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Sinacole v. iGate Capital

December 19, 2006

PATRICIA HUNT SINACOLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
IGATE CAPITAL, A/K/A IGATE CAPITAL CORP., A/K/A IGATE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Stewart Cercone United States District Judge

Electronic Filing

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant, iGate Capital, a/k/a iGate Capital Corp., a/k/a iGate Corporation ("iGate"), has filed a motion for summary judgment. After careful consideration of the motion, the memoranda of law in support and in opposition and the supporting materials supplied by the parties, this Court will grant the motion.

II. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Plaintiff, Patricia Hunt Sinacole, was discharged from her employment on June 30, 2001. She contends that her termination constituted discrimination on the basis of her sex and pregnancy and that it violated her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 (Title VII), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k) (PDA), the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-54 (FMLA) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §§ 951-63 (PHRA). She also alleges that it constituted a breach of her employment contract under Pennsylvania law, for which she seeks salary, wages and benefits under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 P.S. §§ 260.1 to 260.12 (WPCL).

Facts

Plaintiff and Mastech Systems Corporation ("MSC") were parties to a written employment agreement dated April 14, 1998 and effective May 4, 1998. (Pretrial Stip. at 4 § III, ¶ 2; Def.'s Concise Statement Material Facts ¶ 1; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶ 1.)*fn1 Pursuant to the agreement, she was employed full-time as Corporate Human Resources Director for MSC and received an annual salary of $80,000.00 and "standard Company benefits." (Agmt. at 2-3, 10; Sinacole Dep. at 20-22, 26-28.)*fn2

In July 1999, Plaintiff took FMLA leave in connection with the birth of her first child after submitting a written leave request that was approved in writing by her supervisor. (Pretrial Stip. at 4 § III, ¶ 3.) This FMLA leave extended from July 12, 1999 to October 1, 1999. (Docket No. 53 Ex. C.) While she was on leave, Plaintiff provided notification that she was moving from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and would be resigning from her full-time salaried position with MSC. (Pretrial Stip. at 4, § III, ¶ 4.) MSC requested that she become a "W-2 hourly" employee, compensated at an hourly wage of $75 without the full range of standard Company benefits provided to salaried employees, and working with no guarantee of a particular number of hours of work to be assigned to her, but rather as her employer determined it needed her services. She agreed, and her title was changed to Director of Human Resources Consulting Services. (Sinacole Dep. at 29-30, 36-40, 172-73.)*fn3

MSC underwent a number of name changes and/or corporate transitions over the next several years. The parties agree about some of these and disagree as to others and the record is not clear. They agree and the record is uncontroverted that the ultimate parent corporation was renamed iGate Capital Corporation in 2000, and then iGate Corporation in 2002. (Zugay Dep. at 8, 13; Daugherty Aff. ¶ 4;*fn4 Daugherty Dep. at 14.*fn5

Beginning in the spring of 2000, there was a reorganization of iGate Corporation and its affiliated companies. As a result, on April 10, 2000, Plaintiff was placed on the payroll of iGate Capital Management, Inc. ("ICMI"), a newly-formed Pennsylvania corporation and a subsidiary of MSC, and was paid by ICMI and not by MSC (or iGate Capital Corporation) for services provided after April 7, 2000. (Walsh Decl. ¶¶ 5-9, 12-13 & Exs. A, B, C, F, I;*fn6 Docket No. 29 at 14-20; Daugherty Dep. at 17.*fn7

Defendant indicates that, in late 2000, Plaintiff was told that ICMI would not pay her to do work for other subsidiaries of MSC (Defendant refers to the subsidiaries of MSC and iGate as the "Portfolio Companies"), but that she could market her services directly to other Portfolio Companies so long they agreed to place her on their payrolls and to pay her for services. Plaintiff responds that she was told she could continue working for iGate and its subsidiaries and that she intended to continue abiding by the terms of her employment agreement. (Docket No. 29 at 155; Sinacole Dep. at 44-47, 152-54, 252-53.*fn8

As a result, by the end of 2000 Plaintiff was on the payrolls of, and was being paid separately by, the following three Portfolio Companies: ICMI, Mascot Systems Limited ("Mascot") and Global Financial Services of Nevada ("GFS"). (Walsh Decl. ¶¶ 6-9 & Exs. B, C, D, E, I, J, K; Docket No. 29 at 14-20; Sinacole Dep. at 47, 50, 252-53.*fn9

Beginning in late 2000 and continuing through at least December 2002, there were ongoing reductions in the collective workforces of the Portfolio Companies, including the workforce of ICMI. (Docket No. 29 at 160, 165; Zugay Dep. at 33-34, 42-43, 56;*fn10 Zugay Aff. ¶ 12.*fn11

On November 28, 2000, Plaintiff submitted a request for FMLA leave, again because of pregnancy. She indicated that she was requesting to be off from her expected due date, April 4, 2001, until July 4, 2001. (Pl.'s App. Ex. J.)*fn12 She never received a response to her request for leave. She began her leave on April 6, 2001, the date she gave birth. (Sinacole Dep. at 92-93.)*fn13

