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Dezack v. Alliance Imaging

June 3, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donetta W. Ambrose, Chief U.S. District Judge

AMBROSE, Chief District Judge



Plaintiff Linda L. Dezack ("Dezack") commenced this action asserting claims for gender discrimination under Title VII, age discrimination under the ADEA, and Pennsylvania state law claims for retaliatory/wrongful discharge, intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with economic opportunity. Defendants have moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint in its entirety. For the reasons set forth below, I dismiss Plaintiff's Title VII and ADEA claims with prejudice, and dismiss without prejudice Plaintiff's additional claims arising under Pennsylvania law.

I. Standard of Review

Summary judgment may only be granted 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 judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against the party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, this Court must examine the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Internat'l Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chem. Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence creates no genuine issue of material fact. Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d Cir. 1987). The dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Summary judgment must therefore be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).

II. Relevant Factual Background

The facts at issue are, for the most part, undisputed. Indeed, the discrepancies between Plaintiff's and Defendants' versions of the events involve more the inferences, if any, to be drawn from those events than the actual facts themselves.

Defendant Alliance Imaging, Inc. ("Alliance") is a nationwide provider of diagnostic imaging services. (DSF, at ¶ 6.)*fn1 Alliance provides, inter alia, MRI, CT, PET, PET CT and radiation therapy services to hospitals and to radiology and physician groups. (Docket No. 34-2, hereinafter referred to as "Burke Dep.," at 10-11.) Defendant Timothy Burke ("Burke") was at all relevant times a Senior Marketing Representative for Alliance. (DSF, at ¶ 2.) Defendant Christopher Gruttadauria ("Gruttadauria") was Alliance's Director of Human Resources. Defendant Richard Jones ("Jones") was Alliance's Vice President of Operations. Defendant Dan Koblin ("Koblin") was Alliance's Vice President for Human Resources. (Id.)

On January 6, 2005, Dezack was extended an offer of full-time employment with Alliance as an Area Marketing Specialist at a salary of $55,000 per year, plus bonus and car allowance. (DSF, at ¶ 11; Docket No. 34-5.) The position was expressly stated to be at-will and Dezack was not offered and did not sign an employment contract. (Id.) On January 10, 2005, she accepted the position, and commenced work as of January 17, 2005. (Docket No. 35-5.) As a Marketing Specialist*fn2 , Dezack's primary responsibilities were to market Alliance's imaging services to physicians within the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania market. (DSF, at ¶ 12.) Defendant Jones, Alliance's Vice President of Operations for the Northeast division, which includes Pittsburgh, testified that the role of a marketing representative was to "grow the referral base" and "act as a customer liaison." (Docket No. 34-3, hereinafter referred to as "Jones Dep.," at 22.) A marketing representative was also required to educate physicians "towards the utilization of PET, since PET was introduced into the practical environment out of the research lab," "provid[e] clinical studies to back up what [she] was stating and how PET should be used or when it should be recommended based on the clinical data," and attend tumor boards*fn3 at the hospitals. (Docket No. 44-5, hereinafter referred to as "Dezack Dep.," at 83.) The parties dispute whether new marketing representatives are considered on probationary status for a period of nine months (Docket No. 44-22, hereinafter referred to as "Dezack Aff.," at ¶ 5) or ninety days (Docket No. 48, at ¶ 2.) Approximately 75% of Alliance's marketing representatives are women. (Gruttadauria Dep., at 47.) Dezack was the oldest marketing representative, at 49 years of age. (Dezack Aff., at ¶ 15.)

At the time that Dezack began working, she was provided with a copy of Alliance's Employee Handbook. (DSF, at ¶ 38.) Section 113 of the Employee Handbook addresses the employee's right to obtain outside employment. (Docket No. 34-12.)

While employed at Alliance, an employee may not work for one of the Company's competitors. Outside employment that a constitutes a conflict of interest is strictly prohibited. An employee may not receive any personal income or gain from other companies or individuals outside the Company for materials produced or services rendered while performing his or her job at the Company.

An employee may hold a job with another organization which is not a Company competitor, as long as such job does not interfere with the time requirements of his or her Alliance job and the employee satisfactorily performs his or her job responsibilities with the Company. All employees will be judged by the same performance standards and will be subject to the Company's scheduling demands, regardless of any outside work requirements.

An employee who wishes to work for another while working for the Company must notify his/her supervisor or manager prior to commencing the other employment. . . .

Failure to notify the supervisor may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination. . . .


Section 114 of the Employee Handbook, entitled "Confidential Information," provided: The protection of confidential business information and trade secrets is vital to the interest and success of the Company. You will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of employment. If you disclose trade secrets or confidential business information, you will be subject to corrective action, up to and including termination of employment and legal action, even if you do not actually benefit from the disclosed information. (Docket No. 34-13.)

The Employee Handbook also contained a description of Alliance's "Open Door" policy. (Docket No. 34-14.) Section 103 of the Employee Handbook provided:

The Open Door policy at Alliance is designed to provide employees with a process for discussing work-related problems, asking questions or voicing complaints. Employees are encouraged to discuss work-related issues with their immediate supervisors. The simplest, quickest, and most satisfactory solution will often be reached using this process.

If the discussion with the employee's supervisor does not answer the employee's concerns or resolve the matter to the employee's satisfaction, or if the employee believes it would be inappropriate to contact that person, the employee may discuss the problem with the department executive or the Human Resources Department. If after this discussion the employee is still dissatisfied with the outcome, the employee may present his or her case in writing to the Chief Executive Officer.

If the issue involves the supervisor or manager with whom the employee would ordinarily discuss a problem, or it would be awkward for the employee to discuss the problem with the manager directly, the employee may bypass that ...

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