Hugh v. Butler County Family Ymca, 04-1459.

Decision Date12 August 2005
Docket NumberNo. 04-1459.,04-1459.
PartiesCherie HUGH, Appellant v. BUTLER COUNTY FAMILY YMCA.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit

Neal A. Sanders, (Argued), Butler, PA, for Appellant.

Adam M. Barnes, (Argued), Trisha A. Zaken, Paul J. Walsh, III, Walsh, Collins & Blackmer, Pittsburgh, PA, for Appellee.

Before ROTH, and CHERTOFF,* Circuit Judges and SHAPIRO,** District Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

ROTH, Circuit Judge.

This case is an appeal from the District Court's grant of summary judgment for Defendant Butler County Family YMCA in a gender-based employment discrimination suit brought by a former employee, Cherie Hugh.

I. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

The District Court had subject matter jurisdiction of this case pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq and 28 U.S.C. § 1331. We have appellate jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

We exercise plenary review over the District Court's grant of summary judgment and apply, de novo, the same standard that the District Court applied. Doe v. Cty. of Centre, Pa., 242 F.3d 437, 446 (3d Cir.2001). A grant of summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party has established that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and "the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). Where the defendant is the moving party, the initial burden is on the defendant to show that the plaintiff has failed to establish one or more essential elements to her case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548. On a motion for summary judgment, a district court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must make all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Marzano v. Computer Sci. Corp., 91 F.3d 497, 501 (3d Cir.1996).

To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party cannot solely rest upon her allegations in the pleadings, but rather must set forth specific facts such that a reasonable jury could find in the non-moving party's favor, thereby establishing a genuine issue of fact for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). While the evidence that the non-moving party presents may be either direct or circumstantial, and need not be as great as a preponderance, the evidence must be more than a scintilla. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

II. Background

In January 1998, Hugh was hired as a part time volunteer recruiter by the Butler County Family YMCA and, in June 1999, she was made a full time volunteer coordinator. In May 2000, she was named Director of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program at the YMCA. In April 2001, Hugh was informed that she was being terminated for poor performance because she was lacking in leadership skills. Specifically, Hugh's supervisor stated that she was terminated because she had cancelled a meeting, because a sign for the program had not been completed, and because she had dressed inappropriately for a meeting. In neither the termination letter nor a subsequent termination meeting did the YMCA inform Hugh that she was being terminated due to her lack of qualifications for the position.

The YMCA's Employee Handbook specifically requires an employee's supervisor to attempt to resolve any problems and provide written notification prior to termination. Hugh received no negative performance reviews or criticisms, by written notification or otherwise, prior to her discharge. Hugh was replaced by a male employee at a higher salary than Hugh had been paid.

Hugh timely filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received a right to sue letter in August 2001. She then filed this complaint seeking back pay, front pay, and compensatory damages.

III. Summary Judgment

In granting summary judgment for the YMCA, the District Court concluded that Hugh did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination because she admitted that she was not initially qualified for the position. The District Court did not reach the question of whether the YMCA's reasons for termination were pretextual. Hugh contends that the District Court erred in both regards. We agree.

To prevail on her Title VII claim, Hugh must initially prove a prima facie case by showing that she is a member of a protected class, qualified for the job from which she was discharged, and that others, not in the protected class, were treated more favorably. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-3, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). If Hugh establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the YMCA to set forth a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the discharge. Id. at 804-5, 93 S.Ct. 1817. If the YMCA does so, then Hugh must show that the reasons asserted are a pretext for discrimination. To withstand a motion for summary judgment, Hugh must make a prima facie showing of discrimination and point to "evidence establishing a reasonable inference that the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of credence." Sorba v. Penn. Drilling Co., 821 F.2d 200, 205 (3d Cir.1987).

A. Prima Facie Case

The job description for Director of the Big Brothers, Big Sister program included the requirement that the applicant have a degree in social work and experience as a caseworker. The YMCA knew that Hugh did not have either of these qualifications when it hired her for the position. The YMCA states that it hired Hugh despite her lack of a degree and caseworker experience because it wanted to give her a chance to do the job, based on her experience in her previous positions with the YMCA. The YMCA argued to the District Court, and argues here, that because Hugh did not meet these qualifications, she was not qualified for the position and thus cannot present a prima facie case of discrimination.

The YMCA relies on a single case for the proposition that objective qualifications for a position should be considered in evaluating an employee's prima facie case. Weldon v. Kraft, Inc., 896 F.2d 793 (3d Cir.1990). In Weldon, there was no dispute over whether the employee possessed the background qualifications for the position for which he was hired. Rather, the employer contended that the legitimate reason for the employee's termination was that he did not possess subjective qualities such as leadership, productivity, and efficiency. We held that those subjective qualities were not a necessary part of the employee's prima facie case. Instead, these qualities were appropriately considered at the second stage of the analysis, when considering whether the lack of these qualities was a pretext for discriminatory termination. Weldon, 896 F.2d at 798-99. The holding in Weldon does not control the outcome here because of the difference in the facts of this case. Here, the issue is whether Hugh met the objective qualifications of the position for which she was hired and whether, having hired Hugh, the YMCA can now justify its termination by pointing to a lack of objective qualifications.

Contrary to the District Court's determination, we have found that satisfactory performance of duties, leading to a promotion, does establish a plaintiff's qualification for a job. Jalil v. Avdel Corp., 873 F.2d 701, 707 (3d Cir.1989). Although the facts of Jalil were not identical to those here, the principle is the same. The YMCA chose to promote Hugh, despite her lack of a degree and of caseworker experience. It is a fair inference that the decision to promote Hugh was based on her satisfactory performance in her two previous positions with the YMCA. Once the YMCA made this choice, it was deeming Hugh's prior satisfactory performance sufficient qualification for the position of...

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