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Rowland v. Certainteed Corp.

May 21, 2009

PATRICIA ROWLAND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CERTAINTEED CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schiller, J.

MEMORANDUM

Patricia Rowland sued Defendants CertainTeed Corporation and Saint-Gobain Corporation, which is a publicly held corporation whose holding company is the parent of CertainTeed, alleging Title VII gender discrimination and a violation of the Equal Pay Act. Rowland charges that Defendants failed to promote her and eventually fired her because she is a woman. The parties dispute the scope of Rowland's failure to promote claim, as Rowland claims that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ("Ledbetter Act") extends her failure to promote claims beyond the 300-day statute of limitations. Before the Court is Defendants' summary judgment motion. For the reasons below, the Court grants in part, and denies in part, the motion. Specifically, the Court finds that Plaintiff has presented evidence sufficient to proceed to a jury on her termination claim and her most recent failure to promote claim. However, the Court holds that Rowland's remaining failure to promote claims are time-barred. These claims are not saved by the Ledbetter Act because a failure to promote claim divorced from a discriminatory compensation claim, as is the case here, does not fall within the purview of that newly enacted law. Plaintiff's Equal Pay Act claim fails on the merits.

I. BACKGROUND

CertainTeed makes building products. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts [Defs.' SOF] ¶ 1.) The company is divided into approximately ten business units, and each unit maintains its own marketing department. (Id. ¶ 2.)

Rowland began her career at CertainTeed in 1997. (Id. ¶ 5.) She started out as a manager in the sales support group and was promoted to director in 2001. (Pl.'s Counter-Statement of Uncontested Facts [Pl.'s Counter SOF] ¶ 20.) At the time of her termination in October of 2007, she was the Building Solutions/Sales Support Director of the Corporate Marketing Department. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 5.) In this capacity, Rowlandmanaged the building solutions program, a call center that responds to technical inquiries about CertainTeed's products and generates leads for the sales force. (Id.) She also managed the sales support program, a marketing program that provides builders, remodelers and architects with incentive to use CertainTeed products. (Id.)

In the early to mid-2000's, Rowland reported to Jay Doubman and later to Alison Barlaz, each of whom held the position of director, business development. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 10.) After Barlaz moved out of that position, the CEO of CertainTeed, Peter Dachowski, sought to create a corporate marketing department for the entire company and a chief marketing officer position to manage the department. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 12.) The position was not posted. (Id. ¶ 13.) The corporate marketing department was ultimately created in 2006 and was first headed by Fred Vapenik, whose title was Chief Marketing Officer. (Id. ¶ 4.) Vapenik's tenure as Chief Marketing Officer was short-lived -- he was terminated on or about April 2, 2007. (Id. ¶ 16.) The CEO decided that the next head of the corporate marketing department should be more tactical and have extensive marketing and CertainTeed business unit experience. (Id. ¶ 17.) Again, this position was not posted. (Id. ¶ 18.)

The parties dispute whether Rowland was considered for this position after Vapenik's departure. Defendants claim that she was considered for the job but not selected because she lacked experience running a business unit marketing department. (Id. ¶ 20.) Rowland claims that before she could even express interest in the job, David Bomzer, Vice President of Human Resources, told her that two people were being considered for the job and she was not one of them. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Statement of Uncontested Facts [Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' SOF] ¶¶ 19-20.) Eventually, Eric Nilsson was hired as the Vice President of Marketing. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 22.)

At the time Nilsson joined the corporate marketing group in 2007, the building materials industry was "forecasting a downward turn." (Id. ¶ 24.) Nilsson was therefore instructed to make cuts. (Id. ¶ 25.) According to Nilsson, the individuals who reported to Rowland (and her counterpart, Marsha Holt) were capable individuals and required little day-to-day supervision from Rowland. (Id. ¶ 26.) Nilsson therefore decided to reduce costs and increase efficiency and productivity in the department by eliminating Rowland and Holt's middle management positions and having the more junior persons in the department report directly to him.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 27.) Nilsson estimated that these moves would save at least $300,000. (Id. ¶ 28.) Rowland and Holt were fired on October 26, 2007. (Id. ¶ 30.) The corporate marketing department has taken other cost-cutting measures since 2007, including ending a partnership with NASCAR, electing not to fill three voluntarily vacated corporate marketing positions, and reducing CertainTeed's participation at trade shows. (Id. ¶ 29.) However, other costs at CertainTeed increased subsequent to Rowland and Holt's terminations. (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s Counter-Statement of Uncontested Facts ¶¶ 8-10.)

In October of 2007, following Rowland's termination, Bomzer offered her a temporary position in CertainTeed's fiber cement division. (Defs.'SOF ¶ 31.) The position was slated to last for a number of months but would terminate when Barlaz, Rowland's former supervisor, returned from maternity leave. (Id. ¶ 32; Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 32-33.) Rowland turned down the offer. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' SOF ¶ 35.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). When the moving party does not bear the burden of persuasion at trial, it may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to carry its burden of persuasion at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Thereafter, the nonmoving party demonstrates a genuine issue of material fact if sufficient evidence is provided to allow a reasonable finder of fact to find for the nonmoving party at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Such affirmative evidence -- regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial -- must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance." Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989). When evaluating a motion brought under Rule 56(c), a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; see also Pollock v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). A court must, however, avoid making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); see also Goodman v. Pa. Tpk. Comm'n, 293 F.3d 655, 665 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Rowland's Title VII Termination Claim

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers "to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges or employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (2009). Absent direct evidence of discrimination, Rowland's Title VII claim that she was terminated based on her gender is analyzed under the familiar McDonnell Douglas framework. See Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock Univ. St. Sys. of Higher Educ., 470 F.3d 535, 539 (3d Cir. 2006). First, Plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of gender discrimination by demonstrating that: (1) she was a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for the position to which she applied; and (3) another person, not in the protected class was treated more favorably. See id. Establishing a prima facie case is not an onerous task. See Ezold v. Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen, 983 F.2d 509, 523 (3d Cir. 1993) ("Because the prima facie case is easily made out, it is rarely the focus of the ultimate disagreement."). Once a Plaintiff has established a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a "legitimate nondiscriminatory explanation for the employer's adverse employment action." Barber v. CSX Distribution Servs., 68 F.3d 694, 698 (3d Cir. 1995). The employer's burden at this second step is "relatively light" and is satisfied upon a showing of "any legitimate reason for the [adverse ...


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