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Ginalski v. Diocese of Gary

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

December 5, 2016

MARY BETH GINALSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
DIOCESE OF GARY, ANDREAN HIGH SCHOOL, HARRY J. VANDE VELDE, III, and DR. BARBARA O'BLOCK, Defendants. ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF GARY, INDIANA and ANDREAN HIGH SCHOOL, Counter Claimants,
v.
MARY BETH GINALSKI, Counterclaim Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on (1) Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 25], filed by Defendants Diocese of Gary, Andrean High School, Harry J. Vande Velde, III, and Dr. Barbara O'Block on August 1, 2016, and (2) a Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 27], filed by Counterclaim Defendant Mary Beth Ginalski on August 1, 2016.

         Plaintiff Mary Beth Ginalski was the principal at Andrean High School, a Catholic high school, for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years with a one-year contract each year. During the 2013-2014 school year, the Diocese of Gary adopted a principal-president model of governance at Andrean High School and, in late September 2013, hired Defendant Harry J. Vande Velde, III in the position of president. In March 2014, Ginalski was notified that her contract would not be renewed for the 2014-2015 school year. She was told that she would not finish the school year as principal and was asked to vacate her office; however, she was paid through the end of her 2013-2014 contract.

         Ginalski brings federal claims of employment discrimination based on sex, age, and disability as well as various state law claims. The Court finds that, as a matter of law, Ginalski's position as principal at Andrean High School falls within the First Amendment's ministerial exception. Thus, her federal employment discrimination claims fail, and the Court grants summary judgment in favor of Defendants on those claims. The Court grants summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress and defamation, which Ginalski abandons, and the Court relinquishes its jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims of negligent hiring and intentional infliction of emotional distress, dismissing them without prejudice. The Court also grants summary judgment in favor of Ginalski on the Counterclaim because the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana and Andrean High School abandon the two claims therein.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On March 12, 2015, Plaintiff Mary Beth Ginalski filed a Complaint in this Court, bringing claims of age and sex discrimination against all Defendants (Count I); retaliation against all Defendants (Count II); disability discrimination against all Defendants (Count III); negligent hiring against Defendants Diocese of Gary, Andrean High School, and Dr. Barbara O'Block (Count IV); negligent infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants (Count V); defamation against Defendants Diocese of Gary, Andrean High School, and Vande Velde (Count VI); and intentional infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants (Count VII).

         On May 21, 2015, Defendants filed an Answer. Also on May 21, 2015, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana and Andrean High School filed a Counterclaim, alleging claims of defamation (Count I) and unjust enrichment (Count II). Ginalski did not file an Answer to the Counterclaim.

         On August 1, 2016, Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on all the claims in Ginalski's Complaint. Ginalski filed a response on August 29, 2016, and Defendants filed a reply on September 9, 2016.

         Ginalski filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the Counterclaim on August 1, 2016. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana and Andrean High School filed a response on August 25, 2016, agreeing to the dismissal of the Counterclaim.

         The parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         MATERIAL FACTS

         Plaintiff Mary Beth Ginalski was educated in the Catholic school system. She graduated from Calumet College of St. Joseph in 1980 with a communication degree and received a second degree in education in 1982 from the same institution. She earned an Indiana teaching license in 1982 and an Indiana elementary administrator's license in 1995. Ginalski served as a public elementary school principal for seventeen years.

         Andrean High School is a Catholic high school in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana. Barbara O'Block was the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Gary at all relevant times.

         In late July 2012, Ginalski was hired as the principal of Andrean High School for the 2012-2013 school year. In late spring 2013, Ginalski was offered, and accepted, the position of principal of Andrean High School for the 2013-2014 school year.

         In early 2013, the Diocese of Gary began considering the adoption of the president/principal model of governance for its high schools, and, ultimately, the decision was made to adopt the president/principal model for Andrean High School with the approval of the Bishop. In September 2013, Defendant Harry J. Vande Velde, III was appointed president at Andrean High School and began work.

         On March 3, 2014, O'Block informed Ginalski that her contract would not be renewed for the following year. Ginalski's employment was not terminated effective immediately; she was paid through the end of her school year contract. Although Ginalski expressed a desire to remain in the position of principal through the end of the school year, Vande Velde informed her that her last day of work was that same day (March 3, 2014) and asked her to leave the premises.

         Ginalski signed a written one-year contract for each of the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years. The contract for the 2013-2014 school year is titled: “Diocese of Gary Catholic Schools Principal Employment Agreement” (“Principal Employment Agreement”). (Defs. Br., Ex. 10).

         Section A of the 2013-2014 Principal Employment Agreement is titled “Ministerial Duties/Morals Clauses” and provides:

1. To be Principal in a Catholic school is to accept a ministry. The ministry of the Principal must clearly reflect the Catholic Christian spirit of love, understanding[, ] and humility. This ministry is witnessed not only in the manner in which the Principal performs his/her tasks, but also in the example the Principal sets for the teachers and students both in and outside ...

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