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Haven v. Board of Trustees of Three Rivers Regional Library System

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

November 12, 2014

KAREN L. HAVEN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THREE RIVERS REGIONAL LIBRARY SYSTEM and LINDA KEAN, Defendants

Page 1360

For Karen L. Haven, Plaintiff: R. Patrick White, LEAD ATTORNEY, Casey Gilson, PC, Atlanta, GA; Gerard D. Hegstrom, Hegstrom Law Office, Brunswick, GA.

For The Board of Trustees of Three Rivers Regional Library System, Linda Kean, Defendants: Charles L. Bachman, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Turner, Bachman and Garrett Law Group, LLC, Marietta, GA.

Page 1361

ORDER

LISA GODBEY WOOD, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

In this employment discrimination action, Plaintiff Karen Haven brings a federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act charge, along with a related retaliation charge, against her former employer, Three Rivers Regional Library System. See Dkt. no. 1. She also brings a state-law claim of tortious interference with employment relationships against the Library's Director, Defendant Linda Kean. See id. The Library, as an arm of the State, is protected by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, resulting in DISMISSAL of Counts I and II for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED as to Count III against Defendant Kean, who is immune from suit under the Georgia Tort Claims Act.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a 53-year-old female, began working for the Three Rivers Regional Library System (" the Library" ) on August 16, 1999. Dkt. no. 1, ¶ ¶ 1, 11. The Library is a sub-unit of the University System of Georgia. Id. at ¶ 2. On June 9, 2011, Defendant Kean, the Library Director, informed Plaintiff that she was being laid off due to budget cuts. Id. at ¶ ¶ 12, 14. Two other librarians, ages 51 and 63, were also laid off that day for the same purported reason. Id. at ¶ ¶ 15-16. Plaintiff alleges the library retained two younger, less skilled librarians in lieu of the more " senior" librarians. Id. at ¶ ¶ 17-18. After losing her job, Plaintiff filed a Charge of age discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) on July 18, 2011. Id. at ¶ 12.

Soon after her termination, Plaintiff began searching for a similar librarian position. Id. at ¶ 21. In August of 2011, she applied for a Data Specialist position with the State Library of North Carolina and was called back for an interview. Id. at ¶ ¶ 22-23. Plaintiff claims she was offered a position by Grant Pair, North Carolina's Program Director. Id. at ¶ 24. However, Pair rescinded this offer. Id. at ¶ 30.

Plaintiff later learned that, between the offer and withdrawal, Pair had contacted Defendant Kean to discuss Plaintiff's employment at the Library. Id. at ¶ ¶ 25-30. Pair made an Open Records Request for copies of Plaintiff's personnel file, in which Defendant Kean included a copy of Plaintiff's EEOC Charge against the Library and notes she had prepared after Plaintiff's termination. Id. at ¶ ¶ 25, 27-28. Plaintiff claims that these notes disparaged her performance during her tenure at the library and that the notes and the EEOC Charge should not have been disclosed to prospective employers. Id. at ¶ ¶ 28-29.

On February 24, 2012, Plaintiff amended her EEOC Charge to add a claim of retaliation. Id. at ¶ 10. She commenced this action against the Library and Defendant Kean on July 10, 2013.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In her initial Complaint, Plaintiff brought three claims: Count I alleges the Library violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (" ADEA" ) by terminating Plaintiff while retaining younger, less skilled employees. Id. at ¶ ¶ 31-33. Count II alleges the Library retaliated against Plaintiff for filing an EEOC Charge by disclosing disparaging information to a potential employer. Id. at ¶ ¶ 34-38. Count III alleges Defendant Kean tortiously interfered

Page 1362

with Plaintiff's employment relationships by sending Plaintiff's employment file to Pair with the specific intent of harming Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ ¶ 39-46. In her prayer for relief, Plaintiff seeks from the Library damages relating to its violation of the ADEA, back pay, front pay, and attorney's fees. Id. at p. 12. From Defendant Kean, Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages for the emotional pain she endured from losing the opportunity to work for the library in North Carolina, punitive damages for Defendant Kean's deliberate and malicious intent to cause Plaintiff harm, and attorney's fees. Id. at p. 13.

At the close of discovery, Defendants filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting certain sovereign immunity defenses. See Dkt. no. 23-2. These defenses may have caught Plaintiff off guard, for she sought to amend her Complaint to address its defects. See Dkt. no. 27. The Magistrate Judge denied Plaintiff's request. Dkt. no. 36. Plaintiff did not object to the Magistrate Judge's Order, so ...


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