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Schofield v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

September 15, 2006

ROBERT SCHOFIELD, PLAINTIFF
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, ROBERT PIDICH, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas I. Vanaskie United States District Judge

(JUDGE VANASKIE)

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Robert Schofield initiated this action against his former employer, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife"), and three of MetLife's employees - Robert Pidich, Rose C. Johnston, and Kellee Tinsley - complaining of improper handling of his leave of absence during the winter of 2001 and his ensuing separation from employment in May of 2002. This Court previously dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Ms. Johnston and Ms. Tinsley, as well as claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful discharge, and violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. Schofield v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., No. 3:CV-03-0357 (Dkt. Entry 45) (M.D. Pa. Dec. 16, 2003).

Remaining Defendants MetLife and Mr. Pidich have moved for summary judgment on Mr. Schofield's claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. (Count l); the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (Count ll); the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. C.S.A. § 951, et seq. (Count lll); and the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (Count lV).*fn1

Because Mr. Schofield does not present sufficient evidence from which a fact-finder could conclude that his position changed following his return from FMLA leave or that his leave was a factor behind MetLife's actions that led to his voluntary resignation, his FMLA claim must fail. Likewise, Mr. Schofield has failed to present sufficient evidence that his voluntary resignation constituted an adverse employment action by MetLife or that MetLife acted with discriminatory animus in order to prevail on his discrimination claims. Consequently, MetLife's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

MetLife operates an information technology center in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ("S.M.F.") (Dkt. Entry 71-2) ¶ 1.) The facility employs about forty project managers to manage various software projects. (Id. ¶ 2.)

In 1997, Mr. Schofield became a project manager at the facility. (Id.) In this position, he was responsible for hiring, managing, evaluating, and terminating a team of programmers, system consultants, and other information technology professionals. (Id. ¶ 3.) Kellee Tinsley was a highly regarded member of his team. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) Mr. Schofield reported directly to MetLife Director Robert Pidich. (Id. ¶ 4.)

Mr. Schofield began experiencing severe anxiety and depression in 2001. (Pl.'s Counter Statement of Material Facts ("C.S.M.F.") (Dkt. Entry 71-2) ¶ 17.) Due to his illness, he missed work for most of the month of December 2001. (Mr. Schofield's Dep., Pl.'s Br. Opp. Ex. A (Dkt. Entry 72-2) at 149-150.) Mr. Schofield was eventually placed on disability leave effective January 2, 2002. (Defs.' S.M.F. ¶ 17.) On January 18, 2002, Mr. Schofield attempted suicide. (Pl.'s C.S.M.F. ¶ 20.)

On April 1, 2002, Mr. Schofield returned to his project manager position. (Defs.' S.M.F. ¶¶ 25-26.) Ms. Tinsley and Mr. Pidich agreed to cover for Mr. Schofield if he needed to leave work temporarily due to his illness. (Id. ¶ 28.) During April and May, Mr. Schofield occasionally missed work due to his illness. (Id. ¶¶ 31-37.) Mr. Pidich continued to consider Mr. Schofield one of the best managers at the facility. (Id. ¶ 38.)

Mr. Schofield and Ms. Tinsley had a friendly relationship. (Id. ¶ 39.) Mr. Schofield, however, felt that Ms. Tinsley became temperamental after she was promoted to a project manager position in 2001. (Id. ¶ 40.) According to Mr. Schofield, she subsequently became upset over trivial matters and often snapped at him, only to later apologize. (Id. ¶ 43; Pl.'s C.S.M.F. ¶¶ 40, 43.)

During a conversation between Mr. Schofield and Ms. Tinsley on April 15, 2002, Mr. Schofield noted that he had seen her smoking cigarettes at a colleague's wedding. (Defs.' S.M.F. ¶ 41.) Ms. Tinsley became upset and told Mr. Schofield to "mind his own business." (Id. ¶ 42.)

On April 26, 2002, Ms. Tinsley sent an email to Mr. Schofield stating that she "did not mean to snap" at him and may have been "a little harsh" with him. (Ms. Tinsley's April 26, 2002 email, Saloman Cert. Ex. 13 (Dkt. Entry 57-5).) Mr. Schofield wrote a lengthy response to Ms. Tinsley's email in which he attempted to explain how her reaction made him feel and why he mentioned her smoking. (Mr. Schofield's April 26, 2002 email, Defs.' Br. Ex. 13 (Dkt. Entry 57-5).) In the email, he stated that he had "a very strong attachment and affection" for Ms. Tinsley and that she came "second only to [his] wife." (Id.)

During a conversation on April 29, 2002, Ms. Tinsley informed Mr. Schofield that she did not want to be treated differently based on his personal affection for her. (Defs.' S.M.F. ¶ 49.) Mr. Schofield continued to send Ms. Tinsley emails unrelated to work. (Id. ¶¶ 51, 54.)

On May 2, 2002, Mr. Schofield sent Ms. Tinsley another email titled, "All or nothing." (Mr. Schofield's April 26, 2002 email, Defs.' Br. Ex. 17 (Dkt. Entry 57-6).) It began with the following prefatory statements in bold print:

Don't read this if you are involved in something important. Wait till you have some free time to deal with it. (Id.) Mr. Schofield expressed confusion as to why she had declined his offers to come with her husband to his house for a social visit. (Id.) He also expressed gratitude for her "help, patience and consideration" with his illness, but cautioned that his recovery was not complete and cryptically stated that "Option 'B' is still a serious consideration."*fn2 (Id.) Mr. Schofield further wrote:

I have been very open about how I have come to regard you. I would like to know how you see me.

Sorry to put this on you but I'm sure you can understand I can't stand not knowing the whole picture and being able to make sense out of it. That usually gets me in trouble but that's the way it is. (Id.)

After reading Mr. Schofield's email, Ms. Tinsley became upset and left work. (Defs.' S.M.F. ¶ 62.) She feared that Mr. Schofield was a threat to her safety. (Id.) She contacted MetLife's Human Resources Generalist, Rose Johnston, and complained about Mr. Schofield's actions. (Id. ¶¶ 64-66.) Mr. Pidich also reported Ms. Tinsley's concerns to Human Resources and Mark Davis, a MetLife Vice President, (Id. ¶ 67.) Ms. Johnston accepted Ms. Tinsley's complaint of harassment and hostile work environment, and undertook to investigate the complaint. (Id. ¶ 68.)

Mr. Schofield inquired of Mr. Pidich about Ms. Tinsley's absence from work on Friday, May 3rd. (Id. ¶ 70.) When Mr. Schofield pressed Mr. Pidich as to whether Ms. Tinsley was ill, Mr. Pidich told him to "just let it go . . . ." (Id. ¶ 71.) Mr. Schofield, rather than accepting this advice, sent Ms. Tinsley an email to her home. (Defs.' Br. Ex. 19 (Dkt. Entry 57-6).) He sent her another email on May 6, 2002, entitled "Please read this!" (Defs.' Br. Ex. 20 (Dkt. Entry 57-6).) In this email, Mr. Schofield said: If you want I'll resign so you don't have to work with me anymore.

No matter what, you don't deserve to be upset ...


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