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Holts v. Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania

September 4, 2009

GERALDINE HOLTS, AND MARY BETH HEAVERLEY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITIZENS BANK OF PENNSYLVANIA, INC., T/D/B/A CITIZENS BANK, A SUBSIDIARY OF CITIZENS FINANCIAL GROUP, INC., AND CITIZENS FINANCIAL GROUP, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before this court is a motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 25) filed by defendants Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania and Citizens Financial Group, Inc. ("defendants" or "Citizens"). Plaintiffs Geraldine Holts ("Holts") and Mary Beth Heaverley ("Heaverley" and together with Holts "plaintiffs") filed this civil action asserting age and sex discrimination claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. ("ADEA"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 PA. CONS. STAT. §§951 et seq. ("PHRA").*fn1 Plaintiffs initially filed these claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), and cross-filed with the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission ("PHRC"). Both plaintiffs exhausted their administrative remedies.

For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.

Factual Background

Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, Inc. was formed in 2001 in connection with the December 2001 acquisition by Citizens Financial Group, Inc. of the retail and commercial banking operations of Mellon Bank, N.A. ("Mellon"). (Joint Statement of Material Facts ("JS") ¶ 1.) Following its acquisition of Mellon's retail banking operations, Citizens became more proactive than Mellon had been in setting goals and objectives for and measuring the performance of its branch offices. (JS ¶ 6.) Goals were set at the corporate level, but Craig Campbell ("Campbell"), the regional director for western Pennsylvania during the time in question, allowed his regional managers to redistribute their goals slightly between their branches. (Pls.' App. Ex. 13, at 26-27.)

Following the merger and Citizens' imposition of more aggressive sales goals, the employees who carried over from Mellon had concerns regarding whether they would be able to meet their new goals and survive under Citizens' regime. (Defs.' App. Ex. 7, at 17-18.) At a meeting in 2002 or 2003, Regional Director Richard Hymanson ("Hymanson") allegedly said that about one-third of the branch managers present would not be there in a few years and that "there were younger people waiting in the wings for their positions." (JS ¶ 12.) Citizens disputes this statement. (Id.) Hymanson was replaced in the regional director position in November 2002 and Campbell eventually assumed that position in November 2003. (Defs.' App. Ex. 2 ¶¶ 9,10.)

Citizens evaluates its employees annually based upon their particular job functions and performance objectives. (JS ¶ 7.) Employees may also receive periodic performance evaluations on a quarterly basis. (Id.) In each category, employees are rated on a scale of one through five, with one being the highest rating. (Id.) For employees who fail to perform at a satisfactory level, Citizens implements a progressive discipline and performance improvement process. (Id. ¶ 8.) The first step is an oral discussion between the employee and his or her immediate supervisor. (Id.) If this does not lead to an improvement, the employee receives a written warning and a written performance improvement plan. (Id.) If the employee fails to meet all expectations during the performance improvement plan period, an employee may be terminated. (Id.) Generally, termination is preceded by a final written warning notice to the employee. (Id.)

Campbell was placed on a performance improvement plan that required him to increase the performance of branch operations in the western Pennsylvania area during the 2005 calendar year. (Id. ¶ 9.) In furtherance of his performance improvement plan and as the supervisor of the regional managers, Campbell worked with the human resources department to develop a list of branch managers who should be on corrective action because their branches were not meeting performance goals. (Defs.' App. Ex. 1, Blyth Dec. Ex. C.) The list included the managers of the bottom fifty percent performing branches, minus managers who were on target for three or more goals, new to their positions, or had other significant mitigating circumstances. (Id.) The list included Holts as well as David Zebrowski ("Zebrowski"), who supervised Heaverley (Id.)

In May 2005, Barbara Blyth ("Blyth"), the human resources director for western Pennsylvania, sent an email to various decision makers containing a list of all the branch managers in the region managed by Reid Segar ("Segar"). (JS ¶ 12.) The list included the ages of the branch managers in the right-hand column. (Id.) Campbell, who likely saw the list at the time it was circulated, admitted in his deposition that though he did not recall seeing it, he would have thought the inclusion of the age column to be "alarming." (Pls.' App. Ex. 13, at 87.) Among the branch managers on the list were Holts and Donna Senko, who was discharged in October 2005. (JS ¶ 12.) Two of the four other branch managers on the list were no longer with Citizens by the end of 2005. (Pls.' App. Ex. 13, at 105-06.)

Facts Concerning Holts

Holts was employed by Mellon for more than twenty-five years, consistently meeting or exceeding the performance standards set by Mellon. She was promoted to the position of branch manager at the Fourth and Main office in Greensburg, Pennsylvania ("Fourth and Main Branch") in 1992 and given the title of assistant vice president in 2002. (Compl. ¶ 15.) She became a Citizens' employee following the merger in 2001. (Id. ¶ 16.)

Shortly after assuming the regional manager position in March, 2005, Segar visited the Fourth and Main Branch and met with Holts and other branch employees. (JS ¶¶ 10-11.) According to Holts' deposition, Segar made negative comments about Holts' computer skills and those of other older employees in comparison to Citizens' younger employees, although he did not specifically comment about the ages of the older employees. (Defs.' App. Ex. 7, 25.) Segar visited the branch on at least one other occasion before April 18, 2005. During this visit, he questioned branch employees about Holts' performance as branch manager while she was out of the office. (JS ¶ 11.)

