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Wildi v. Alle-Kiski Medical Center

September 18, 2009


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


Pending before the court is a motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 22) filed by defendant Alle-Kiski Medical Center ("defendant" or "Alle-Kiski") seeking judgment in defendant's favor with respect to all claims asserted by plaintiff Lorri Sue Wildi ("plaintiff" or "Wildi"), a former vice-president of operations of defendant. Plaintiff filed a complaint asserting two counts (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff asserts claims for (1) unequal pay in violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) (the "Equal Pay Act") and (2) retaliation in violation of 29 U.S.C. §215(a)(3) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq. ("FLSA"), after Wildi was fired subsequent to complaints related to the Equal Pay Act.

Factual Background

Defendant Alle-Kiski is a medical facility that is part of the West Penn Allegheny Health System. Cindy Schamp ("Schamp") became the CEO of Alle-Kiski in the spring of 2003. (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts not in Dispute ("DSMF") ¶ 2*fn1 .) Plaintiff began working for Alle-Kiski in 1983 as director of operations. By the fall of 2003, plaintiff was promoted to the position of vice-president of operations. (DSMF ¶ 1.) Plaintiff had a masters degree in public management and her bachelor's degree in health planning and administration. (DSMF ¶ 26.)

Schamp was president and CEO of Alle-Kiski during the duration of Wildi's employment as vice-president. (DSMF ¶ 4.) Schamp made recommendations for restructuring a new organizational team for the West Penn Allegheny System in 2003 after she was hired. (DSMF ¶ 5.) Schamp created four vice-president positions, one of which was filled by Wildi. The other three vice-presidents were Michael Harlovic ("Harlovic"), the vice-president of patient care services; George Sandora ("Sandora"), the vice-president of business operations and director of finance; and Bill Englert ("Englert"), the vice-president of operations and business development. All vice-presidents were members of defendant's senior management team. Other members of the senior management team were Arthur Jackson Davis ("Davis"), the director of human resources, and Radha Kambhampati, M.D. ("Kambhampati"), the vice-president of medical affairs. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. B ("Wildi Dep.") at 41; DSMF ¶ 2.)

Plaintiff's Salary Concerns

Vice-presidents were compensated with a combination of base salaries and executive bonuses. The bonuses were generated based upon an evolving compensation formula determined by the performance of the overall organization. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. C ("Schamp Dep.") at 38-39.) The health system generated a pool of funds for bonuses, which was later divided into individual bonuses. (Id.) Schamp would evaluate the goals set out by each vice-president and determine which individual goals furthered the overall performance of Alle-Kiski the most. (Id.) Schamp recommended what percentage of the pool should be allocated to each vice-president. The bonuses were set as a percentage of the base salary.

When the vice-presidents first assumed their positions, they all made the same base salary of $103,001.60. (DSMF ¶ 7.) Despite receiving an identical salary in 2004, the vice-presidents received different bonus compensation. In 2004, Harlovic and Sandora each received a bonus of $30,000.00, Englert received a bonus of $28,000.00, and Wildi received a bonus of $26,000.00. (PSMF ¶ 36; Schamp Dep. at 38-39.)

In 2005, the bonuses increased for each individual. Harlovic and Sandora each received $35,000.00, Englert received $31,900.00, and Wildi received $28,800.00. (PSMF ¶ 40.) The next year, 2006, was a less robust financial year and the bonuses decreased slightly for each employee. Harlovic received $31,300.00, Sandora $31,100.00, Englert $29,500.00, and Wildi $23,000.00. (PSMF ¶ 45.)

By 2007, the salaries of the four vice-presidents continued to diverge. The base salaries, which were the same from 2004 through 2006, were no longer identical. The base salaries were: (1) Harlovic -- $133,348.80, (2) Sandora -- $126,723.20, (3) Englert -- $114,192.00, and (4) Wildi -- $113,360.00. (PSMF ¶ 46.) In addition, all four received executive bonuses. (PSMF ¶¶ 51-52.) That year, Harlovic earned the largest bonus measured in either percentage of base salary or in total dollar amount; Wildi earn the smallest bonus measured either in terms of percentage or dollar amount. (Id.) Schamp testified that even though Wildi and Englert had comparable jobs, Englert received a higher merit bonus because Wildi experienced some work setbacks. (Schamp Dep. at 55.) Wildi struggled with core laboratory transition in 2007, which was one, but not the sole, benchmark for why Wildi earned a lower merit bonus. Schamp factored in feedback from the system team members and meetings with other departments. (Id.)

