United States District Court, D. Delaware
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.(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.
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).
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.).
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. (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.
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).
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).
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. (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).
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).
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).
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).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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