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Murgida v. Ohio Department of Transportation

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 19, 2018

CHRISTINE C. MURGIDA, Plaintiff,
v.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DISTRICT NO. 11, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

          BENITA Y. PEARSON JUDGE

         Pending is Defendant Ohio Department of Transportation's (“ODOT”) Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 28). The Court has been advised, having reviewed the record, the parties' briefs, and the applicable law. The Court has also considered the oral arguments of counsel offered during the Final Pretrial Conference held on April 11, 2018. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.[1]

         I. Stipulated Facts and Background

         The stipulated facts[2] are as follows:

1. Plaintiff Christine C. Murgida is a female over the age of 18 and a resident of North Canton, Ohio. ODOT is an administrative department of the State of Ohio created by Ohio Rev. Code § 121.01, et seq.District 11 is a division of ODOT located at 2201 Reiser Ave., New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663. Plaintiff is assigned to and works out of District 11.
2. Plaintiff began working for ODOT as an Engineer in Training in 1985. She later became a Transportation Engineer, Transportation Engineer 2 (“TE2”) (1989-2000), and Transportation Engineer 3 (“TE3”) (2000-2010). In these roles, she worked out of District 4 and was responsible for overseeing construction projects that grew in cost and complication as her rank progressed. As a TE3, Plaintiff supervised up to 10 subordinates, which included TE2s and Project Inspector 2s. Plaintiff is currently employed by ODOT as a TE3.
3. In 2010, Plaintiff applied for the District Construction Engineer (“DCE”) position at District 11. Richard Bible, then District Deputy Director (“DDD”) for District 11, awarded Plaintiff the position, which she assumed in June 2010. This position was classified as a Transportation Engineer 5 (“TE5”). Plaintiff had not worked in District 11 prior to being hired as DCE. During her tenure as DCE, Plaintiff had between 10 and 50 direct reports.
4. In January 2011, Lloyd MacAdam became DDD for District 11. At the time of MacAdam's appointment as DDD, Plaintiff was serving as DCE.
5. In March 2012, ODOT Director Jerry Wray decided to eliminate the DCE position and create the District Construction Administrator (“DCA”) position. The change was implemented across all 12 ODOT districts. MacAdam selected Nick Susich to serve as DCA for District 11.
6. Before MacAdam offered the DCA position to Susich, MacAdam related his intentions to Plaintiff. She recalls him sending out an email in which he stated that Susich had the respect of both ODOT employees and the construction industry.
7. After the DCE position was eliminated, Plaintiff remained a TE5 for some time, but received new duties. First, Murgida was assigned to be an area engineer. Plaintiff was ultimately assigned to be Local Public Agency (“LPA”) Project Coordinator for the District 11 LPA Program, the position she holds to this day. As LPA Coordinator, Murgida oversees projects that are managed by local entities with federal funds and therefore require ODOT monitoring and approval.
8. In July 2015, Plaintiff was notified by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (“DAS”) that she would be subject to a job audit. A job audit is a process by which someone's job is evaluated to determine whether or not they are appropriately classified. Both Plaintiff and her supervisor, Susich, filled out paperwork to facilitate this process. Susich did not dispute the job description Murgida submitted to DAS.
9. After conducting the job audit, DAS determined Plaintiff was misclassified as a TE5, and her proper classification was TE3. Ohio Rev. Code § 124.14 permits the director of DAS to “reassign to a proper classification those positions that have been assigned to an improper classification, ” and dictates that, “[i]f the compensation of an employee in a reassigned position exceeds the maximum rate of pay for the employee's new classification, the employee shall be placed in pay step X and shall not receive an increase in compensation until the maximum rate of pay for that classification exceeds the employee's compensation.” As a result of the job audit, and in accordance with § 124.14, Plaintiff was re-classified as a TE3 and placed in step X.
10. DAS is a separate entity from ODOT and ODOT Director Wray is not the director of DAS.
11. On January 14, 2016, Plaintiff sent ODOT Director Wray an email with the subject, “Confidential Interview Request.” ECF No. 29-1 is a true an accurate copy of the email message.
12. After she was not selected as DCA, Plaintiff looked for and made inquiries into other positions at ODOT. In 2012, Murgida was interested in the DCA position in District 12, but was not able to apply because only current district employees were invited to apply. In 2013, Plaintiff met with Jim Riley, Deputy Director Division of Innovative Delivery, regarding P3 projects, but “it lead nowhere.” Deposition of Plaintiff (ECF No. 18) at PageID #: 284. She also applied for a position related to the Portsmouth bypass project in 2013. Plaintiff was invited to interview for this position, but did not receive an offer. ECF No. 29-2 contains true and accurate copies of documents confirming the aforementioned dates Plaintiff sought the positions mentioned. Murgida also applied for the central office Deputy Director of Construction position in 2014, but was not successful.
13. Plaintiff is aware of ODOT's sexual harassment and anti-retaliation policies, which were in place as far back as 2011. She received training on such policies throughout the course of her employment with ODOT.
14. Plaintiff did not report the alleged instances of sexual harassment described in paragraphs 12 through 22 of the Complaint (ECF No. 1) to ODOT's office of equal employment opportunity. She did, however, file four charges of discrimination.
15. Attached to the Complaint (ECF No. 1) are two Dismissal and Notice of Rights letters relating to EEOC Charge Nos. 22A-2016-02099C (ECF No. 1-5) and 22A-2016-02260C (ECF No. 1-6). Also attached to the Complaint (ECF No. 1) are EEOC Charge Nos. 532-2016-01679 (ECF No. 1-3) and 532-2016-01867 (ECF No. 1-4).
16. In Ohio Civil Rights Commission (“OCRC”) Charge No. AKR73(38394)06162016 (EEOC Charge No. 22A-2016-02099C), filed on June 16, 2016, Plaintiff alleges sex discrimination specifying demotion, harassment/sexual harassment, and “wage ceiling imposed” as the types of discrimination. Her supporting statement reads, in full, as follows: “I am a female engineer who has been targeted, demoted from a classified Transportation Engineer 5 position to a Transportation Engineer 3, and placed under a wage/‘glass' ceiling.” Plaintiff lists the date of the discrimination as January 6, 2016. ECF No. 29-3 is a true and accurate copy of OCRC Charge No. AKR73(38394)06162016 (EEOC Charge No. 22A-2016-02099C).
17. In OCRC Charge No. AKR73(38427)07082016 (EEOC Charge No. 22A-2016-02260C), filed on July 8, 2016, Plaintiff alleges sex discrimination specifying “2.5% pay schedule increase denied” as the type of discrimination. Her supporting statement reads, in full, as follows: “I am a female engineer that has been targeted and denied a pay schedule increase.” Plaintiff lists the date of the discrimination as July 1, 2016. ECF No. 29-4 is a true and accurate copy of OCRC Charge No. AKR73(38427)07082016 (EEOC Charge No. 22A-2016-02260C).
18. A cost of living increase was granted to eligible employees at ODOT in 2016 and 2017.
19. Plaintiff is an exempt employee.

         Each DDD had the discretion to appoint or interview any candidate for the DCA position. MacAdam first offered the DCA position to Susan Goodie, the District Office Engineer for Construction, but she declined. MacAdam ...


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