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Riley v. Board of Trustees of The California State University

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 11, 2015

SUSAN RILEY, Plaintiff,


JAMES DONATO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Susan Riley is a woman over age 60 employed at the Sonoma State University. Riley alleges that Sonoma State discriminated against her on age and gender grounds when it hired a younger man rather than her for a Development Officer position. Riley also claims that she did the same work as this male co-worker but was paid less. Defendant California State University ("CSU") moves for summary judgment mainly on the ground that Riley's claims are for the most part time-barred. The Court largely grants the motion but finds that one event should proceed to trial.


The Development Office at Sonoma State University hired Riley in November 2007 as a temporary Administrative Assistant to the Associate Vice President. Riley Depo. at 152, Dkt. No. 39-4. About three months later, she was hired as a permanent "Confidential Office Support" employee. Id. at 154. Her primary job was to work as an executive assistant to the Vice President. Id. at 165-66. Riley managed calendars, answered phones, and prepared letters. Id. at 166. She also did some fundraising work such as serving as the point person for CSU's fundraising database and interacting with foundations to submit proposals and reports. Id. Riley continued in this role until November 2010, when she became Executive Assistant to the Vice President. Id. at 175-76.

In 2010, Riley also began fundraising for the CSU's Green Music Center. Id. at 164. She enjoyed the work and expressed an interest in becoming a Development Officer, a full-time fundraising position, to her supervisors Erik Greeny (Associate Vice President of University Development) and Patricia McNeill (Vice President of University Development). Riley Decl. ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 45. Riley asked for an increase in pay to reflect these additional responsibilities, but the request was denied. Id. ¶ 5. By the end of 2010, Riley had met with McNeill and Greeny several times about becoming a Development Officer. Id. ¶ 7.

The events leading to Riley's complaint crystalized in January 2011, when CSU hired Chris Fadeff, a 27-year-old male, as a temporary Development Officer. Fadeff Depo. at 52, Dkt. No. 39-3. The position was not posted, no recruitment process appears to have occurred, and Riley was not included in the hiring mix. At the end of the year, in December 2011, Fadeff's temporary position was extended. Id. at 8. Also around this time, McNeill retired and Greeny became the Interim Assistant Vice President of University Development. Id. at 4.

In December 2011, Sonoma State posted a permanent Development Officer position for internal candidates. Riley Decl. ¶ 11, Dkt. No. 45. Applications were due by April 18, 2012, and Riley applied on April 17, 2012. Riley Depo. at 86, 93, Dkt. No. 39-4. Riley told Greeny that she had applied. Id. That same day, Greeny told Terrie DeLorm in Human Resources that Riley "had told [him] she applied" and he was not "comfortable with posting [the] position when - if the university had the ability to reappoint Chris Fadeff." Greeny Depo. at 72, Dkt. No. 39-5. DeLorm called Riley that day and told her that the position had been put on hold. Riley Depo. at 109-11, Dkt. No. 39-4. On April 19, 2012, DeLorm called Riley again and said the position had been cancelled. Id. at 111.

In January 2013, CSU extended Fadeff's temporary appointment for a second time. Dkt. No. 39 at 10. The CSU Director of Employee Services, Kathleen Spitzer, told Greeny that he would eventually need to interview candidates for the position, and that he could not "keep going on with this indefinitely." Greeny Depo. at 90, Dkt. No. 39-5. Laurence Schlereth, Vice President for Finance and Administration, testified that Greeny could have opened the application process and interviewed other candidates. Schlereth Depo. at 81-82, Dkt. No. 42. But in January 2013, Greeny once again reappointed Fadeff as a temporary Development Officer for a one-year period without an open recruitment process. Greeny Depo. at 80, 167, Ex. 46, Dkt. No. 39-5. Riley alleges that when she asked Greeny how he could continue to reappoint Fadeff, Greeny raised his voice and said he did not have to answer to her. Riley Depo. at 132-33, Dkt. No. 39-4. Riley filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing on March 19, 2013.

On May 13, 2013, Sonoma State posted two permanent (non-temporary) Development Officer positions. Dkt. No. 41 at 8. Riley applied on May 26, 2013. Id. On October 20, 2013, Greeny announced that Fadeff was resigning from his position as temporary Development Officer. Greeny Depo. at 177, Dkt. No. 39-5. Riley was hired as a regular Development Officer on October 31, 2013. Riley Depo. at 37, Dkt. No. 39-4.

Plaintiff sued on three claims: (1) California FEHA discrimination; (2) federal Title VII discrimination; and (3) an equal pay violation under California Labor Code § 1197.5. The FEHA and Title VII claims allege disparate treatment on age and gender grounds for CSU's failure to hire or promote Riley to Development Officer in January 2011, December 2011, January 2012 and January 2013.


As amended in 2010, Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a "party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense - or the part of each claim or defense - on which summary judgment is sought. The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The current version of Rule 56 changed the federal summary judgment process by authorizing the Court to grant what is sometimes called partial summary judgment to dispose of less than the entire case and even just portions of a claim or defense. See Fed.R.Civ.P. advisory committee notes, 2010 amendments; see also Smith v. State of Cal. Dep't of Highway Patrol, No. 13-CV-01341-JD, 2014 WL 6985092, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 10, 2014). Now the Court can, when warranted, selectively fillet a claim or defense without dismissing it entirely. The current version of Rule 56 also emphasizes that the Court "shall" issue summary judgment when warranted by the facts and the law. Id.

The traditional standards for summary judgment remain in place. A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict" for either party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. at 248-49. To determine whether a genuine dispute as to any material fact exists, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. at 255. A principal purpose of summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). On summary judgment, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

In determining whether to grant or deny summary judgment, it is not the Court's task "to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (quotations omitted). Rather, it is entitled to rely on the nonmoving party to "identify with ...

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