Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Belmont
Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Belmont County, Ohio
Case No. 14 CV 0368.
Plaintiff-Appellant: Atty. David L. Delk, Jr. Grove,
Holmstrand & Delk, P.L.L.C.
Defendant-Appellee: Atty. Jeffrey A. Stankunas Atty. Molly R.
Gwin Isaac, Wiles, Burkholder & Teetor, LLC
JUDGES: Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Carol
Appellant Barbara Ryncarz appeals the March 30, 2016,
decision of the Belmont County Common Pleas Court to grant
summary judgment in favor of Appellee, Belmont County Court
of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division ("Juvenile
Division"). Appellant initially contends that she
presented a prima facie case of age discrimination.
Appellant then argues that even if Appellee demonstrated a
nondiscriminatory reason for her termination, she presented
evidence that this reason was merely pretext. For the reasons
that follow, Appellant's arguments are without merit and
the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
and Procedural History
In 1985, Appellant began employment as a deputy clerk in the
Juvenile Division of the Belmont County Common Pleas Court.
Appellant was considered an unclassified, at-will employee.
Sometime in 1998, Judge Mark Costine became judge of the
Juvenile Division and Appellant's supervisor. At the
beginning of Appellant's employment, no formal
performance evaluation process existed. In 2009 a formal
evaluation process was implemented and included semi-annual
In January of 2009, Appellant received a written evaluation
which contained "outstanding" marks. However, it
was noted in this evaluation that her communication with her
co-workers needed improvement. A year later, Appellant was
promoted to Chief Deputy Clerk. She continued to receive
outstanding remarks in her evaluations until her June 30,
2013 evaluation. Shortly thereafter, Appellant was given a
verbal warning regarding her attitude towards the other staff
members. On November 15, 2013, Appellant received the
following written warning from Judge Costine:
Engaging in discriminatory harassment. Ongoing passive
aggressive behavior towards specific employees. Continued
lack of communication and inappropriate unprofessional
communication and interaction or lack of interaction.
Problems with attitude, behavior, tone of voice, and overall
demeanor towards others. Issues in regards to ability to
supervise and ongoing supervisory duties.
Costine informed Appellant that her behavior provided grounds
for termination, but he allowed her an opportunity to improve
her performance. According to Judge Costine's deposition,
her attitude and behavior did not improve. Consequently, on
March 12, 2014, Judge Costine terminated Appellant during a
private meeting. On March 28, 2014, the judge sent her a
certified letter confirming her termination. At the time,
Appellant was forty-seven years old and was approximately one
year away from retirement eligibility. Appellant was
eventually replaced as Chief Deputy Clerk by Rebecca Gibson,
who was sixty-three years old at the time.
On December 11, 2014, Appellant filed an age discrimination
complaint against the Office of the Belmont County Auditor.
On January 5, 2015, Appellant filed an amended complaint to
add the Juvenile Division as the proper party and remove the
auditor's office. Appellee filed a motion for summary
judgment on January 7, 2016. The trial court granted
Appellee's motion on the basis that Appellant failed to
establish a prima facie case of age discrimination.
This timely appeal followed.
An appellate court conducts a de novo review of a
trial court's decision to grant summary judgment, using
the same standards as the trial court set forth in Civ.R.
56(C). Grafton v. Ohio Edison Co., 77 Ohio St.3d
102, 105, 671 N.E.2d 241 (1996). Before summary judgment can
be granted, the trial court must determine that: (1) no
genuine issue as to any material fact remains to be
litigated, (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law, (3) it appears from the evidence that
reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion, and viewing
the evidence most favorably in favor of the party against
whom the motion for summary judgment is made, the conclusion
is adverse to that party. Temple v. Wean United,
Inc.,50 Ohio St.2d 317, 327, 364 N.E.2d 267 ...