Peper v. Princeton University Bd. of Trustees

Decision Date05 July 1978
Parties, 20 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 607, 18 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 8784 Ilene PEPER, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. PRINCETON UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES, William Bowen, F. Sheldon Hackney, Anthony Maruca, William Reed, Bruce Edwards and Stanley Adelson, Defendants- Appellants.
CourtNew Jersey Supreme Court
William J. Brennan, III, Trenton, for defendants-appellants (Smith, Stratton, Wise & Heher, Trenton, attorneys; William J. Brennan, Ann Reichelderfer, Trenton, and Thomas H. Wright, Princeton, on the brief)

Kathryn Trenner, Princeton, for plaintiff-respondent.

Lum, Biunno & Tompkins, Morristown, submitted a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Fairleigh Dickinson University Steven Blader, Asst. Deputy Public Advocate, submitted a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Public Advocate (Stanley C. Van Ness, Public Advocate, attorney).

(Ronald H. DeMaria, Newark, of counsel; Dominick A. Mazzagetti, Newark, on the brief).

The opinion of the court was delivered by


The resolution of this action charging Princeton University with sex discrimination against one of its female employees requires our determination of the issues of subject matter jurisdiction, the proper scope of appellate review of a trial judge's findings of fact, and the selection of an appropriate standard for measuring the adequacy of a plaintiff's Prima facie showing in an employment discrimination case. The plaintiff, Ilene Peper, complains that sex discrimination on the part of employees of Princeton University prevented her from being promoted. The appellant University challenges the propriety of the Appellate Division's reversal of the trial judge's finding of no discrimination. 151 N.J.Super. 15, 376 A.2d 535 (App.Div.1977).

From August 1968 until her abrupt resignation on October 1, 1973, Peper was employed in the University Office of Personnel Services. There were four separate units in the Personnel Office: wage and salary, training and communications, benefits, and employment. She was assigned to the employment section of that office as one of three recruiters of employees for the nonacademic staff of the University, and given the title of Administrative Assistant. 1 Her direct supervisor during the four years she worked in the employment section was Bruce Edwards. On January 1, 1969 plaintiff In 1970 Peper made her initial request to Edwards for a promotion. He denied the request due to budget limitations. In June 1971 she again requested a promotion. Edwards refused to single her out for promotion and indicated that she would not be promoted unless her peers in the employment section, Barbour and Oliver, were also promoted. At Edwards' request Peper prepared a memo to support her assertion that she had more experience than Barbour and Oliver and thus should be singled out for promotion. The memo outlined Peper's responsibilities at the Accelerator Project from 1960-1965. In January 1972 she received a raise but no promotion.

was promoted to the rank of Administrative Associate, with an attendant increase in salary. Her two peers in the employment section were James Barbour and Joseph Mignon, who were also recruiters. Peper had more work experience than the two men, as she had worked at the Accelerator Project at Princeton's Forrestal [389 A.2d 469] Campus from 1960 to 1965, when a family relocation had caused her to leave the employ of Princeton until August 1968. The two men, however, were college graduates which Peper was not. As of July 1969 all three held the rank of Administrative Associate. Later in 1969 Mignon was transferred to the wage and salary section. James Oliver was hired to take Mignon's place in the employment section at the rank of Administrative Assistant, one rank below Peper.

In early 1972 Peper volunteered to be transferred from the employment section to the training section of the Office of Personnel Services. She and Richard Horch, the Director of that office, contemplated that this temporary move of one to two years would broaden Peper's experience, enhancing her future promotability. This was a lateral transfer, not a promotion, and Peper several times testified that she did not expect a promotion during her tenure at the training section. Her new superior was Stanley Adelson, head of the training section. Her overall employment goal was to become Richard Horch left Princeton in September 1972, and Bruce Edwards was named acting Director of the Office of Personnel Services. When William Reed was appointed as the new Director in February 1973, Edwards was appointed to a new position, Associate Director of the Personnel Office. However, there was no discernible change in his duties. Nevertheless, Peper concluded that there was an opening for Edwards' former position of Assistant Director of the employment section. She was told there was no vacancy and that there would be none until the 1974 reorganization of the Office of Personnel Services. Peper was not satisfied with this explanation and alleges that this constituted an instance of sex discrimination against her. She left her employment in October 1973 prior to the planned reorganization of the office. The position of Assistant Director of the employment section was eventually filled after the 1974 reorganization, when it went to Barbour.

a personnel manager. That position did not exist in the Office of Personnel Services. Apparently such a position did exist at both the Plasma Physics Plant and at the Accelerator Project. Peper's position in the employment section was taken by Barbara Smith, a college graduate, who started at the rank of Administrative Assistant.