On April 18, 2005, Segar again visited the Fourth and Main Branch and presented Holts with a development plan, which set forth computer, organizational, and operational areas in which Segar wanted Holts to develop her skills. (Id. ¶ 12; Defs.' App. Ex. 20.) This development plan was not part of Citizens' formal disciplinary process. (JS ¶ 13.)

On June 20, 2005, Segar presented Holts with a verbal warning, the first step of Citizens' disciplinary process. (Id.) The warning listed the areas where Citizens alleges Holts' job performance was less than satisfactory, including failure to meet sales goals for her branch, tardiness, failure to attend conference calls, sleeping during meetings, failure to coach her staff, lack of organization, and failure to meet deadlines. (Id.) Holts disputes these allegations and claims that her sales goals were unrealistically high. (Id.) Holts claims that she was late for conference calls because Segar scheduled them for 9:00 a.m., when the branch was just opening and she would often be talking with a customer, and because she encountered some technical difficulties in dialing in to conference calls. (Id.) Holts claims that she was not late to a training meeting; rather, the meeting started early. (Id.) With respect to her failure to meet deadlines, Holts alleges that Segar failed to give her necessary instructions to submit certain work correctly on time. (Id.) Holts denies sleeping during any meetings and claims that a representative from human resources agreed to remove from her review the deficiencies with respect to tardiness, inability to meet deadlines, and unsatisfactory comprehension of the job. (Id.)

For the quarter that ended on June 30, 2005, the Fourth and Main branch failed to meet any of its five performance objectives: consumer and business checking accounts, loans, investments, and deposit growth. (Id. ¶ 14.) It was during this quarter that the goals for the Fourth and Main branch were dramatically increased. (Id.) On August 29, 2005, after not seeing a significant improvement in Holts' performance, Segar gave Holts a written warning. (Id. ¶ 17.)

In mid-September 2005, Holts visited Blyth's office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 18.) Holts asked to be transferred to another position within Citizens because she did not want to continue to work under Segar. (Defs.' App. Ex. 7, 53.) Blyth offered her an assistant manager position at the Eaton Road branch without a reduction in salary, which Holts eventually accepted effective November 7, 2005. (JS ¶ 18.) She was replaced as branch manager at the Fourth and Main branch by Ronald Tufts, a thirty-eight-year-old male. (Defs.' App. Ex. 6 ¶ 24.)

Citizens issued Holts a final written warning on February 10, 2006, based upon allegations of lack of familiarity with account processing, lack of organizational skills, and excessive tardiness. (JS ¶¶ 20-21.) Holts denies the tardiness allegation, claiming that there was a miscommunication about the time she was expected to arrive at work. (Id.) The warning gave her ninety days during which she had to avoid tardiness to business meetings and required her to show improvement in the other areas within thirty days or face termination. (Defs.' App. Ex. 26.) Holts was not subject to any further disciplinary action following the final written warning and her supervisor noticed some improvements in her performance. (JS ¶¶ 22-23.)

Seven months following the final written warning in September 2006, Holts resigned her position with Citizens to accept a position as a branch manager with PNC Bank at a salary of $50,000, approximately $7,000 to $8,000 more than she was paid by Citizens. (Id. ¶ 24.) She was fifty-seven years old at that time. (Compl. ¶ 30.) Holts duties were assumed by an individual who was less than forty years old and male. (Id.)

Facts Concerning Heaverley

Heaverley was employed as a banking sales specialist ("BSS") for over twenty years in Citizens' Norwin branch with responsibility for sales of financial products and services to consumer and business customers. (Id. ¶ 25.) She was fifty-one years old at the time of her termination, and prior to 2004 consistently met her sales goals and was not subject to disciplinary action. (Compl. ¶¶ 73, 79.) Zebrowski became Heaverley's immediate supervisor in early 2004 and observed several performance deficiencies, including taking too long to process customer transactions, tardiness, excessive personal phone calls, and passiveness that caused her to fail in meeting her sales goals. (JS ¶¶ 28,30.)

Heaverley denies these allegations, citing her July 2004 quarterly performance evaluation that gave her an overall performance score of seventy out of one hundred, with a score of seventy or above being "on target." (Id. ¶¶ 30, 31; Defs.' App. Ex. 32.) Heaverley asserts that she spent a long time getting to know her customers because she believed that getting to know them was good for business. (JS ¶ 30.) She denies that she was frequently late to work and claims that she often worked later than other employees. (Id.) Although she admits that her lunch times were inconsistent, she claims this was because she would find herself with a customer when her lunch time started and she would wait to take lunch until she was finished with the customer. (Id.) Heaverley denies making personal phone calls from work on a regular basis, except for a short call each afternoon to confirm that her daughter had arrived home safely from school. (Id.) She counters Citizens' accusation that she was too passive in bringing in new customers by highlighting an effort she made to generate business by visiting a local shut-in at her home. (Id.) She claims that she was unable to schedule a meeting with another employee as directed by Zebrowski to create a plan for visiting customers. (Id.)

On August 13, 2004, Heaverley was issued a verbal warning for her lack of sales results. (Defs.' App. Ex. 31.) Heaverley demonstrated some improvement in performance, meeting her investment goals for the third and fourth quarters of 2004 and coming closer to meeting her other goals than she had in the past. (Id. ΒΆ 33.) She received an overall rating of four ...


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