Defendant contends that Harlovic and Sandora consistently made more money because the pool of individuals qualified for a chief financial officer and chief nurse executive positions were particularly small. (Schamp Dep. at 59-61.) According to Schamp, the positions held by Harlovic and Sandora required more on-the-job experience and additional licenses such as CPA and nursing licenses. (Id.) Schamp testified that Englert's position was not like the other members of the team, and therefore, his salary was not comparable to the other vice-president positions. (Id. at 59.)

Formal Complaints to CEO

In 2004, plaintiff began to suspect that her salary was lower than her male counterparts and also lower than what other vice-presidents made in similar jobs. Through her contact with her colleagues, plaintiff felt there was a serious salary discrepancy. (Wildi Dep. at 50.) Plaintiff testified that, in discussing issues with Englert with respect to market compensation:

We had discussed the fact that based on our relationships that we had with colleagues within the system and information that he had and, of course, I had through my travels, that Alle-Kiski Medical Center vice presidents were paid less than other vice presidents with similar or equal duties and responsibilities, skill sets, et cetera, at our sister facilities. (Wildi Dep. at 52.) When comparing her own salary to those of neighboring facilities such as West Penn Hospital, Allegheny General, and Forbes Regional, Wildi felt that she, along with her colleagues, were not paid their market value and consequently were paid less than vice-presidents at those other facilities. (Wildi Dep. at 52.)

Wildi became frustrated that she was making less money than her male counterparts, whose jobs she perceived were equal to her job. (See Id.) On April 26, 2007, Wildi made a direct complaint to Schamp. (Wildi Dep. at 61-62.) Wildi expressed three concerns. First, she requested a salary review. She sought a salary review because she "was being paid less than [her] counterparts on the senior team, all of whom were male, for positions of similar, if not the same, duties, responsibilities, qualifications, et cetera." (Id. (emphasis added).) Second, she raised her concerns that individuals in positions similar to hers in the West Allegheny Health System were paid a higher salary. Third, Wildi asserted that her salary was not comparable to what the market salary was for her skill set. (Id.) Schamp promised to undertake a salary review for Wildi, but did not take action with respect to the situation. (Id.) Plaintiff and Schamp specifically discussed gender pay inequities. (Wildi Aff. ¶ 25.)

On July 2, 2007, Wildi again raised the salary issue with Schamp. (Wildi Dep. at 63.) Wildi had not heard back from Schamp concerning the matter and was following up on her complaint. (Id.) Schamp stated that she would follow up with John Lasky ("Lasky") about the matter. (Wildi Dep. at 63.) Lasky was the new vice-president of human resources at that time. (Id.) Wildi reiterated her concerns over gender inequity in pay among the members of the senior team. (Wildi Aff. ¶ 28.)

On September 17, 2007, Wildi approached Schamp about the salary review. Schamp had not taken action with respect to the matter. Wildi expressed frustration and concern that she had waited five months for a response. (Id. at 70-72.)

On November 19, 2007, Schamp issued Wildi her yearly executive bonus check. (Wildi Dep. at 74.) Schamp told Wildi that Lasky was looking into her salary review, and Lasky had spoken to Keith Smith ("Smith"), who was the CEO for the West Penn Allegheny System. (Id.) Schamp alerted Wildi that she would receive a response within two to three weeks. (Id.)

After the series of meetings with Schamp, Wildi alleges that her relationship with Schamp deteriorated. Wildi noted that, at a September 17, 2007 meeting, Schamp became angry with Wildi concerning the salary review and advised Wildi to not have a similar conversation with other CEOs. (Id. at 77.) Wildi attempted to maintain a strictly professional relationship with Schamp, rather than attempting to also forge a personal relationship. (Id. at 79.) Wildi felt that Schamp began to treat her differently and Wildi consistently felt left out of senior team meetings. (Id.) Wildi felt left out because Schamp would sometimes include Harlovic, Sandora, and Englert in meetings, without including Wildi. (Id.) For example, for financial review meetings, Schamp testified that Harlovic and Sandora regularly attended along with herself; Kambhampati would occasionally attend. (Schamp Dep. at 115.) Others from within defendant's organization were routinely invited. (Id. at 118.)

