825 F.2d 1004 (6th Cir. 1987), 85-1254, Kitchen v. Chippewa Valley Schools

Docket Nº:85-1254.
Citation:825 F.2d 1004
Party Name:Ruth KITCHEN, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CHIPPEWA VALLEY SCHOOLS; Chippewa Valley School Board of Education; George Depillo; Thomas Scullen; and Edward Skowneski, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:July 31, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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825 F.2d 1004 (6th Cir. 1987)

Ruth KITCHEN, Plaintiff-Appellee,


CHIPPEWA VALLEY SCHOOLS; Chippewa Valley School Board of

Education; George Depillo; Thomas Scullen; and

Edward Skowneski, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 85-1254.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 31, 1987

Argued Aug. 14, 1986.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied Oct. 16, 1987.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Robert M. Vercruysse (argued), Raymond J. Carey, Butzel, Long, Gust, Klein & Van Zile, Detroit, Mich., for defendants-appellants.

Philip Green (argued), Ann Arbor, Mich., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before JONES and NELSON, Circuit Judges; and CELEBREZZE, Senior Circuit Judge.

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NATHANIEL R. JONES, Circuit Judge.

The appellants in this employment discrimination case brought under 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1983 and 2000e et seq. (1982), and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Mich.Comp.Laws Ann. Sec. 37.2701(a) (West 1985), appeal from a jury verdict and court judgment entered against them. The appellee in this action brought suit in federal district court alleging that the appellants had discriminated against her with respect to compensation and promotion. She also alleged that the appellants had retaliated against her for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and this lawsuit. This appeal presents, inter alia, the issues of whether the district court erred in exercising pendent jurisdiction over the state claim and submitting that claim to the jury; whether the jury instructions were sufficient for the Sec. 1983 and Elliott-Larsen claims; whether the court's judgment and the jury verdict are inconsistent; and whether the court's judgment is clearly erroneous and the jury verdict unsupported by sufficient evidence. We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.


The district court made the following findings of fact: The appellee, Ruth Kitchen, is the high school completion coordinator for the Chippewa Valley School system ("CVS"). The high school completion program is designed to provide adult students with an opportunity to earn a high school diploma. The appellants are the Chippewa Valley Schools; the Chippewa Valley Board of Education; Dr. George DePillo, superintendent of the Chippewa Valley Schools; Dr. Thomas Scullen, assistant superintendent; and Mr. Edward Skowneski, assistant superintendent for personnel and labor management. Kitchen was first employed by CVS in September 1977 as a part-time hourly adult high school teacher in the Adult High School Completion Program ("HSCP"). The HSCP was a component of the Community Education Program, which was directed by Gerald Becker. Kitchen continued to work as a part-time hourly teacher until August 1978, when Mr. Becker hired her to coordinate the HSCP in the district on a part-time basis. As a part-time coordinator, she had the responsibility for coordinating the budget, personnel, and curriculum matters, subject to final approval by Mr. Becker. She reported to him, and he, in turn, reported to the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.

In August 1979, Kitchen was made a full-time salaried employee. Following this appointment, she assumed full responsibility for the high school completion program. Her responsibilities included hiring teachers, supervising the clerical staff, developing the budget, assisting in room assignments, and supervising the building and grounds. Mr. Becker remained her immediate supervisor. Mr. Becker appears to have taken a basically passive role in the high school completion program. For the most part, Kitchen merely informed Mr. Becker as to what she was doing. The only exception was budget matters, where Mr. Becker's approval was needed for checks and other documents.

Kitchen earned $17,500 in her first year as the full-time high school completion coordinator in 1979-80. Her salary for ensuing school years was as follows:

1980-81: $18,900 1981-82: $19,200 1982-83: $20,622 1983-84: $20,622 1984-85: $21,800 Kitchen requested a pay raise and discussed the raise with the appellants on several occasions. The appellants agreed that, based on her responsibilities and job performance, she was entitled to a raise. However, she was granted a raise on only one occasion. This occurred when her status was changed from that of a part-time hourly employee to a full-time salaried employee. Because her initial full-time salary was set at a level where she would have made more as an hourly employee, her salary was raised to the point where she could become a salaried employee without taking a pay cut. The increase in her

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salary in other years represented cost of living increases given all employees.

