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Inconsistent Explanations for Adverse Action Leads to Denial of Summary Judgment

A federal district court in Pennsylvania denied the Pittston Area School District’s motion for summary judgment, finding Plaintiff offered sufficient evidence to show the District’s stated reasons for denying Plaintiff a promotional opportunity were pretextual.  Kupetz v. Pittston Area School District.  Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that the District posted one position, then during a Board meeting changed the title, salary, duties, and reporting structure, and hired a less-qualified younger woman, in effect, preventing him from applying for the new position. The District argued that Plaintiff’s claim of age discrimination must fail because there was no adverse employment action and offered three nondiscriminatory reasons for changing the position and hiring a younger candidate: (1) to clarify the title and organizational structure; (2) the District’s lawyer instructed them to; and, (3) the woman that was hired had a prior working relationship with the Superintendent.

Plaintiff was able to establish pretext by, among other things, showing that the District offered several conflicting statements regarding the changing of the title. One explanation related to the reporting structure, another saying the change was in title only. Given these and other conflicting statements, the Court concluded that the District “fail[ed] to present a cohesive (or in many ways, coherent) reason as to why the events unfolded as they did, with nearly every person deposed offering a different reason or no reason at all for the hiring” decision. Thus, the Court found that a factfinder could reasonably believe the District’s reasons for denial of the promotional opportunity were pretextual.

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Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020National Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 247
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About this Author

Associate

Kristie M. Iacopetta is an Associate in the Long Island, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C.

Ms. Iacopetta assists federal contractors in the preparation of affirmative action plans and defends contractors against allegations of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and veteran status in connection with audits by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) and in related litigation brought on OFCCP’s behalf by the Solicitor’s Office at the U.S. Department of Labor. She also...

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