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Priest v. Felcor Lodging Trust Inc.

September 20, 2006

MELONIE P. PRIEST, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FELCOR LODGING TRUST INC. D/B/A HOLIDAY INN SELECT UNIVERSITY CENTER, INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS GROUP D/B/A HOLIDAY INN SELECT UNIVERSITY CENTER, BHR OPERATIONS, LLC, F/K/A BASS HOTELS & RESORTS, INC., D/B/A HOLIDAY INN SELECT UNIVERSITY CENTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

Memorandum Opinion

This is an action for employment discrimination. Plaintiff, Melonie Priest ("Priest") alleges that defendants, Felcor Lodging Trust Inc. d/b/a Holiday Inn Select University Center ("Holiday Inn") discriminated against her on the basis of race, age and gender, and that she was terminated in retaliation for her complaints of alleged discrimination, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). Pending before this Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment (doc. no. 28). After careful consideration, and for the reasons that follow, this Court will GRANT defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. Facts

The parties have set forth more than 75 pages of material facts. The facts, many of which are disputed, but some of which are not "material", may be fairly summarized as follows. Plaintiff, who is an African-American female and is 50 years of age, was employed by defendant at the Holiday Inn Select University Center (Holiday Inn) for almost 9 years (beginning in November 1995). Plaintiff, who was hired out a female offenders program, began in an entry level position and was promoted at least four times, eventually to the Department Head level, Guest Services Manager (GSM) position in 2000. The hotel was in a cost savings mode throughout 2000-2004; however, plaintiff received a pay raise every year of her employment. In September 2004, when plaintiff was terminated, she was earning $44,000. During her employment at Holiday Inn, plaintiff's received all positive evaluations, with only a few areas that were noted as "improvable." (Doc. No. 40, page 7, paragraph 20). As Guest Services Manager, plaintiff had responsibility for management of the front desk, bell staff, and telephone switchboard personnel. Plaintiff, as the Guest Services Manager, reported directly to Steven Mitchell ("Mitchell"), who is the Director of Operations. Mitchell is responsible for revenue management, supervising the Guest Services Department, Housekeeping Department, Food and Beverage, and Maintenance.

Plaintiff alleges that Mitchell created a hostile work environment because when she reported to Mitchell that another employee from her department, Shawn Endler (caucasian male, age 30), was insubordinate and Endler told plaintiff he did not have to listen to her because: he was better than she; she was black; she was a woman; and, he reported directly to Mitchell. According to plaintiff, Mitchell did not investigate plaintiff's complaints about Endler, including her complaint that Endler displayed hostility to the hotel's guests.

Plaintiff further alleges that Mitchell was polite to everyone but plaintiff; that he ignored plaintiff; that he undermined plaintiff's decisions; that he told her to make her own decisions, and not to ask him first; that he told her that hard work did not mean she was smart; that he hit her on the top of her head with a rolled up paper; punched her on the arm and smacked her on the back; that he gave preferential treatment to plaintiff's subordinate (Endler); that he called her "sunshine" and despite plaintiff's complaints to human resources, he continued to do so; and that he asked plaintiff if her sorority would be "throwing pigs on [his] house and painting things all over [his] house" (Plaintiff contends that Mitchell knew the group to be a mostly black sorority and his comment was made in that context).

Endler, who was the Reservations Manager up until 2003, reported to Mitchell, although plaintiff alleges that the reporting structure required Endler to report to plaintiff as the Guest Services Manager. During 2003, plaintiff had conflicts with Endler and on numerous occasions, plaintiff went to Mitchell to discuss the problems she was having with Endler. Mitchell told plaintiff a few times that she should try to work out her problems directly with Endler, and according to plaintiff, she tried to work through the issues with Endler, but once Mitchell told plaintiff in front of Endler that she was not to interact with him, plaintiff contends that it gave Endler "carte blanche" to defy plaintiff.

In November 2003, Endler resigned from the Reservations Manager position to take a position with another hotel. While defendant alleges that the Reservations Manager position was eliminated and was not filled, plaintiff denies that assertion and states that the title of Reservations Manager was eliminated, but that the responsibilities remained and were distributed to plaintiff, Mitchell, and the reservations staff. Plaintiff contends that she performed the Reservations Manager responsibilities for about five months, and she requested, but was denied the title of Reservations Manager. The parties dispute whether the position was actually eliminated.

Sometime in May, 2004, the hotel posted a new Revenue Manager position, a position which plaintiff alleges was posted internally on May 18 but not until after the company offered the job to Endler (who was an outside applicant) as early as April. While the parties agree the plaintiff was on the interview team that interviewed Endler for the Revenue Manager position, plaintiff claims that she told Mitchell she was interested in the Revenue Manager position and that Mitchell told her that she was not qualified for the position (because she lacked systems knowledge) and that the Revenue Manager position would be a demotion and that she would make less money. According to plaintiff, Endler was hired for the position of Revenue Manager, despite her objections. However, the parties agree that Endler was not paid as much as plaintiff and that he was not a Department Head, as was plaintiff.

Sometime between February and May of 2003, defendant was required to cut overall expenses in the hotel through a series of Austerity Measures, which affected all managers, including plaintiff. Many of the managers were frustrated by these cutbacks because they were required to assume additional duties of the positions that were eliminated.

Defendant contends that at the end of 2003, Mitchell was informed by Andy Duymovic, Regional Director of Operations at the time, that the GSM position would be eliminated from the 2004 due to cutbacks. Plaintiff disputes that contention and contends that the only documentary evidence provided that the Regional Director instructed Mitchell to eliminate plaintiff's position was a note prepared by Mitchell in response to plaintiff's discrimination claim.

In support of her failure to promote claim, plaintiff claims that she was not promoted into the positions of Revenue Manager and Reservations Manager. While defendant contends that the Reservations Manager position was a lower position that plaintiff's GSM position because it was not a Department Head Position, plaintiff disputes that contention and states that defendant's job positions and reporting structure were "always changing." Again, while defendant contends that the Revenue Manager position was a lower position than plaintiff's GSM position because it had a lesser salary by $10,000, plaintiff disputes that contention as stated.

Plaintiff also claims that, while she received training prior to her promotion to the GSM position, she was denied further "career advancement training." Defendant disputes that allegation and counters that she attended at least 19 in-house training programs during her time as the GSM, and she was sent ...


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