United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 18)
COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an employment case. Plaintiff Paula McDaniels (McDaniels) is
suing defendant Plymouth-Canton Community Schools (PCCS)
contending that she suffered discrimination based on her
gender under Title VII and Michigan's Elliot Larsen Civil
Rights Act when she was passed over for a promotion
from an Assistant Head Maintenance Custodian to Plant
Engineer on three occasions.
the Court is PCCS's motion for summary judgment on the
grounds that there is no genuine issue of material fact that
McDaniels' failure to be selected for the Plant Engineer
positions was not due to her gender. For the reasons that
follow, the motion will be granted.
relevant facts as gleaned from the parties' papers
Maintenance Positions at PCCS
Maintenance Department at PCCS has three levels of
maintenance employees: 1) Plant Engineers; 2) Assistant Head
Maintenance Custodians (AHM); and; 3) Custodians. Plant
Engineers are the highest-level employees in the Maintenance
Department, followed by AHMs, then Custodians.
Custodians are further divided into three groups: AHM-A, who
work at the high school; AHM-B, who work at the middle
school; and AHM-C, who work at the elementary school level.
AHM-A's are considered the highest-level employees in
this group because they work in a larger school building, and
confront the largest number of maintenance issues. This
hierarchy is reflected in AHM's collective bargaining
agreement (CBA). Under the CBA, AHM-As are paid more per hour
than the other levels of AHMs.
Plant Engineers, the position at issue, are
“responsible for the operation, care and maintenance of
the heating, ventilating, lighting and plumbing systems in
the building.” They are also required to
“[s]upervise the care, maintenance and repairs of the
building, equipment and grounds, ” and to
“[c]heck that mechanical systems are operating
properly.” “It is [also] expected that a Plant
Engineer, in addition to the supervisory and training duties,
will also actively participate in the . . . maintenance
operation of the building. . .” (PCCS Ex. 2 Plant
Engineer Job Description).
explained in the affidavit of Joe West (West), a Plant
Engineer with PCCS since 1994 and a Union Representative for
Plant Engineers, the duties include maintaining and repairing
the building, equipment and grounds. To this end, Plant
Engineers were required to perform tasks such as the
following; stripping the wood gym floors, changing light
ballasts, light switches and plugs; doing necessary
maintenance to repair supply fan motors, including replacing
wiring; changing Sloane valves and faucets; fixing plumbing
leaks; repairing toilets, including changing flush valves,
gaskets, and diaphragms; repairing and rewiring GFI outlets
that extend downward from classroom ceilings; and repairing
motors on small and mid-size equipment. (PCCS Ex. 5 Joe West
AHMs and Custodians were responsible for cleaning the
buildings and assisting Plant Engineers with the above
duties. (PCCS Ex. 3 AHM Job Description).
school building has one Plant Engineer, and a varying number
of AHMs and Custodians. (PCCS Ex. 1 McDaniels' deposition
at p. 34-35). There were approximately 20 Plant Engineer
positions and 70 custodial positions at PCCS. Id.
Director of Maintenance for PCCS from 2004 until January 2014
was Harry Lau (Lau). Two females held Plant Engineer
positions for PCCS under Harry Lau: Barb Bartel and June
McDaniels' Employment with PCCS
began her employment at PCCS in the Maintenance Department in
1997. She worked as an AHM-C at Hoben Elementary School
(Hoben) starting in 2005. McDaniels' supervisor for the
entire time she worked at Hoben was Plant Engineer Mike
Hartline (Hartline). McDaniels and Hartline were close
friends, and remain close friends today. (PCCS Ex. 1,
McDaniels' deposition, at p. 42, 83). McDaniels admitted
she had very limited experience and knowledge regarding
mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems. (PCCS Ex. 1
McDaniels' deposition at p. 13-15).
Gallimore Elementary Plant Engineer Position
March 2013, PCCS posted an opening for a Plant Engineer
position at Gallimore Elementary School (Gallimore). When
posting the Plant Engineer positions, consistent with the job
description, the school district wanted to hire someone who
had demonstrated experience dealing with mechanical,
electrical, and plumbing issues. (Ex. 5 West affidavit). The
school district gave preference to actual experience in these
areas over attendance at instructional classes. (PCCS Ex. 5
early April 2013, McDaniels applied for the Plant Engineer
opening at Gallimore. She was one of 23 total applicants for
the position. After submitting her application, McDaniels was
selected as one of six finalists for the position, along with
two other female applicants, Kathy Ladenberger and Judy
Spehar. These three females were selected as finalists over
twelve other male applicants for the position.
finalists for the Gallimore position were required to take a
test and participate in interviews with the hiring committee.
The hiring committee consisted of Gallimore Principal
Kimberly May, who is female, Maintenance Director Harry Lau
(Lau), Plant Engineers Bruce Haarala, and Union
the first round of interviews were completed, on April 19,
2013, the hiring committee (including Kimberly May)
unanimously agreed that Dan Wolff (Wolff) should receive the
to West, Wolff received the position because the committee
believed that he had a superior understanding of, and greater
experience in, handling maintenance issues than McDaniels.
(Ex. 5 West affidavit). As for his background, Wolff was
originally hired by PCCS on March 26, 1996, approximately one
year before McDaniels. Wolff had consistently received
excellent evaluations since his hire. He was also identified
by his supervisor as being “very bright and ready for a
leadership role.” (PCCS Ex. 9 Wolff Evaluation). Wolff
had been an AHM-A at Canton High School since 2003, and
therefore was a higher-level maintenance employee than
McDaniels. And by virtue of working in a building more than
three times larger than the elementary building where
McDaniels worked, Wolff confronted more building issues on a
daily basis, and, according to PCCS, received more relevant
Lau (who was on the committee) had prior experience with
Wolff. During their time together, Lau testified at
deposition that he had seen Wolff successfully complete many
“preventative maintenance” projects:
I had actually witnessed Dan performing duties in all these,
less the heavy equipment. He had performed duties in
plumbing, changing a P-trap, fixing a valve, carpentry. He
would work in a door hardware. Electrical, may be changed a
plug or a switch. HVAC, he would change filters, grease
motors, do things in the boiler room. He was curious and
asked questions and he stuck to people that were doing these
things and he learned it.
(PCCS Ex. 10 Lau deposition at p. 40). Lau further testified
that he encouraged Wolff to apply for the open position at
Gallimore. (PCCS Ex. 10 Lau deposition at p. 43).
contrast to Wolff, Lau testified that McDaniels had not
demonstrated the same skill set to Lau. (Ex. 10 Lau
deposition at p. 41, 72). Lau testified as follows:
Q. Do you have reason to believe that Paula was not
performing any of those functions that you just listed for
A. Yes. I had not witnessed her perform these duties, and as
a matter of fact, she would lean on her plant engineer to
perform them, even in an instance where she would perform
their jobs for any amount of time, whether it be a day or a
week, she would leave notes for Mike that certain things
needed to be completed. (Ex.
10 Lau p. 41).
A. I'm suggesting that she would not do tasks and leave
it for another employee while she was performing that job.
Q. What tasks do you specifically recall her leaving for
A. Ballast, for sure, changing ...