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Westerman v. General Nutrition Corp.

January 30, 2007

LESLIE J. WESTERMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GENERAL NUTRITION CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge.

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

SYNOPSIS

In this civil action, Plaintiff, formerly employed by Defendant General Nutrition Corporation ("GNC"), avers that GNC retaliated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e et seq., and discriminated against her in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). She also asserts claims for breach of a settlement agreement between the parties, and for violations of Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law ("WPCL"), 43 Pa. C.S.A. § 260.3. In essence, Plaintiff avers that following resolution of initial complaints regarding gender discrimination and subsequent retaliation therefor, she suffered further retaliation and was fired because of her age.

Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all claims against it. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

OPINION

I. FACTS

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff was hired by Defendant on February 29, 1988. During her time there, she served in a variety of positions. Her most recent title was Director, Print & Production.*fn1

On September 26, 1997, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination against Defendant with the EEOC. She then filed an action in this Court, at Docket No. 98-1022 ("Westerman I"). In both filings, Plaintiff alleged gender discrimination in violation of Title VII, and retaliation with respect to her complaints of gender discrimination.

Her supervisor at the time, Joe Bresse, was demoted and transferred in part as the result of her complaints; later, he was returned to Pittsburgh and became Plaintiff's supervisor again.

After extensive negotiation regarding the terms of a settlement, Plaintiff signed an agreement settling Westerman I.*fn2 Under cover of letter dated November 11, 2003, Plaintiff submitted the signed agreement to Defendant. This Court marked the matter closed on May 1, 2001, after being informed by counsel that a settlement had been reached. Defendant then returned a fully executed copy of the agreement to Plaintiff under cover of letter dated May 7, 2004. The date that Defendant signed the agreement is not of record. Plaintiff was represented by counsel when the release was signed, and she was not under any duress when she executed the document.

The agreement provides that it "is entered into this 8th day of February, 2003, by and between [Plaintiff and Defendant]." It further provides that the agreement "shall not become effective or enforceable until the eighth (8th) day after the date of its execution." Plaintiff was represented by counsel when she signed the agreement. As part of their contract, the parties agreed to conduct an arbitration to address various matters concerning Plaintiff's compensation for certain times during her employment. Moreover, Plaintiff agreed to release Defendant from all claims relating to her employment with Defendant, prior to "the date of this Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims." There are no dates, or spaces left for dates, at or near the parties' signature lines.

The agreement further provides as follows:

Regardless of the final award of the arbitration panel, [the parties- agree that:

(b). GNI...shall not retaliate against Westerman;

(c). Westerman's position shall be redescribed, reevaluated, and revised to reflect all of her duties and responsibilities with an appropriate grade level....

(d). GNI will issue a "recognition of services" letter...for inclusion in Westerman's personnel file....

(e). Ms Westerman's title shall be enhanced...regardless of the outcome of the neutrals' evaluation;

(g). Ms Westerman shall be provided a complete, inclusive and accurate copy of her personnel files when this Agreement is executed and ...


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