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Gupta v. City of Dayton

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

July 26, 2018

Lalit Gupta, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Dayton, Defendant.

          ENTRY AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT=S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, ECF 13, DECLINING TO EXERCISE JURISDICTION OVER PENDANT CLAIMS AND TERMINATING CASE.

          THOMAS M. ROSE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF 13. Therein, Defendant City of Dayton requests that the Court grant summary judgment on Plaintiff Lalit Gupta's claims of racial discrimination, national origin discrimination and retaliation. Because many of Plaintiff's claims are time-barred, because Plaintiff was not qualified by reason of disability for the position he sought in 2016, and because the Court will decline to exercise pendant jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining claims, Defendant's motion will be granted in part and the remaining claims dismissed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Lalit Gupta was born in New Delhi, India. (Gupta Depo. at 17). Gupta holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering from the Institute of Engineers in Calcutta, India. (Gupta Depo. at 10). Gupta came to the United States in 1987. (Gupta Depo. at 17). He has lived in Dayton, Ohio almost continuously since that time. (Id.)

         Gupta began his employment with the City of Dayton on May 15, 1989. (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 1). He was hired as a Wastewater Engineer in the Wastewater Treatment Division of the City's Water Department, and he held that role throughout most of his tenure with the City. (Gupta Depo. at 37-38).

         From 1989 to 2009, Gupta's direct supervisor was Wastewater Treatment Division Manager Thomas Schommer. (Gupta Depo. at 59.) Gupta regularly filled in for Schommer as Division Manager when Schommer was absent, and he assisted Schommer with performing many of his duties. (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 2 at Gupta 2370, Heidrich Aff. Ex. 3, Gupta Depo. Ex. 4). Gupta effectively served as Schommer's “second in command, ” and Gupta's goal had always been to become the manager when the opportunity arose. (Gupta Aff. at ¶ 2). Schommer's final review of Gupta's performance reflects that Gupta was a highly skilled, well-respected employee who met or exceeded all performance metrics. (Heidrich Aff. Ex 4).

         From 1987 to 2000 (at which time there was a major reorganization in the Wastewater Treatment Division), Gupta helped Schommer supervise a staff of approximately 25 individuals. (Gupta Depo. at 40, Heidrich Aff. Ex. 5).

         In July 2009, Schommer retired. (Gupta Depo. at 59). Water Department Director Tammi Clements appointed Phil Bennington, a white, American-born male, to fill the role on an interim basis while the City searched for a permanent Division Manager. (Clements Depo. at 10, Gupta Aff. at ¶ 3).

         Clements was responsible for interviewing and hiring a candidate to fill the Division Manager position on a permanent basis. (Clements Depo. at 15.) Gupta applied for the Division Manager role and was interviewed along with other candidates in September 2009. (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 30). Gupta was not notified whether he was selected for the position following his September 2009 interview. On that basis, he assumed he was still being considered for the role. Gupta Aff. at ¶ 5). Clements continued interviewing candidates beyond September 2009. (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 6 at Gupta 1283).

         On November 8, 2009, Clements removed Bennington from the acting Division Manager position. (Clements Depo. at 13). On November 9, 2009, Clements and Administrative Division Manager Pete Hannah approached Gupta and asked if he would like to be the acting Division Manager. (Clements Depo. at 25). Clements told Gupta that he would serve as the acting Division Manager for a six-month probationary period, and then he would be made the permanent Division Manager. (Gupta Depo. at 64-65). Gupta accepted Clements's proposal. (Gupta Depo. at 64-65).

         Gupta became the acting Division Manager on November 16, 2009. (Gupta Depo. at 67). Six months came and went, and Clements said nothing to Gupta about the status of his probationary period or his transition to permanent Division Manager. (Gupta Depo. at 97). However, Gupta believed that he was performing well in the role and that he would eventually be made the permanent Division Manager. (Gupta Depo. at 97).

         Clements did not conduct a performance evaluation of Gupta during his tenure as acting Division Manager. According to Clements, the reason Gupta was not evaluated during his time as acting Division Manager was that he was not due for an evaluation during that period. (Clements Depo. at 32). According to Gupta, he had received his most recent annual review in July 2009, and he was due for another review in July 2010 (when he was still in the acting Division Manager role). (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 4)

         On October 4, 2010, after Gupta had been the acting Division Manager for nearly a year, Clements told Gupta that she had hired Gary Marshall, a white, American-born male, to be the permanent Division Manager. (Gupta Aff. at ¶ 3, Gupta Depo. at 98-103). Gupta did not know that Clements was continuing to search for a permanent Division Manager while he was serving as acting Division Manager, and he was “stunned” by Clements's announcement. (Gupta Depo. at 98-103).