In 1982, the Chippewa Valley School System was forced to institute cost saving measures. As a result, Kitchen's supervisor, Mr. Becker, was removed from his position as director of community education. Mr. Becker's salary was $40,000 at the time that his position was eliminated. Kitchen was earning approximately one-half that amount in 1982. As a result of Mr. Becker's termination, Kitchen assumed de facto final authority for the high school completion program for all matters, including the budget. At the same time, Carl Roth, assistant superintendent for business affairs, retired and Thomas Tadejewski was appointed business manager. Mr. Tadejewski assumed many of Mr. Roth's former job responsibilities and was given a salary increase of $8,600, from $28,500 to $37,100, which included, in part, cost of living adjustments given to all employees. At the same time, Kitchen's request for a $2,500 pay raise was denied.

Early in the 1981-82 school year, a notice of vacancy was posted for an assistant high school principal. Kitchen submitted an application for the position. Applicants were required to have a master's degree and a minimum of five years teaching experience, including two years in a regular high school setting. Kitchen did have a master's degree, but she did not have the required teaching experience. Although she was granted an interview for the position, she was not selected to fill the vacancy because she did not satisfy the minimum requirements. The candidate selected to fill the position, Donald Weichert, had a master's degree and over twenty years of teaching experience, including approximately twenty years at the high school level.

On September 7, 1982, Kitchen filed charges with the EEOC, claiming that she was being discriminated against. She commenced the instant suit on October 15, 1982. Thereafter, the appellants substantially altered her job responsibilities, reporting procedures, and relationship with other employees. Before Kitchen filed her complaint, she had reported directly to Dr. Scullen, an assistant superintendent, regarding the high school completion program. After the complaint was filed, Kitchen was directed to report first to John Savel, an assistant principal, and then later to Rose Belanca, the director of vocational education, one of the lowest ranking administrative positions within the school district. The appellants claimed that they had acted in good faith after consulting their attorneys. However, the record indicates that the appellants did not consult their attorneys until after the organizational changes were approved. Dr. Scullen also informed Kitchen that all further communications between them should be in writing. The work hours of the high school completion program were also changed to make them less flexible and later at night, thus heightening tension between Kitchen and her fellow employees. Mrs. Belanca was also informed that she could not have a pay raise until after Kitchen's lawsuit was settled.


Kitchen's complaint alleged that the appellants had violated Title VII by unfairly setting her jobs, salary range and salary level below those set for men with comparable tasks and responsibilities, thereby intentionally discriminating against her on the basis of her sex. It further alleged that the appellants had intentionally discriminated against her by failing to promote her to assistant high school principal. Kitchen sought back pay and other equitable relief for these claims under Title VII. She also alleged that the appellants had violated her fourteenth amendment right to equal protection and sought relief under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. Her equal protection claim covered her claim of unequal compensation and failure to promote. Under the Sec. 1983 claim, Kitchen sought back pay and compensatory relief for embarassment, humiliation, sense of outrage, and loss of self esteem, as well as costs and attorney's fees.

In a supplemental complaint, Kitchen raised a federal claim of unlawful retaliation under Sec. 704(a) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C.

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Sec. 2000e-3(a), and a pendent state law retaliation claim under Sec. 701(a) of the Elliott-Larsen Act. Mich.Comp.Laws Ann. Sec. 37.2701(a). Kitchen alleged that the appellants had intentionally retaliated against her for filing a charge of sex discrimination with the EEOC and this lawsuit. Under this complaint, Kitchen sought injunctive relief, back pay, and compensatory damages for anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress.

Kitchen's Sec. 1983 claim and state law retaliation claim were tried to a jury over the appellants' objections. The jury returned a verdict against the individual appellants, DePillo, Scullen, and Skowneski, finding that they had...

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