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WILLIAMSON v. PENN MILLERS INSURANCE COMPANY

December 14, 2005.

PATRICIA WILLIAMSON, Plaintiff,
v.
PENN MILLERS INSURANCE COMPANY, JACK L. BURKE, and HARVEY SPROUL, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MUNLEY, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court for disposition is the defendants' Joint Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff Patricia Williamson's employment discrimination claims. This matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, we will grant the Motion and dismiss this case.

I. Background

  On August 9, 1993, when Williamson was 46 years old, Defendant Penn Millers Insurance Company hired her to be the Executive Secretary to the President and Chief Executive Officer, Defendant Jack L. Burke. She held this position until she was terminated on February 25, 2003. Williamson was the only Executive Secretary at Penn Millers.

  On May 15, 2000, Williamson asked Burke how she could move into a position to earn more money. (Pl. Dep. 35). Burke advised her to meet with Pat Staples, then the Human Resources Director. (Pl. Dep. 36). Williamson met with Staples, and Staples explained that other Executive Secretaries in the region made less, and Williamson felt insulted. (Pl. Dep. 36, 105-06). Staples informed Williamson that they would meet again the next Monday, and Williamson should keep track of her time and activities. (Pl. Dep. 36). Williamson complied, but after the next meeting Staples did not pursue the matter further. (Pl. Dep. 36-37). Williamson felt that she should not have to pursue the matter with Staples, and Burke should have handled the situation. (Pl. Dep. 35-36).

  Each position at Penn Miller corresponds to a salary grade. (Pl. Dep. 33; Pl. Dep. Ex. 5). As an Executive Secretary, Williamson was pay grade seven, with a minimum salary of $19,252 and a maximum of $32,779. (Staples Aff. Ex. A). By 2001, Williamson earned twenty six percent over the maximum for her grade. (Pl. Dep. 67-69). Williamson, however, wanted a title that would change her classification to place her in a higher grade. (Pl. Dep. 68-69). Specifically, she wanted to be an officer. (Pl. Dep. 70) Williamson, however, did not ask for a title, (Pl. Dep. 69) nor did she apply for another position in the company (Pl. Dep. 76.). Williamson felt as though she was unqualified to perform any existing officer position, but thought she was qualified to become Assistant Secretary of the Corporation. (Pl. Dep. 74) Prior to Williamson's arrival, however, the company discontinued this position, and she did not want them to reimplement the position. (Pl. Dep. 75) Penn Millers offered training courses and tuition reimbursement for courses that could lead to opportunities within the company, but she did not avail herself of these opportunities. (Pl. Aff. ¶¶ 39-46).

  After Williamson approached Burke about opportunities for advancement in May of 2000, she felt as though her relationship with him changed significantly. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 57). She lists a number of subsequent incidents that she characterized as "harassment." (Pl. Aff. ¶¶ 61-62). She explained that the "harassment" consisted of a few occasions where Burke would call her into his office to "drop a bomb" on her. (Pl. Dep. 119). Specifically, she testified, "I did not believe he was harassing me. What I meant by harassment is just to call me in. Periodically, he'd drop a bomb on me." (Pl. Dep. 119). She explained that this "harassment" related to a number of incidents she deemed insignificant. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 61). First, Burke misinterpreted a comment Williamson made about liners used in remodeling the company kitchen. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 63a). Burke's wife supplied the liners, and when Burke asked Williamson how the liners worked out, she told him they did not and stated "somebody's head is going to roll." (Id.) Williamson did not mean Burke's wife's head was going to roll, but Burke called her into his office and said he took the comment personally, and Williamson apologized. (Id.) In the next incident, Burke overheard Williamson correct Scott Veech' grammar, and he advised her that he did not find it appropriate because Veech was a senior officer. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 63b). During one meeting, Williamson expressed that she felt something was amiss, and Burke told her "you will never advance in this company in your position. All you are is an Executive Secretary, you will never become an officer of the company." (Pl. Aff. ¶ 63e).

  In another meeting, on April 17, 2001, Burke advised Williamson that she should reduce her visiting within the company. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 63b). Williamson explained to Burke that she felt she was following his previous order to make herself seen within the company, and added that she rarely left her desk. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 63d). Williamson responded that she wanted to bring the matter to the attention of Harvey Sproul and Harvey Rose, two directors of the company, to explain her side of the story. (Pl. Dep. 176-77). Burke explained that the directors do not become involved in personnel matters. (Pl. Dep. 178). A couple of hours later, Burke told her that she could be cited for insubordination. (Pl. Dep. 83-84). A few days later he again told her she could be cited for insubordination. (Pl. Dep. 84). On April 19, 2001, Williamson signed a memorandum that explained that personnel issues should not go to the Executive Committee and she would suffer serious consequences if she did. (Pl. Dep. 179-80). On April 20, 2001, Williamson spoke with Mark DeCesaris, the Senior Vice President, about what transpired with Burke. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 63o). DeCesaris sought her assurance that she would not take her concerns to any member of the executive committee and specifically that she would not talk to Sproul or Rose. (Id.). DeCesaris also warned her that if she did, she could be cited for insubordination. (Id.). On April 24, 2001, Williamson apologized to Burke, and assured him that at no time would she go over his head and call a meeting with Rose and Sproul. (Pl. Dep. 185).

  Williamson and Burke continued to have personal issues with minor office incidents. For example, in June of 2002, Burke confronted her about her phone use. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 63s). Burke also suspected that Williamson had obtained confidential information and written anonymous letters to Rose and Sproul. (Burke Aff. ¶¶ 14-20).

  On Friday, February 21, 2003, their issues culminated in a meeting where Burke called Williamson into his office and told her she would no longer attend directors meetings, board advisory meetings, manager meetings, or officer meetings. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 63y). He also told her that she would no longer open his mail and he wanted her key back. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 63y).

  Williamson immediately called Sproul without discussing it with Burke. (Pl. Dep. 93). Sproul stated he was glad she called and was saddened to hear about her situation. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 68). She informed him that he needed to "step up to the plate" on behalf of the employees of the company, and if he did not do so she would write a letter to every director and would sue the company. (Pl. Dep. 96-98). Sproul also explained that he would have to inform Burke of the conversation. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 68).

  The next day, Williamson called a former employee, Karen Martinelli, and said she felt that she soon would be terminated. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 72-75). Williamson took a personal day the Monday after her conversation with Sproul, but she received a phone call from Staples directing her not to report to work until Penn Millers decided how to respond to her conversation with Sproul. (Pl. Dep. 95-96). The following day, Staples called back to tell Williamson that she was terminated. (Pl. Dep. 95-96). Burke made the decision to fire Williamson in consultation with Staples. (Burke Aff. ¶ 28).

  Williamson was 56 at the time of her termination and was earning $43,290 per year, approximately thirty-two percent above the maximum for her pay grade. (Staples Aff. ¶ 3). Following Williamson's termination, Kathy Lettieri assumed the newly created position of Assistant to the President. (Staples Aff. ¶ 5). Previously, Lettieri had been the Administrator in the Public Relations Department. (Staples Aff. ¶ 4). In her new position, Lettieri continued to perform her public relations duties, but also assumed Williamson's former duties assisting Burke with the daily operations of the Executive Department. (Staples Aff. ¶ 5). Assistant to the President is not an officer position, (Staples Aff. ¶ 7) and it is salary grade four, with a minimum salary of $27,600 and a maximum salary of $44,200. (Pl. Ex. G).

  In recognition of her added responsibilities, Lettieri received a ten percent raise effective March 17, 2003, less than a month after Williamson was terminated. (Staples Aff. ¶ 6). Following her raise, Lettieri earned $37,358.10. (Id.) In November 2003, Lettieri earned an eight percent raise and her salary increased to $40,352. (Pl. Ex. G). Penn Millers granted this raise because she successfully performed new duties. (Id.). ...


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