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HYDE v. PROTECTIVE INS. CO.

November 20, 1984

MARY C. HYDE
v.
PROTECTIVE INSURANCE CO.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GILES

GILES, J.

 MEMORANDUM

 Plaintiff has brought this action claiming that she was the victim of sex and age discrimination. Jurisdiction is founded upon Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq. and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. After a Bench Trial and consideration of the parties' post-trial submissions, the court finds that plaintiff has not carried her burden of proof as to either claim and, accordingly, shall enter judgment in favor of defendant.

 The following constitutes the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 Protective Insurance Company is engaged exclusively in the business of fleet truck insurance, offering personal injury and property damage coverage for over-the-road trucking operations. It does not employ claims adjusters. Rather, it contracts with independent claims adjusters to conduct field investigations of accident scenes. They gather relevant information and report either to the defendant's Branch or Headquarters Office their findings and recommendations. Within the company, there are claims supervisors who, with the adjuster's information, evaluate claims, negotiate with claimants or their attorneys, and correspond and cooperate with attorneys defending claims for the insurer. The claims supervisors are responsible for interpreting the terms and provisions of policies of Protective and those of other insurance companies whose insureds may be involved in an accident. In the branch offices, the claims supervisors have secretaries to whom they delegate various clerical aspects of the claims work.

 Mrs. Hyde held such a clerical post in the Wayne, Pennsylvania office. At the time of her separation from the company she had over 15 years of service. She was paid on an hourly basis. Her immediate supervisor was Robert Zucosky the claims supervisor. He was the only claims supervisor until January, 1983. Mr. Zucosky reported directly to the Vice-President of Claims at the Home Office on all claims decisions. The manager of the entire office, which included marketing and underwriting functions, was Charles Bernier. He was hired in 1981 as Branch Manager. Mr. Bernier was not directly responsible for the day-to-day operations and decision-making on the claims work, nor was he familiar with the standards used by the company in settling claims.

 Mrs. Hyde contends that her troubles started with Mr. Bernier's arrival. She submits that he gradually and purposefully increased her workload beyond her physical ability and endurance so as to cause her to resign. She could not complete all assignments within any work day, even with overtime hours and weekend work. She contends that Mr. Bernier came to the Wayne office, with instructions from Protective's president, Gary Miller, to get rid of her because younger women could be hired for less money to perform the clerical work. She does not attribute an illegal motive to her immediate supervisor, Mr. Zucosky, in his assigning of work to her. She contends that many additional duties were assigned directly by Mr. Bernier in total disregard of her continual plea that she was already overburdened and could not reasonably do everything demanded.

 This workload steadily increased, according to her, from the latter part of 1982 through July 5, 1983 when she testified that she was fired by Mr. Bernier. Her workload included correspondence and other clerical duties relating to the offices' accounts receivables. Several weeks prior to her separation, it had come to Mr. Bernier's and Mr. Zucosky's attention, through checking by the Home Office, that the Wayne office's over 90-day accounts receivables were far more numerous for May and June, 1983 than for the preceding months. In April, the receivables were around $42,000. In May, they advanced to $109,000. In June they rose to $125,000 and in July, they peaked at $165,000. The effective management of the office was questioned by the Home Office because of this lapse in the collection of the accounts receivables. On June 20, 1983, when questioned about this lapse by Mr. Zucosky, Mrs. Hyde explained that she had been unable to perform the 90-day accounts receivable work for two weeks because of other job responsibilities. However, she had not told anyone that this work had gone unattended. Mr. Zucosky told her that because of her failure to do the accounts receivable work and to tell her superiors that she had not processed this work, he would not recommend that she receive an annual increase. At the same meeting he criticized the quality and quantity of her work, telling her, in effect, that she was not working effectively or efficiently. He noted that other important work had also been left undone. She threatened to resign if she did not get a raise.

 Mrs. Hyde had in all previous years received an annual increase. She had, in her mind, been a faithful and hard working employee, working even beyond her fullest capacity in an effort to keep up with her workload. Her reaction to the prospect of not getting a raise was, no doubt, a mixture of anger and disbelief. After a few weeks, when she did not get an increase, she went to Mr. Bernier's office to inquire whether there might have been some oversight. He told her that she was not going to get a raise.

 At this point the testimony of Mrs. Hyde and Mr. Bernier differs substantially. Mrs. Hyde testified that after being told that she was not going to get a raise, she explained to Mr. Bernier that she needed the raise badly because she could hardly manage on her current salary. Mr. Bernier responded that she should have realized all along that he was trying to force her out; that the Home Office wanted her fired because she was too old and younger women could be hired for less money to do the same work; and that he was simply following orders in forcing her to resign. Mrs. Hyde wanted to continue working but Mr. Bernier told her to go home and not to return. Before she left he asked her to sign a letter of resignation which she refused to do. He also stated that if she ever repeated that she had been fired because of her age that she would be "blackballed" in the insurance industry by the company and she would never get another job.

 Mrs. Hyde also testified that after leaving she was so distraught that she needed a doctor-prescribed sedative. She was unable to return to work the next day. She did call that day or the next, spoke to Mr. Bernier and offered to come back to work. She was told that she could not because getting rid of her was what the Home Office wanted. He demanded her keys to the office. He also told her that she would have to come into the office to get her final check, herself, and that her daughter could not pick it up for her. She called the office on one occasion before going to get her check and spoke to a visiting officer from the Home Office. She repeated all that she had been told by Mr. Bernier, that is, that she had been fired because of her age at the insistence of the Home Office. This charge went unanswered in the telephone call. She arranged to meet the officer that day at a local restaurant but he did not show up as agreed.

 Mrs. McGough, plaintiff's daughter, testified that when she returned the office keys for her mother, Mr. Bernier also told her that her mother had been fired because the company could hire two "young girls" to take her place for less money. On a subsequent occasion, when she accompanied plaintiff to the Wayne office to pick up her final check, she testified that Mr. Bernier reiterated that there was nothing he could do inasmuch as the Home Office wanted Mrs. Hyde fired because she was too old.

 Mr. Bernier denied that he told Mrs. McGough that her mother was fired because of her age or for the purpose of hiring a younger woman or that she had even been fired. He also denied that ...


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