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O'Donnell v. LRP Publications

February 16, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.


This case arises out of Patricia O'Donnell's work at, and ultimate termination from, Human Resources Executive Magazine. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges gender discrimination under Title VII (Count I) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Count II), and a violation of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (Count III). Defendant moves for summary judgment on all three counts.*fn1


From January 3, 2005 through February 2, 2007, Plaintiff Patricia O'Donnell ("O'Donnell") was employed as a sales representative selling advertising space in Defendant LRP Publications, Inc.'s ("LRP") Human Resources Executive Magazine ("HRE Magazine").*fn3

A. Facts pertinent to Plaintiff's gender discrimination claims LRP's

HRE Magazine division employed seven sales representatives, one for each of seven sales territories. O'Donnell, who was responsible for the New York territory, was the only female sales representative. O'Donnell's compensation consisted of a base salary and a commission. Because the New York territory was historically the highest producing territory in terms of advertising pages sold for HRE Magazine, O'Donnell had the highest base salary of any sales representative. Her commission payments were largely based upon the number of advertising pages she sold for HRE Magazine ("page sales"). HRE Magazine also used page sales to measure a sales representative's performance.

In 2004, before O'Donnell began working at HRE Magazine, the New York territory sold 218.89 pages of advertising space. That number dropped to 147.4 pages in 2005, and further declined to 107.42 pages in 2006. HRE Magazine had a sales goal of 226 advertising pages for the New York territory in 2005. O'Donnell thus fell 78.6 pages below the 2005 page sales goal. For the second and third quarters of 2006, O'Donnell fell 24.1 pages below her sales goal. This was the worst performance of any sales representative for that time period.*fn4 From 2004 to 2006, page sales also fell for some of the male sales representatives, but none of the male sales representatives were terminated.

On December 21, 2006, Rebecca McKenna ("McKenna"), Publisher of HRE Magazine, and Jim Maddox ("Maddox"), the national sales director, met with O'Donnell to discuss her sales performance. O'Donnell admitted that her "numbers were not too good at that point" and that "the fact that we were having the meeting was a red flag." The meeting identified six goals:

(1) meet 2007 rate protection goal of 115 pages by February 2, 2007, (2) meet personal sales calls goal of 90 personal sales calls by February 2, 2007, (3) meet proposal goal of 50 submitted 2007 proposals by February 2, 2007, (4) meet February 2007 issue page sales goal of 8.4 pages, (5) meet March 2, 2007 issue page sales goal of 5 pages, and (6) meet March 16, 2007 issue page sales goal of 10 pages. McKenna, Maddox, and O'Donnell anticipated meeting on January 26, 2007 to discuss O'Donnell's progress towards these goals. Maddox later rescheduled that meeting to take place on February 2, 2007.

By late January 2007, O'Donnell began removing personal items from the office because she believed that she would be fired. By February 2, 2007, it was clear that O'Donnell failed to meet three of the four goals that could be measured at that time. On February 2, 2007, O'Donnell met with McKenna, Maddox, and Alison Hays, a human resources representative. HRE Magazine terminated O'Donnell's employment at that meeting. HRE Magazine claims that it terminated O'Donnell because she failed to meet her page sales goals and because of her overall sales performance.

On April 5, 2007, O'Donnell filed a written charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging gender discrimination. The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue on January 2, 2008. O'Donnell believes that the following facts support her allegation of discrimination:

* Of the seven sales representatives, only O'Donnell was female. After she was terminated, O'Donnell was replaced with a male sales representative, Joseph Kirschen ("Kirschen"), who had fewer qualifications and lacked knowledge about the sales territory.

* McKenna repeatedly suggested that O'Donnell date McKenna's brother. O'Donnell testified that "it's very uncomfortable to have your boss suggest that you might be interested in her brother" because "[i]t puts pressure on you when you feel your boss wants you to do something that you don't want to do, you don't think it's appropriate."

* Maddox, HRE Magazine's national sales director, failed to offer O'Donnell the same assistance and support that he offered the other, male employees.

O'Donnell testified that Maddox worked with the male sales representatives at least once each month, but that Maddox helped her only five or six times over two years. Maddox testified that he spent approximately seventy-five percent of his time traveling to trade shows and with sales representatives on sales calls. Yet, Maddox could recall only five sales calls where he accompanied O'Donnell. O'Donnell claims that her sales performance was adversely impacted by Maddox's failure to provide her with adequate assistance.

* Maddox isolated O'Donnell from the sales staff. O'Donnell testified: He would drop his briefcase off, walk by my desk without acknowledging me, directly to the men, and have a conversation with them about the sports from the night before, or whatever. And then when he was done chit-chatting with them, he would walk by me again, without acknowledging me in any way, and go into his office. So it created this feeling of being ...

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