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SHRAMBAN v. AETNA

May 16, 2003

Brigitte SHRAMBAN, Plaintiff,
v.
AETNA and Joe Kushnerick, Defendants.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court are the Motions for Summary Judgment of Defendants Aetna and Joe Kushnerick. In this case, Plaintiff Brigitte Shramban ("Plaintiff") brings discrimination claims on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin against Defendants under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Cons.Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq.*fn1 Plaintiff also alleges retaliation and a hostile work environment. Additionally, Plaintiff brings a claim of aiding and abetting discrimination under the PHRA. Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages under Title VII. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motions for summary judgment.

  BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff is a Caucasian, Jewish female from Moldavia. Since April 2000, she has been employed in Aetna's Quality Assurance

[262 F. Supp.2d 534]

      department as a Business System Delivery Specialist with a 500014 job code. Since the beginning of her employment until July 25, 2001, she worked on the EZLink project at Aetna's Blue Bell, Pennsylvania offices. On July 26, 2001, she was transferred to Aetna's Horsham, Pennsylvania facility to work on a Pharmacy project, where she remained a Business System Delivery Specialist with a 500014 job code.

  On April 2, 2001, Plaintiff wrote Diane Ball, a Quality Assurance manager, a letter "to serve as formal notice" to Aetna about a hostile work environment. Plaintiff's complaints centered around working long hours without overtime compensation. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Kushnerick, the EZLink project supervisor, demanded projects be completed with unreasonable deadlines and also threatened, "if you don't want to work overtime then quit." Plaintiff overheard one of Defendant Kushnerick's conversations and felt that he was creating a conspiratorial atmosphere against her. She also mentioned that she feared Defendant may retaliate against her for voicing her concerns about overtime at a staff meeting because he insisted that she take a compensation day off. In response to Plaintiff's letter, Ball discussed the overtime hours issue with Defendant Kushnerick.

  Around June 2001, Plaintiff wrote to Paul Buttacavoli, Aetna Human Resources, to file her second formal complaint against her supervisor, Defendant Kushnerick, as well as a complaint against Diane Ball for failing to take action in response to her first complaint. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Kushnerick caused her "to be embarrassed and humiliated in front of other co-workers and continuously made derogatory comments to [her] regarding [her] ethnicity and religion and . . . is completely outside of what constitutes professional and/or civil conduct." Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant Kushnerick asked inappropriate questions or made discriminatory comments about her hair color, her personal relationships, and her Moldavian national origin.

  On June 12, 2001, Buttacavoli met with Plaintiff to discuss her complaints, which included being asked personal questions, feeling belittled and being mocked for her Moldavian ethnicity. On June 18, 2001, Buttacavoli continued his investigation by meeting with Defendant Kushnerick. The next day, on June 19, 2001, Plaintiff contacted Aetna's Office of Employment Dispute Resolution regarding her complaints. On June 25 and June 29, 2001, Buttacavoli met with Diane Ball and Plaintiff Shramban in attempts to resolve Plaintiff's concerns and complaints. On July 3, 2001, as part of the on-going investigation, Buttacavoli met with Kyran McLaughlin, another Quality Assurance analyst on the EZLink project. McLaughlin's report of alleged events did not confirm Plaintiff's various allegations that Defendant mimicked Plaintiff's accent and did not inform Plaintiff of her project responsibilities. On July 19, 2001, Diane Ball wrote Plaintiff regarding the dispute resolution, and they also discussed a transfer to Aetna's Horsham office. On July 26, 2001, Plaintiff transferred and joined the Quality Assurance team in Horsham, Pennsylvania.

  Plaintiff received her first annual performance review on December 1, 2000, and her overall rating was "Met Expectations." Her subsequent evaluation result for the January to June 2001 time period was also "Met Expectations." On October 4, 2001, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. On January 22, 2002, Plaintiff received a letter informing her that she would not receive a pay increase and also would not receive a year-end performance incentive bonus.

[262 F. Supp.2d 535]

     

  Plaintiff alleges discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII and the PHRA. Defendants now move for summary judgment on all claims, arguing that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

  DISCUSSION

 I. Legal Standard

  In deciding a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), a court must determine "whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and, if not, whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Medical Protective Co. v. Watkins, 198 F.3d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1999) (internal citation omitted). When making this determination, courts should view the facts, and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See, e.g., Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). For its part, the non-moving party must, through affidavits, admissions, depositions, or other evidence, demonstrate that a genuine issue exists for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In making its showing, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," id. at 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, and must produce more than a "mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" to withstand summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). If the nonmoving party fails to create "sufficient disagreement to require submission [of the evidence] to a jury," the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 251-52, 106 S.C. 2505.

 II. Plaintiff's Hostile Work Environment Claim

  Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kushnerick created a hostile work environment with discriminatory conduct and comments and that Defendant Aetna failed to respond to her complaints of racial, sexual, religious and national origin discrimination and harassment and prevented Plaintiff from advancing in her employment position. Defendant Aetna contends that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the hostile work environment claim.

  In order to establish a hostile work environment claim, Plaintiff must prove five elements: "(1) the employee suffered intentional discrimination because of [membership in a protected group]; (2) the discrimination was pervasive and regular; (3) the discrimination detrimentally affected the plaintiff; (4) the discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person of the same [protected group] in the same position; and (5) the existence of respondent superior liability." Kunin v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 175 F.3d 289, 295 (3d Cir. 1999)(citing Andrews v. City of Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1482 (3d Cir. 1990)). In determining whether an environment is sufficiently hostile or abusive, courts must look to the totality of the circumstances, including the "frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or ...


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