Vice-President Positions

In 2004, when the vice-president title was created, Harlovic, Sandora, Englert and Wildi started at the same base salary of $103,001.60. (DSMF ¶ 7.) According to Wildi, all four vice-presidents had similar duties and responsibilities at the hospital. All the vice-presidents were responsible for ancillary departments and cost centers. (Wildi Dep. at 42-43.) All the vice-presidents maintained physician relationships and sat on the senior management team of AlleKiski. (Id.) Within the organizational structure Alle-Kiski had adopted during the relevant time period, there were four "pillars of success." Wildi alleges that each vice-president was in charge of one pillar; her pillar of success was service. (Id.) Finally, prior to the reorganization in 2003, the vice-presidents were previously directors of their respective operations. When they became vice-presidents, the scope of their responsibilities grew to encompass more duties. (Id.)

Defendant, however, rejects plaintiff's assertion that the vice-president positions were similar. Defendant relied upon a number of job requirement sheets as evidence of the differences in the position requirements. (See Davis Aff. (Doc. No. 21).) Wildi, however, alleges that defendant created "job requirement sheets" after she was fired, since she never saw them during her tenure with defendant. (Wildi Dep. at 78.) The job requirement sheets are copyrighted 2008. (See, e.g., Davis Aff., Ex. A.)

Harlovic's Position

Davis stated that the role of vice-president of patient care services required a master's degree in nursing, healthcare administration, business administration, or a clinical/medical degree. (Davis Aff., Ex. A.) He further stated that the job required ten years experience in the administration of clinical support services in a hospital and a license as a professional nurse, and required knowledge of the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of HealthCare Organizations ("JCAHO") standards and Pennsylvania Department of Health regulations. (Id.) Harlovic was the vice-president of patient care services during the time period at issue, and made the most money of all the vice-presidents when considering both salary and executive bonuses. With respect to Harlovic's position, Schamp testified that:

The skill set required for [the vice-president of patient care services] -- under the policies of the Department of Health, which govern the hospital, and Joint Commission, which sort of makes sure Medicare can pay us, hospitals are heavily regulated. We're required to have a head of nursing.

In my case, I use [sic] patient care executive to reflect an individual who is broadly trained and has a master's degree in nursing and is able to clinically oversee those departments, has the background and educational preparation in -- with a master's degree to be able to provide that and is a registered nurse and has to maintain their licensing and that type of thing.

So the State, when they oversee our psychiatric units, require those units to report up to a master's prepared nurse, and so Michael [Harlovic] can provide that because we don't have directors that have that preparation. So he fits two pieces of the regulations that were required to have that skill set.

Well, the other skill set is a -- it really comes with clinical preparation of oversight of our ability to affect core measures, things like surgical site infections, congestive heart failure, those types of initiatives as an institution, to manage those; as well as oversee our school of nursing.

We have a school of nursing. I referenced earlier growing that school. Mr. Harlovic has a history with academic programs. He actually sits on the advisory board for the Butler School of Nursing, and then he provides the leadership direction up through the school of nursing and then on to me, but -- as the direct contact of the growth of the school. So those would be some inherent skill sets that he has. (Schamp Dep. at 168-69.) Schamp testified:

Mr. Harlovic's role and his responsibility was also to be, if you will, second in command. Whenever I was on vacation or gone from the institution, with only one exception that I can think of in the five years that I was there, Michael Harlovic would step in to sign locum tenens agreements for doctors, interim privileges for the medical staff. Someone needs to sign off on those administratively. He would manage any of the regulatory issues, people who would show up, inspectors, complaints, formal issues.

He was accountable in my absence. He would act as that individual. (Id. at 170.) The one exception Schamp mentioned was when both Harlovic and Schamp were on vacation at the same time; Sandora assumed those responsibilities on that occasion. (Id.)