The other alleged act of unlawful discrimination occurred in 1973, when Mignon and Barbour were promoted to Administrative Officers effective July 1. These promotions were announced in April. Peper, who was still in the training section, was not promoted. Oliver, who was still in the employment section, also failed to receive a promotion. Barbara Smith was promoted to Administrative Associate in the employment section. It is this disparate treatment of Peper as compared to her male peers which she claims constitutes a Prima facie showing of sex discrimination.

In early August 1973 Peper talked with Reed about her non-promotion. He told her that not all of her evaluations were good, and that she should be patient. He noted that On August 17, plaintiff talked to Edwards about her lack of promotion rather than the planned reorganization and its likely effect on her responsibilities. Peper testified that Edwards told her that while her work was of excellent quality, he and others had some difficulty in working with her. Although dissatisfied with the lack of action toward her promotion, Peper continued working in the training section.

she was to be one of the four regional representatives in the "Plan A" reorganization which would take place in 1974, and that she should speak with Edwards concerning her new position under the reorganization. This position entailed more responsibility.

Peper's resignation was precipitated by an unrelated incident involving the temporary assignment of a male Administrative Officer from the Plasma Physics Plant to the Personnel Office for the period of time necessary for him to become familiar with the procedures there. The idea was to familiarize him with the central personnel office so he could more easily work with it during the reorganization, which apparently did not include the Plasma Physics Plant. Peper was offended by this she somehow concluded that this man did not know his job but outranked her. Nothing in the record supports this contention.

Plaintiff resigned as of October 1, 1973, complaining of Barbour's July promotion to Administrative Officer and Edwards' comments about her. Reed reluctantly accepted her resignation, claiming that Edwards' views had nothing to do with her lack of promotion. After the 1974 reorganization, all four regional representatives were Administrative Officers.

Testimony by William Reed indicated that Mrs. Peper, while unhappy at not being promoted, had never indicated that she attributed her non-promotion to sex discrimination. He testified that she had never complained to him of such discrimination and that none of his co-defendants had ever informed him that plaintiff had made any such complaints to them. Peper admitted that the charge of sex discrimination Peper filed a complaint in the Superior Court, Law Division, on February 1, 1974, charging Princeton University as an entity and several of its officers individually with sex discrimination. Jurisdiction was alleged under twelve different theories. At the conclusion of plaintiff's trial presentation the defense moved for dismissal of the complaint as to all defendants, and in the alternative, as to the individual defendants. Disposition of the motion was deferred until the conclusion of defendant's case. At that time the trial judge granted the motion to dismiss as to the individual defendants. As to the University, decision was reserved. Plaintiff objected to the dismissal of the complaint as to the individual defendants.

was wholly the product of her consultations with an attorney, which took place after her resignation.

The trial judge ruled that plaintiff had failed to prove sex discrimination on the part of Princeton University with respect to the two specific alleged incidents of which she complained. Judgment dismissing her complaint was entered on June 4, 1976. On Peper's appeal, the Appellate Division reversed, 151 N.J.Super. 15, 376 A.2d 535 (1977). The appeals court held that the trial judge was correct in dismissing the complaint against the individual defendants but that the evidence proved sex discrimination on the part of Princeton University in not promoting Peper to the position of Administrative Officer on July 1, 1973. The court found the discrimination to be...

To continue reading

Request your trial
257 cases
  • Gay Law Students Assn. v. Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co.
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • May 31, 1979
    ...discrimination by private university found to constitute state action under federal Constitution); Peper v. Princeton U. Bd. of Trustees (1978) 77 N.J. 55, 389 A.2d 465, 476-478 (employment discrimination by private university held violative of state constitutional equal protection guarante......
  • McNeil v. McDonough
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • March 20, 1980
    ...are satisfied, then the person aggrieved may file a civil action (either in a US District Court or a State court, see Peper v. Princeton, 77 N.J. 55, 389 A.2d 465 (1978); and if the Attorney General (US) has not filed a civil action in a case involving a government or governmental agency wi......
  • Little v. Terhune
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • February 11, 2002
    ...Constitution has been held to provide similar equal protection coverage to that of the federal clause. Peper v. Princeton Univ. Bd. of Trs., 77 N.J. 55, 79, 389 A.2d 465, 477 (1978). "Under the rational-basis test of equal protection under both the State Constitution and the Fourteenth Amen......
  • Dome Realty, Inc. v. City of Paterson
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • June 17, 1980
    ...of specific authorizations. Cf. In re Toms River Water Co., 82 N.J. 201, 211, 412 A.2d 430 (1980); Peper v. Princeton Univ. Bd. of Trustees, 77 N.J. 55, 68, 389 A.2d 465 (1978). It therefore appears that the Legislature's delegation of authority "to prevent and abate (housing) conditions * ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT