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Ostrowski v. Prudential Equity Group

May 12, 2006

SUSAN OSTROWSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRUDENTIAL EQUITY GROUP, LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc. 44). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion in part and deny it in part. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

BACKGROUND

Susan Ostrowski first began working for Prudential Equity Group, LLC ("Prudential") in 1985. (Doc. 1 ¶ 10; Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 58.) In 1996, Ms. Ostrowski moved to Prudential's Wilkes-Barre office where she teamed with her father, Robert Ostrowski. (Doc. 1 ¶ 11; Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 69). Mr. Ostrowski had been a Financial Advisor at Prudential for almost 40 years. (Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 374-75.) Then, in late 1999 or early 2000, Carol Ostrowski (Ms. Ostrowski's sister) also joined the "Ostrowski team". (Doc. 47, Ex. 4 at 13-14).

In September 2000, David L. Capin became the Complex Manager for the Scranton and the Wilkes-Barre offices. (Doc. 1 ¶ 13; Doc. 47, Ex. 3 at 12-14). Mr. Capin was also a Financial Advisor with his own team during his tenure as Manager. (Doc. 47, Ex. 3 at 13; Doc. 77, Ex. 2 at 52-53.)

In March 2001, Mr. Capin solicited applications from the Financial Advisors in Wilkes-Barre for a Financial Advisor In Charge ("FAIC") Position and a Qualified Delegate ("QD") position. (Ex. 8). Defendants submitted evidence that Ms. Ostrowski did not express interest in the FAIC position, but that she did ask to be considered as a QD. (Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 114). Plaintiff submitted evidence that she expressed interest in both positions. (Doc. 1 ¶ 17.) Plaintiff was not promoted to either position. (Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 115-17; Doc. 77, Ex. 2 at 77.)

Then, in July 2001, Prudential terminated Robert Ostrowski's employment. (Doc. 47, Ex. 3 at 438). Following the termination, Mr. Ostrowski's accounts were not distributed to all of the Financial Advisors in the typical fashion. Id. Rather, Ms. Ostrowski and her sister became responsible for Mr. Ostrowski's customer base. Id.

Shortly thereafter, Prudential closed its Wilkes-Barre office and consolidated that operation with the Scranton office. (Doc. 1 ¶ 20; Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 128-30). Defendants submitted evidence that during the transition, the move to the Scranton office was difficult for all of the Wilkes-Barre employees. (Doc. 47, Ex. 3 at 413-14.) Plaintiff submitted evidence that she was initially excluded from the new office layout, only her direct telephone line did not work for over a week, and her calling card was later cancelled. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 21-23, 32.) Furthermore, Plaintiff submitted evidence that Mr. Capin excluded her from conferences in May 2001 and Fall of 2001. (Doc. 1 ¶ 36.) In addition, Plaintiff submitted evidence that Mr. Capin refused to hire a new sales assistant for her in October 2001. (Doc. 1 ¶ 33.)

Plaintiff further submitted evidence that Mr. Capin stated on several occasions that, "This is a man's business. It's a man's world." (Doc. 77, Ex. 3 at 29.) Plaintiff also submitted evidence that Mr. Capin "seemed to really resent Susan because she was a woman and because she was in a position of power." (Doc. 77, Ex. 3 at 24-25.)

Then, in March 2002, according to the evidence submitted by Plaintiff, Mr. Capin edited Ms. Ostrowski's advertisement submissions to "Today's Woman". Specifically, Mr. Capin eliminated reference to Plaintiff carrying "on the 40 years of dedication and client service" of the Ostrowski Team, and Plaintiff's years of experience in the securities industry. (Doc. 77, Ex. 16, Ex. 17.) Furthermore, Plaintiff submitted evidence that during the spring of 2002, Mr. Capin refused to allow Tracy Zullo to join the Ostrowski team. (Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 97-107.)

In September 2002, Mr. Capin returned to being a full-time Financial Advisor. (Doc. 47, Ex. 3 at 27, 31). Howard Buchler then became the Branch Manager. (Doc. 47, Ex. 5 at 9). Plaintiff submitted evidence that Mr. Capin and Mr. Buchler repeatedly referred to both Plaintiff and other women as "bitches". (Doc. 77, Ex. 5 at 36; Ex. 6 at 224.)

Lastly, Plaintiff submitted evidence that throughout 2001 and 2002, Tom Kish, the Administrative Manager, favored the distribution of accounts to male Financial Advisors. (Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 295-98.) Further, Plaintiff submitted evidence that Mr. Capin was adamant that new accounts not be distributed to Plaintiff. (Doc. 77, Ex. 3 at 25.) Moreover, Plaintiff submitted evidence that Mr. Capin instructed Mr. Kish not to distribute accounts to Plaintiff. (Doc. 77, Ex. 3, at 31-32.) Defendant, on the other hand, submitted evidence that a computer system called "HARP" generated a list of the accounts held by departing Financial Advisors, which was then posted for each Financial Advisor to note the clients with whom (s)he had a relationship. Defendants further submitted evidence that Mr. Kish then allocated accounts based upon the strength of the relationships between the Financial Advisors and clients. (Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 296-97, Ex. 3 at 136-39.) As of August 2002, the HARP system became fully automated and distributed accounts in the order of the most productive Financial Advisors. (Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 300-301.)

Effective July 1, 2003, Financial Advisors employed by Prudential became employees of Wachovia Securities. (Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 8, 15). Ms. Ostrowski currently remains employed by Wachovia. (Doc. 47, Ex. 2 at 8).

On or about September 4, 2002, Ms. Ostrowski filed a Charge of Discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Doc. 1 ¶ 6.) Plaintiff later filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission on or about October 7, 2002. (Doc. 1 ¶ 7.) Then, on March 14, 2003, Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court alleging discrimination on the basis of gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 PA. CONN. STAT. ANN. § 951, et seq. (Doc. 1.) Defendant filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment on September 15, 2005. (Doc. 44.) Oral Argument was held on the motion on April 26, 2006. (Doc. 74.) The motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-257.

The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 PA. CONN. STAT. ANN. § 951, et seq. The Court will discuss these ...


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