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Osborne v. University of Delaware Library Administrative

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 21, 2019


          Daniel, C. Herr, Law Office of Daniel C. Herr LLC, Wilmington, DE - attorney for Plaintiff.

          James D. Taylor, Jr., Randall S. MacTough, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP, Wilmington, DE - attorneys for Defendant.



         Presently before the Court is the renewed motion for summary judgment by Defendant University of Delaware Library Administrative (“Defendant” or “the University”). (D.I. 34). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Marlene Osborne (“Plaintiff or “Osborne”) filed this action against Defendant -her employer - alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (D.I. 1).[1] The basic background facts underlying this case were set out in an earlier summary judgment opinion by Judge Sleet (see D.I. 17 at 1 -5), and this Court includes additional background only to provide the procedural context for the present motion.[2] Although Plaintiff originally filed this case pro se, she retained counsel on May 5, 2017. (See D.I. 10). Discovery closed on May 12, 2017 (see D.I. 4 & 6), and Plaintiff had taken no discovery as of that deadline.

         On June 12, 2017, in accordance with the scheduling order then in place, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. (See D.I. 11 & 12). Judge Sleet denied the motion, finding that genuine issues of material fact remained in dispute as to (1) Plaintiff s prima facie case of discrimination and (2) whether Defendant's asserted reasons for the alleged adverse employment decision were pretextual. (See D.I. 17 & 18; see also D.I. 17 at 10-11). In denying Defendant's motion for summary judgment, the court allowed additional discovery to go forward. (See D.I. 17 at 11 (“[T]he University's motion for summary judgment is denied without prejudice to being renewed after the parties have engaged in formal discovery.”)). Following a period of additional discovery, on April 1, 2019, Defendant filed the present renewed motion for summary judgment. (See D.I. 34 & 35; see also D.I. 36). Defendant's motion was fully briefed as of April 29, 2019. (See D.I. 39 & 41).


         Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits “show[] that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and [that] the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86 n.10 (1986). If the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmovant must then “come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 587 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)) (emphasis in original). The Court will “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). The Court may not grant summary judgment if a “reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa., 891 F.2d 458, 459 (3d Cir. 1989) (citation omitted).

         To defeat a motion for summary judgment, however, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586; see also Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (party opposing summary judgment “must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue”) (internal quotation marks omitted)). “[The] mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). A factual dispute is genuine only where “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 248; Horowitz v. Fed. Kemper Life Assurance Co., 57 F.3d 300, 302 n.1 (3d Cir. 1995). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (entry of summary judgment is mandated “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial”).


         As noted above, Plaintiff asserts race discrimination in violation of Title VII. (See D.I. 1 at 1). In particular, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant discriminated against her by failing to promote her to a position in the Office of Vice Provost and, further, by demoting her to an administrative assistant position in the reception area of the library. (See, e.g., D.I. 39 at 4, 7-8; D.I. 39-1 ¶¶ 14-20; D.I. 39-2 ¶¶ 8-11). Claims of discrimination are reviewed under the burden-shifting framework established by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Capps v. Mondelez Glob., LLC, 847 F.3d 144, 151 (3d Cir. 2017). In such cases, the Third Circuit has explained that:

a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. If the plaintiff succeeds, the defendant must articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. The burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the articulated reason was a mere pretext for discrimination.

Capps, 847 F.3d at 151 (quoting Ross v. Gilhuly, 755 F.3d 185, 193 (3d Cir. 2014)). “[T]he burden of persuasion remain[s] at all times with the plaintiff.” Sheriden v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours &C ...

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