On May 23, 2001, Plaintiff submitted a notice of intent to return from leave, indicating that she would be able to return on July 2, 2001. (Pl.'s App. Ex. L.)*fn14

On June 22, 2001, Frank Corris, Director of Corporate Resources for ICMI (Daugherty Aff. ¶ 10), sent Plaintiff an email and a letter in which he stated as follows:

We regret to inform you that your employment with iGate Capital and its subsidiary companies is being terminated as of June 30, 2001. Because of your current part-time and "as needed" employment, we do not find that we owe you any outstanding payroll payments at this time. Should you believe our records are in error, please present me with any outstanding hours due you. Upon confirming any remaining hours worked and due to you, we will pay you in an expeditious manner.

Finally, you are required to return all iGate Capital (formerly Mastech) equipment, computers, laptop ... software, etc. ... by June 30, 2001... (Docket No. 29 at 55.) Thus, she was notified on June 22, 2001 that she was being terminated effective June 30, 2001. (Pretrial Stip. at 4 § III, ¶ 5.)

Michael Zugay, Secretary of iGate Corp. and Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of ICMI (Daugherty Dep. at 20;*fn15 Zugay Dep. at 6;*fn16 Zugay Aff. ¶ 1), confirmed that Plaintiff's termination email from Frank Corris was "a termination from all the iGate companies." (Zugay Dep. at 51.) Zugay and iGate CEO Sunil Wadhwani had discussed the Plaintiff's termination prior to Corris sending the termination email. (Id. at 59-60.) Zugay stated that he actually reviewed and revised the termination letter before it was sent to the Plaintiff. (Id. at 48.)

When Zugay was informed that the Plaintiff was still performing work for GFS, one of the Portfolio Companies, after the date of the termination e-mail, he called Dan O'Donnell, CEO of GFS (Daugherty Aff. ¶ 9), and told him "he needed to not use Patti and to use some of the people in the HR group under Mr. Frank Corris." (Zugay Dep. at 57.) Zugay informed Dan O'Donnell "that Dan was ordered by Sunil [Wadhwani] and iGate to stop using her." (Id. at 73). Zugay also informed Mascot that it was to cease using the Plaintiff's services. (Id. at 56-57.)

On July 10, 2001, Frank Corris wrote the following to Plaintiff regarding her continued work for GFS:

I have discussed your termination with Jonathan Bonime since our last discussion. We want a clear departure from your old Mastech employment agreement; therefore, the termination will stand as originally outlined in the termination notice. Your last day as an employee was June 30, 2001. The matter of you consulting for GFS is a matter for Dan O'Donnell to address. If he feels that he is in need of your service, he may contract with you directly but not as an employee. As you stated in your email, you are not working enough hours to qualify for benefits and are more suited to a consulting relationship. Your access to iGate Capital IT services and PeopleSoft databases has been discontinued. (Pl.'s App. Ex. M).*fn17

After June of 2001, Plaintiff continued to submit time for her services for payment on a W-2 hourly basis by GFS until December 14, 2001, and, after that, as an independent contractor through her company, First Beacon Group, until February 23, 2002. (Docket No. 29 at 94-117, 125-41; Sinacole Dep. at 57, 75-81, 84-85*fn18 ; Walsh Decl. ¶ 17 & Ex. M.)

Procedural History

Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) on or about December 13, 2001, with a request that it be dual-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (Docket No. 29 at 148.) A right to sue letter was issued by the EEOC on or about June 21, 2004. (Docket No. 29 at 338.)

Plaintiff filed this action on June 17, 2004 and on July 6, 2004, she filed an amended complaint. Count I alleges that her termination violated the FMLA in that she was terminated prior to the expiration of her FMLA leave and after notice of her intention to return to work and her physician's certification of her ability to do so. Count II alleges that Defendant violated her rights under the PHRA. Count III alleges that Defendant violated her rights under Title VII and the PDA. Count IV alleges that Defendant breached her contract of employment. Finally, Count V seeks salary, wages and benefits allegedly due her under the WPCL.

On March 27, 2006, a motion for summary judgment was filed by Defendant.

III. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

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." Woodside v. School Dist. of Philadelphia Bd. of Educ., 248 F.3d 129, 130 (3d Cir. 2001) (quotingFoehl v. United States, 238 F.3d 474, 477 (3d Cir. 2001) (citations omitted)). In following this directive, a court must take the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all doubts in that party's favor. Doe v. County of Centre, PA, 242 F.3d 437, 446 (3d Cir. 2001); Woodside, 248 F.3d at 130; Heller v. Shaw Indus., Inc., 167 F.3d 146, 151 (3d Cir. 1999).

When the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party's burden can be "discharged by 'showing'--that is, pointing out to the District Court--that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the moving party has carried this burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party who cannot rest on the allegations of the pleadings and must "do more than simply show that there is ...


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