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GALLO v. JOHN POWELL CHEVROLET INC.

May 24, 1991

CAROL GALLO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN POWELL CHEVROLET, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McCLURE, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Carol Gallo filed this Title VII action*fn1 against her former employer, John Powell Chevrolet ("John Powell" or "the dealership"). She alleges that she was harassed by co-employees*fn2 and ultimately terminated due to her sex and to her pregnancy. She alleges violations of Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA")*fn3 and seeks back pay, attorney's fees and costs. (Plaintiff's complaint, filed May 18, 1990).

Based upon the evidence submitted at the bench trial held April 29 and 30, 1991, the court finds that John Powell acted with discriminatory intent in discharging Gallo from her position as an automobile salesperson on June 23, 1988 in violation of Title VII and the PHRA and that its decision to terminate her was motivated in substantial part by bias against her due to her gender and her pregnancy.

The trial was bifurcated. Only liability issues were tried during the first stage. We, therefore, make no findings on the issue of damages at this time.

The court adopts the parties' undisputed facts as part of its findings of fact.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

The court makes the following findings of fact based upon the testimony and exhibits*fn4 presented at trial. Incorporated in the court's findings are facts the parties have stipulated to be correct. (See the parties' statement of undisputed facts, filed April, 1991.)*fn5

A.  Background

1. Both parties reside, or have a place of business, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

2. John Powell is an automobile dealership engaged in the sale of new and used automobiles and trucks.

3. John Powell hired Gallo as an automobile salesperson on May 4, 1987.

4. Gallo was hired by William Struncis, the General Sales Manager at John Powell.

5. Struncis was Gallo's immediate supervisor throughout her tenure at the dealership.

6. Struncis based his decision to hire Gallo on her previous sales experience and on his impression that she would perform satisfactorily.

7. When Gallo was hired, and throughout her term of employment at John Powell, she was the only female salesperson.

8. When Gallo was hired, John Powell employed twelve male salespersons.

9. As of the date Gallo was terminated, John Powell employed nine male salespersons, eight of whom had been so employed when she was hired.

10. During her term of employment, the number of salespersons at John Powell fluctuated between thirteen and nine.

11. Gallo was terminated by John Powell on June 23, 1988.

12. Gallo was compensated on a commission basis and received a percentage of the profit for each vehicle which she sold.

13. During her job interview, Struncis told Gallo that the other salespersons, all men, were competitive and that some of them might object to her employment because she was a woman.

14. Salespersons compete with one another for customers who telephone the dealership and who walk on the lot and are not pre-existing customers of other salespersons.

15. From June to December, 1987, Gallo's performance as a salesperson was very good and her sales figures exceeded the average.

16. Gallo was a very competent and aggressive salesperson.

17. Struncis encouraged Gallo and "loved" her aggressive sales tactics.

18. Some John Powell salesmen regarded Gallo as too aggressive and complained about her aggressiveness to Struncis.

19. Struncis told male salespersons that they should be more aggressive.

20. Salespersons at the dealership routinely worked twelve to thirteen hours per day, generally from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., five days a week. Wednesdays the workday ended at 5:00 p.m. when the dealership closed.

21. Dealership employees sometimes played pranks on their co-workers. Standard pranks included tampering with an employee's telephone or leaving a phony message. Pranks of this nature were played on Gallo, and on other employees, male and female alike.

B.  Harassment of Gallo by male employees

22. Throughout her employment at John Powell, some of the salesmen with whom Gallo worked made rude, cynical and sexist remarks about her ability to perform the job effectively. Sometimes these remarks were made in the presence of customers and/or other dealership employees.

23. On one occasion, when Gallo sold a truck, she was asked by a male salesperson, in a suggestive manner, what she "had to do" to make the sale.

24. On another occasion, a salesman remarked to Gallo that she must have an appointment with a male customer that day, because she was wearing an "extra tight sweater."

25. On yet another occasion, a salesman told Gallo that she did not belong at the dealership and should be home cooking for her husband.

26. One salesman, Dave Johnson called Gallo a "fat bitch" in front of customers because he mistakenly thought she was improperly talking to a former customer of his.

27. On one occasion, when Gallo attempted to obtain a vehicle about which her customer had inquired, she was repeatedly told that it was in "clean-up". Gallo relayed this information to Struncis, who then contacted clean-up personnel and was told that the vehicle had never been sent to them. Gallo then received a telephone call from the customer, who told her another John Powell salesperson, Donald Isaacs, had approached her (the customer) and told her not to buy the vehicle from Gallo, but to purchase it from him instead, because he could give her a much better deal and could get the vehicle to her "right now."

28. Isaacs' interference with Gallo's potential sale was a very serious matter known in the automobile sales business as "cutting another salesperson's throat."

29. Initially, when such incidents occurred, Gallo would report them to Struncis. Struncis' standard response was that he would look into the matter, or talk to the individual involved.

C.  Gallo's pregnancy

30. In approximately December, 1987, Gallo learned that she was pregnant. Shortly thereafter, she informed Struncis.

31. Gallo informed Struncis that she intended to continue working and planned to return to work six weeks after the birth of the baby.

32. Gallo never deviated from her intention to return to work at John Powell after the birth of her baby.

33. Gallo also informed Struncis that she may, at times, require time off from work due to her age (41) and possible complications with the pregnancy.

34. Struncis stated, in response, that he would not require a doctor's excuse from Gallo for each such absence, but that she should tell him in advance when she would be out.

35. Gallo was absent from work from time to time during the winter/spring of 1988 because of her pregnancy.

36. On each such occasion, she told Struncis in advance, and he approved the absence.

37. On or about June 9, 1988, Gallo received a disability certificate (Plaintiff's exhibit 13) from her physician indicating that, due to her pregnancy and related complications, she should not work more than forty hours per week until after the birth of the baby.

38. Gallo gave the disability certificate to Struncis.

39. Struncis placed Gallo on a forty-hour per week schedule.

40. During at least the first six months of her employment at John Powell, Gallo had a good relationship with Struncis and she considered him a friend and an ally who gave her tips on becoming a better salesperson. After Gallo informed Struncis of her pregnancy, the tenor of their relationship changed. He became less open and congenial with her.

D.  Continuing harassment

41. Harassment, in the form of offensive and sexually discriminatory remarks continued into the spring of 1988.

42. In December, 1987, after Struncis knew of Gallo's pregnancy, Struncis instructed her to go the attic to retrieve a Christmas tree and boxes of decorations. Gallo told him that she would not do this because the access way to the attic was difficult to maneuver, the boxes were heavy and her physician had told her not to lift heavy objects.

43. Gallo stated, however, that she would decorate the tree if someone else would retrieve the tree and the boxes. When Gallo told Struncis this, he ...


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