generally interacted with four other administrative assistants (Anne Esdale, Angela Stringham, Joan Stock, and Sandra Lonie), all of whom are white females. (Id.). Osborne alleges that Giambi treated her differently than these other administrative assistants. (D.I. 12-1, Ex. A). Giambi would address Osborne in a disrespectful and loud tone of voice, pound on her desk, criticize her work unfairly, and refuse to answer her questions. (Id.).

         On September 13, 2013, Library Human Resources officials Julie Brewer ("Brewer") and Paul Anderson ("Anderson") told Osborne that she would be "transferring" back to the Reception Area and provided her a written job description for that position.[2] (D.I. 14-1, Ex. 1 at ¶ 9; Id. at Ex. 3). Typically, a University job description has a field that identifies the "incumbent, " or person currently holding the office. (See Id. at Exs. 3 & 4). For open positions, the job description typically identifies the incumbent as "vacant." (See Id. at Ex. 4). According to Osborne, another administrative assistant, Ladonna Miller ("Miller"), currently occupied the position to which she was being transferred. (D.I. 14-1, Ex. 1 at ¶ 9). Nevertheless, the job description Osborne was given identified her as the incumbent, and Brewer told her "this is going to be your position" (or similar language). (Id.; D.I. 14-1, Ex. 3). Accordingly, the transfer does not appear to have been voluntary.

         There were no changes to Osborne's title (Administrative Assistant II) or compensation as a result of the transfer. (D.I. 16 at 2). But there were changes to the location of her work station, her reporting structure, and her job responsibilities did. Osborne was physically moved from a work station in the Office of Vice Provost to a work station in the Reception Area. (D.I. 12-1, Ex. C). In her new position, Osborne no longer reported to an Assistant Director. Instead, she reported to an Administrative Assistant IV, who in turn reported to an Assistant Director. (D.I. 14-1, Ex. 1 ¶ 20; D.I. 16-1). Finally, Osborne's job duties became the same job duties she performed when she previously worked in the Reception Area from 1996 to 1999. (D.I. 14-1, Ex. 1 at ¶ 9). Osborne was also given administrative duties typically performed by an Administrative Assistant I, such as drafting simple memoranda and answering the phones. (Id. at ¶ 14). Osborne considered the move to be a defacto demotion. (Id. at ¶ 9).

         The University claims that Osborne's move was part of a Library reorganization. (D.I. 12 at 9). During the meeting on September 13, 2013, neither Brewer nor Anderson mentioned anything to Osborne about "reorganizing the Library." (D.I. 14-1, Ex. 1 at ¶ 11). The University has submitted a document dated five days after the meeting with Osborne, September 18, 2013, that discusses a "preliminary" and "conceptual" reorganization plan. (D.I. 12-1, Ex. D). The document itself does not indicate who authored it, who received it, the purposes for which it was created, or how it was actually used. (Id.). The University, likewise, has made no assertions as to any of these facts. (Id.). The document itself states that "[a]ll staff will learn about the reorganization plan ... in individual meetings today and tomorrow, " which would have been September 19th and 20th. (Id.). The document asks for "assistance in planning the details, " so that the reorganization can be implemented November 1st. (Id.). Osborne asserts that she did not have any meetings with anyone on September 19th or 20th regarding the reorganization. (D.I. 14-1 Ex. 1 at ¶ 12).

         On October 14, 2013, Brewer emailed the Library administrative team regarding implementation of the reorganization plan. (D.I. 12-1, Ex. C). The email identifies four broad goals: (1) "[e]nsure quality service coverage..., " (2) "[e]nable greater unit flexibility...through substantial cross-training across multiple positions, " (3) "[consolidate support..., " and (4) "[d]evelop equitable distribution of work ... that will also provide opportunities for job enrichment." (Id.). The email does not mention, however, any changes to any particular employee's reporting structure or job responsibilities. Thus, the email does not indicate how the "reorganization" relates to or promotes the identified goals. Instead, the bulk of the email describes in detail a process whereby the four employees identified as "Senior Secretary (L6)"-which was a group comprised of Osborne, Miller, Vicky White ("White"), and Linda Garber ("Garber")- would move to different work stations.[3] (Id.; D.I. 16-1). Over the course of two-and-a-half months, the four affected employees would each move several times to various work stations, until coming to rest at their final spot. There is no explanation for why the moves were implemented in this manner, instead of all at once. In the end, Miller, White, and Garber, all of whom are white, were moved from the Reception Area to the Office of Vice Provost, while Osborne was moved from the Office of Vice Provost to the Reception Area. (D.I. 14-1, Ex. 1 at ¶¶ 14-19). Osborne now sat next to Carmen Smith, a Secretary (L5), and the only other African-American administrative assistant in the Library Administrative Services group. (Id. at ¶ 21). Accordingly, the African-American administrative assistants in the Reception Area are separated from the white administrative assistants in the Office of the Vice Provost. (D.I. 14-1, Ex. 1 at ¶¶ 18, 21).

         Before the reorganization, the three other affected employees (White, Garber, and Miller) never had any experience supporting Librarians, unlike Osborne, who supported Librarians from 1999 to 2013. (Id. at ¶ 19). In addition, Osborne started working for the Library Services group before the three other employees. White began working in the Reception Area as an administrative assistant in 2007. (Id. at ¶ 15). She took Osborne's former workstation in the Office of Vice Provost and was later promoted, in 2017, to a professional, non-exempt administrative position. (Id.). Garber began working in the Reception Area on a part-time basis in 2011 and was later promoted, in 2017, to an Administrative Assistant IV. (Id. at ¶ 18). Miller began working in the Reception Area in 1999. (Id. at ¶ 14). As part of the reorganization, Miller was given Osborne's former job responsibilities in the Office of Vice Provost. (D.I. 12-1, Ex. A (stating that "Miller was given my former job duties"). Miller was also given a position formerly held by Darlene Moore ("Moore"), an Administrative Assistant II that retired in July 2012. (D.I. 12 at 3-4).

         Moore's position was partially-funded from a grant that required the University to replace her with someone who had been specifically trained to perform the services specified under the grant. (Id.). Osborne did not have that training, but Miller did. (Id.). Miller had the training, because sometime before Moore retired, the University selected Miller to receive the training from Moore. (Id.). It is not clear from the record how Miller was selected to receive this training or whether the opportunity to be selected for the training was open to anyone other than Miller. Osborne's EEOC charge, which serves as the complaint in this case, suggests that the selection process was not open or transparent. Osborne alleges that she was "never even considered for the position, " even though she had experience supporting Librarians and more seniority. (D.I. 12-1, Ex. A).

         Finally, Brewer's October 14th email described cross-training and opportunities for job enrichment. (Id. at Ex. C). Osborne asserts that, after the reorganization, she never underwent any cross-training, nor was she offered this training or aware of any others engaging in this training. (D.I. 14-1, Ex. 1 at ¶ 22). In addition, Osborne asserts that she has not received any meaningful opportunities for job enrichment since the Library Reorganization unlike the other Senior Secretaries (L6) that have since been promoted. (Id. at ¶ 23).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), "[t]he court will grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." A genuine dispute is one that 'may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986)). A material fact is one "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id. The court reviews the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in her favor. Lomando v. United States,667 F.3d 363, 371 (3d Cir. 2011). The moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law if the nonmoving ...


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