In contrast to defendant's evidence, Wildi affirmed that "I performed all the duties listed under the 'Job Responsibilities' section of the job description of Vice President Patient Care Services." (App'x to Pl.'s Br. in Opp. To Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 7 ("Wildi Aff.") ¶ 6.) "In addition, although the 'Job Summary' section of the job description states that the Vice President Patient Care Services is responsible for outpatient services, respiratory therapy, and service excellence, I was actually responsible for those areas during my tenure at AKMC." (Id. ¶ 11.) Wildi also stated that "Harlovic did not engage directly in patient care. In fact, the employees who reported to him did not perform patient care either. It was only the employees two levels down in the chain of command that actually performed patient care duties that would require a nursing degree." (Id. ¶ 12 (emphasis added).) With respect to the chain of command, Wildi stated:

Harlovic did not act as "second in command" until about 2 and 1/2 years into Cindy Schamp's tenure as CEO. Then, he acted as second in command only when Schamp was on vacation. However, if one of the other Vice-Presidents was scheduled to be "Administrator on Call" that week, we acted as the person in charge of the hospital in Schamp's absence. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Sandora's Position

Davis testified that the role of vice-president of business operations or chief financial officer required a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science in accounting and a certified public accountant ("CPA") license. (Davis Aff. Ex. B.) Sandora held this position, and consistently made the most money behind Harlovic. Schamp testified that, with respect to the skills and responsibilities for the position of vice-president of business operations and director of finance, the position:

requires an individual broadly trained and educated in finance and accounting with preparation and understanding of cost accounting; of Medicare payment systems; of reimbursement methodology; of the complex rules and regulations that govern how hospitals bill and receive payments; how we created charge masters, the systems that we use to create what the whole universe hates as -- how hospitals charge; and is responsible to manage transfer of funds; oversight of our -- all of our accounts; the issues related to benefits and pension; and prepare hospital accounting statements, such as we looked at earlier related to our monthly reviews; and is very skilled in accrual-based accounting, which in unique to hospitals. (Schamp Dep. at 172.) Schamp stated that Wildi could not assume the responsibilities of Sandora, because:

She had no preparation, that financial skill set; was unfamiliar with cost accounting; Medicare methodologies. That individual would have been assigned from corporate finance to try to cover that gap, because you were accountable to manage those funds from a stewardship of those resources and legally protect the asset of the institution with individuals trained to do that. That was not [Wildi]'s preparation and/or training. (Id. at 173.) Schamp testified:

So George [Sandora] prepares the P&L statements, the activities, the balance sheet, the statement of account, all of those kinds of things for the board from a finance perspective. He is responsible to do it, not someone in a department that reports to him. It's very different than food service, which has a manager that's accountable for all that that just meets with him on a monthly basis to give him updates. (Id. at 201.) Schamp testified that Sandora's position had two functions: business operations, and directing finance. (Id. at 204.)

On Sandora's resume, it says that, as vice-president of business operations/director of finance, he:

Reports in matrix environment to the Chief Executive Officer of the Alle -- Kiski Medical Center and the Vice President of Finance of the West Penn Allegheny Health System. Responsibilities include oversight of financial statement preparation and reporting, budgeting, strategic financial planning, contract and program evaluations, and revenue cycle management. Direct responsibility areas also include medical records, patient access and scheduling, nutrition services, environmental services, and patient transport services with dotted line responsibility in information systems and patient accounting areas. Accomplishments include bottom line improvement from negative total margins exceeding four percent in each of the past three years, implementation of the clinical documentation management program, formation of the AKMC Trust for perpetual fundraising capabilities, and implementation of several revenue cycle improvement initiatives.

(Davis Aff., Ex. D.)

Although Schamp believed Wildi did not have the ability to perform the duties that Sandora performed, Wildi presented evidence claiming that she had the background to do so, and did indeed perform duties very similar to those of Sandora. Wildi stated that: "I also performed many of the duties listed under the job description for Chief Financial Officer, a title which George Sandora never held while I was employed by AKMC. I also have a background in finance in that I took healthcare finance courses in my graduate program." (Wildi Aff. ¶ 15.) Wildi additionally stated that "[i]n collaboration with George Sandora, I was responsible for preparing business plans for all capital projects within my assigned departments. Because I had responsibility for many capital intensive departments, I prepared many financial business plans." (Id. ¶ 16.)

Englert's Position

Davis declared that Englert's position as vice-president of business operations and business development included principal responsibilities "in the area of business development with respect to the hospital's comprehensive market and service line strategies, physician recruitment, relations and employment practices, and collaborative market relations with community services such as nursing homes." (Davis Aff., ¶ 8.) Schamp testified:

The vice president for business -- operations and business development . . . [required] solid preparation in business and an ability to create strategy, work closely with physicians, work very closely with the community on creation of strategic development opportunities, to grow business for the institution. There was an oversight of internal departments, and then there was a very large focus of that job external to the organization to grow, nurture relationships, understand physician practices.

