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JONES v. WDAS FM/AM RADIO STATIONS

November 9, 1999

LILLIAN T. JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WDAS FM/AM RADIO STATIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM

On April 16, 1999, this court granted Evergreen's and Chancellor's motions for summary judgment on successor liability grounds. In addition, by stipulation, the parties agreed to dismiss defendant WDAS. Before the court is the sole remaining defendant Beasley's motion for summary judgment. Beasley presents several arguments in support of its motion for summary judgment. First, Beasley contends that plaintiff's claims are barred under the PHRA and Title VII by the applicable statute of limitations. Second, Beasley argues that plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation, retaliatory hostile work environment, and age or gender discrimination. Lastly, Beasley asserts that, even if plaintiff has established a prima facie case, plaintiff has failed to offer evidence to rebut Beasley's proffered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for eliminating plaintiff's position.

The motion for summary judgment will be granted. The court finds: 1) that plaintiff's claim of retaliation based on the unfavorable compensation package and the creation of a hostile work environment are barred by Title VII's statute of limitations; 2) plaintiff's claim of retaliation based on a negative employment reference fails because plaintiff cannot show that defendant took adverse employment action; and 3) plaintiff's claim of retaliation based on the elimination of her position and ultimate termination fails because plaintiff cannot rebut defendant's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for eliminating her position. Finally, plaintiff's claim for discrimination based on age and gender also fail because plaintiff has not proffered evidence from which a factfinder could conclude that defendant's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason is pretextual.

I. FACTS

The following facts are undisputed or if disputed, are construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. On April 28, 1990, plaintiff commenced employment at WDAS in the position of Local Sales Manager ("LSM").*fn1 Plaintiff had been recruited by a former colleague, Kernie L. Anderson ("Anderson"), who was now the General Manager at WDAS. At all times during her employment at WDAS, plaintiff reported directly to Anderson. Plaintiff's job duties at WDAS included supervising and managing the local sales staff; generating revenue; dealing with local retail agencies; hiring, training and motivating the sales staff; overseeing and monitoring inventory; and, projecting and broadcasting budgets. The LSM did not sell air time directly, but received a salary and bonus based upon a projected quota and performance of the local sales staff.

On January 6, 1994, at a weekly meeting of the WDAS sales staff, two female account executives, Gwendolyn Wilson ("Wilson") and Colleen "Jo" Steele ("Steele"), complained to plaintiff that E. Steven Collins ("Collins"), WDAS' National Sales Manager ("NSM"),*fn2 had sexually harassed them. Four days later, on January 10, 1994, plaintiff advised Anderson that Collins had sexually harassed these female employees.

Plaintiff contends that in retaliation for reporting the allegations of sexual harassment, on January 11, 1994, Anderson provided plaintiff with an unfavorable compensation package for the upcoming year.*fn3 Plaintiff found the 1994 compensation plan to be unrealistic in comparison to her 1993 compensation plan, resulting in a strong likelihood of a decrease in her total compensation for 1994.

On January 19, 1994, plaintiff sent a memorandum to Anderson, advising him that she believed he provided her with an unfavorable 1994 compensation package in retaliation for her reporting the sexual harassment. In addition, plaintiff submitted a counter-proposal for a 1994 compensation package.

Anderson responded to plaintiff's memorandum by handwriting the word "rejected" on the first page of her memorandum and initialing it. Although Anderson never further discussed plaintiff's counter-proposal with her, on January 19, 1994, Anderson sent plaintiff a memorandum advising her that the claims of retaliation were "bogus" and she was "off to a rocky start for 1994". Following this encounter and continuing throughout the remainder of her employment, plaintiff alleges that Anderson treated plaintiff in an extremely hostile, rude and harassing manner by screaming at plaintiff, slamming doors in her face, subjecting her to unjustifiably harsh and unwarranted criticism and deliberately and irreparably undermining her relationships with her subordinates. Plaintiff further alleges that after she reported the sexual harassment allegations to Anderson, his overall treatment of her became hostile in terms of her entire work environment.

In May of 1994, Beasley purchased WDAS from Unity. Following this purchase, plaintiff, Anderson and Collins remained employed at WDAS in their same capacities. In addition, according to plaintiff, after the sale, Anderson began reporting to Simon T, the president of Beasley. At two separate meeting, plaintiff allegedly complained to Simon T about Anderson's harassing and discriminatory treatment of her and the failure to properly investigate and remedy the situation.*fn4 Following these meetings, plaintiff asserts that Beasley failed to take action against Anderson or remedy the alleged harassment and discrimination.

On July 15, 1994, Anderson sent plaintiff a written warning for extending the probationary period of an account executive. Plaintiff had extended the probationary period of an employee under her supervision. She had done so on the belief that the employee was defiant and insubordinate. Anderson disagreed and did not support plaintiff's decision to extend the employee's probationary period. Plaintiff believed that Anderson did not support her decision and issued the warning to further undermine plaintiff's authority with her staff. This letter was the only reprimand issued to plaintiff during her employment at WDAS.

On January 6, 1995, plaintiff was terminated from her employment at WDAS. Plaintiff alleges Anderson advised her that the LSM position was being eliminated and she was not in Beasley's future plans. Further, plaintiff was told that her LSM position was being eliminated as part of Beasley's new business plan to create a General Sales Manager ("GSM") position to oversee both local and national sales, instead of having a local and a national sales manager. Beasley offered plaintiff the opportunity to interview for the new GSM position or to take a demotion as a non-management account executive. Plaintiff declined to interview for the new position because, according to her, she should have been offered the new position without the requirement of an interview.*fn5 In addition, plaintiff did not consider the offer of a position as an account executive to be a true offer of employment because she believed there were no openings at the time for an account executive. After taking some time off, plaintiff requested a severance package from Beasley. Beasley denied the request and plaintiff never returned to work.

On May 17, 1995, plaintiff filed a charge against Beasley with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), which charge was cross-filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"). On June 11, 1997, the EEOC issued to plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue. On ...


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