         Clements states that she did not retain Gupta in the Division Manager role because: (1) Gupta required assistance preparing the budget; (2) his morning meetings were unproductive and disorganized; and (3) there were morale problems in the Division during his tenure. (Def. Mot. Summ. J., Doc. 13, PageID 54-55). Gupta admits there were problems with employee morale and the morning meetings, calling them preexisting. ECF 25, PageID 626.

         The City also asserts that Clements selected Marshall over Gupta because Marshall had superior interpersonal skills and because he possessed the equivalent of a Class IV Wastewater Works Operator Certificate. (Def. Mot. Summ. J., Doc. 13, PageID 57). The job description contained the following minimum requirements: (1) a Bachelor's degree in engineering or science; (2) five years of experience in wastewater treatment; (3) three years of experience in general management/supervision, and two years of management experience at a Class III or IV wastewater facility; (4) possession of a Class III Wastewater Works Operator Certificate; and (5) the qualifications to be accepted as an Ohio EPA Class IV Wastewater Works Operator Candidate. (Id.). Gupta met each of these requirements. (Gupta Depo. at 37-38, 40; Gupta Depo. Ex. 1; Gupta Aff. at ¶ 6-7, Heidrich Aff. Ex. 5).

         The City of Dayton submitted an affidavit wherein Clements states the “principal accountabilities” for the Division Manager position. (Clements Aff., Doc. 13-1, at ¶ 8, PageID 80). None of the “principal accountabilities” stated by Clement were listed in the job description for the Division Manager position in 2009-2010. (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 8). The job description states that the “primary responsibility of the Wastewater Treatment Manager is to ensure that all water discharged to the Great Miami River meets Federal, State, and local standards for clean water.” Clements does not allege that Gupta was unable to meet this responsibility during his tenure as acting Division Manager and she admitted that Gupta had “technical expertise.” (Clements Depo. at 18).

         Schommer's final performance evaluation of Gupta noted that he is a “team player”, “cooperate[s] to build a positive work environment to improve overall performance of the Division, ” “work[s] very well with plant staff, City staff, consultants, attorneys, OEPA and others, ” and “is very flexible and always tr[ies] to work with a can-do attitude.” (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 4).

         The City also states that its belief that Gupta did not have sufficient management experience was “shared by the Ohio EPA.” When Gupta applied for his Class IV license, the Ohio EPA asked for more clarification regarding Gupta's management experience, but once he provided that explanation, the Ohio EPA granted the license. (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 9, 10).

         Marshall assumed the Division Manager role in October of 2010 and Gupta returned to his Wastewater Engineer role. (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 11). On November 8, 2010, Marshall threatened to slap Gupta. (Gupta Depo. Ex. 10). Gupta reported this to Clements. (Id.). Clements initially denied to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Gupta ever told her about the threat. (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 6 at Gupta 1283-84). Clements knew about the allegation of a threat (Clements Depo. at 53) and stated that she instructed Pete Hannah to investigate the incident. (Clements Depo. at 54). Hannah stated that his investigation was limited to asking Marshall whether or not he made the threat, and that when Marshall denied it, Hannah took no further action. (Hannah Depo. at 31). Clements did not discipline Marshall in response to the threat. (Clements Depo. at 55).

         During his tenure, Marshall held meetings without Gupta. (Gupta Depo. at 168-169; Bennington Depo. Ex. 4). On March 12, 2010, Marshall made a comment about applying sludge to a field, asking if it was at Lalit's “big house” (Bennington Depo. Ex. 2). Marshall never entrusted Gupta to serve in the capacity of acting Division Manager in the Division Manager's absence. (Gupta Aff. at ¶ 10, Heidrich Aff. Ex. 12). Instead, he asked other employees to fill the role. (Id.).

         In 2011, the Water Department created a new position called Wastewater Treatment Administrator. (Def. Mot. Summ. J., Doc. 13, PageID 58). The new Administrator would report directly to the Division Manager. (Id.). Matt Carpenter, who at that time was the Deputy Director of the Water Department, led the hiring process for the position, subject to Clements's approval. (Clements Depo. at 43-44). Jason Tincu, a white, American-born male, was hired for the position. (Def. Mot. Summ. J., Doc. 13, PageID 58; Gupta Aff. at ¶ 3).

         The City first posted the Administrator job in March 2011. (Heidrich Aff. Ex. 14). The March 2011 posting contained the following requirements: (1) a Bachelor's degree in engineering or a science-related discipline; (2) five years of experience in wastewater treatment; (3) two years of supervisory experience; and (4) the criteria to be accepted as a Class IV Wastewater Treatment candidate at the time of appointment. (Id.). Gupta met all of these requirements ...


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