In particular, we grew a number of primary care practices and/or employed primary care physicians through our health system arm called AMPN, Allegheny Medical Practice Network.

And Bill [Englert] was very involved in the negotiations, nurturing those relationships with those physicians to get them to contract with the institution and/or stabilize and maintain their relationship, because we were pretty far from the city relative to AMPN. So he really acted as sort of the conduit to manage that dynamic. (Schamp Dep. at 174.) Schamp testified that skills between the vice-president positions held by Wildi and Englert were different in several ways:

There was a substantial amount of knowledge-base and awareness of physician practice management and how physician offices run and are operated organizationally, which was very different than the position [Wildi] held in operations within the hospital. Physician practices are a very different beast.

. . . . [Wildi] had no background of effectively running physician practices or understanding the nature of those, most recently seen in Joslin, which is our diabetic center, which has a physician component, a struggling part of the institution. It runs more like a physician practice than a department. Bill [Englert] has an understanding and awareness of those. And to be able to grow our volumes, which was why our financials were where they were, we needed someone who could grow those physician components and keep those on track and maintain those relationships, as opposed to start from scratch learning that piece effectively. (Id. at 175-76.) Schamp testified that Englert's position had two functions: operations, and business development. (Id. at 204.)

On Englert's resume, it states "Coordination of all activities related to marketing and outreach services including PriorityCare (Affinity Program for senior citizens), Communications and Marketing, Community Outreach, Speakers' Bureau, Destination Wellness (Health Resource and Education Center in the Pittsburgh Mills Mall), Physician Liaison and Business Development Team." (Davis Aff., Ex. G.) Englert's resume states he was a "Liaison with System-wide services related to:" "Physician Recruitment," "Growing Initiatives," and "Strategic Planning." (Id.) The resume also states Englert "Served as AKMC representative for various system-wide initiatives such as:" "Project BEST in 1999 -- an initiative that identified and implemented cost reduction strategies totaling $52 million," and "SMART Project 2003 - the development and implementation of system-wide revenue cycle enhancement initiatives." (Id.)

Wildi disputes Schamp's testimony that Englert was responsible for physician practices:

Englert was not responsible for managing physician practices. AKMC and West Penn Allegheny Health Systems have staff assigned to the management of physician office practices. This is handled through the Allegheny Medical Practice Network and Allegheny Specialty Practice Network. Moreover, I am qualified to and would be comfortable with managing physician practices. (Wildi Aff. ¶ 23.) Wildi also stated that "In my role as Vice President of Operations, I was directly involved in physician recruitment, physician relations, identifying opportunities for service line development, and collaborating with community services, such as Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, American society." (Id. ¶ 21.)

Wildi's Position

According to Wildi, her responsibilities as vice-president of operations included administrative responsibility of several ancillary departments, physician liaison work, medical directorship contracts, and service excellence champion for Alle-Kiski and the West Penn Allegheny Health System. (Wildi Dep. at 33-35.) Wildi testified:

I had administrative responsibility for various departments, ancillary departments, within the organization. I had responsibility for some physician relations work, physician liaison work, things like that. I managed medical directorship contracts for the organization. I served as the service excellence champion not only for Alle-Kiski Medical Center, but also for the West Penn Allegheny Health System. I represented the organization at that level, and, as it evolved, throughout the four years, the scope, obviously, grew as the programs continued to grow, as new technology was introduced into the organization. I assumed more responsibility there for upgrading technology, upgrading facilities, programs, et cetera. I took additional ancillary departments that I, initially, was not responsible for, so the scope continued to grow throughout that period of time. (Wildi Dep. at 34-35.) Wildi's ancillary departments included: laboratory, medical imaging, cardiovascular services, special services, oncology, Citizens Ambulatory Care Center, rehabilitation services, and service excellence. (App'x to Pl.'s Br. in Opp. To Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 6.) She testified that she had off-site responsibilities:

I managed the Citizens Ambulatory Care Center which was the former Citizens General Hospital. I was responsible for that campus. I managed our off-site rehabilitation service providing OT and PT. I managed our outpatient lab draw stations that were located throughout the community, and I managed our outreach, and that was entitled Pro Lab Laboratory Service. (Id.) Wildi stated her job required business development, including ...

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