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Miles v. North Penn Legal Services

March 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendant North Penn Legal Services, Inc. (Doc. 21.) Because genuine disputes of material fact remain, Defendant's motion will be denied. This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.


I. Factual Background

Plaintiff Gayle Miles ("Miles") was employed by North Penn Legal Services, Inc. ("North Penn") as Fiscal Manager. (Miles Dep. 11:14-22, Aug. 28, 2009.) Defendant North Penn is a non-profit corporation who provides legal services. (Victoria Coyle Dep. 7:12-8:2, Aug. 27, 2009.) North Penn was formed in January 2001 after the merger of Legal Services of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Susquehanna Legal Services, Northern Legal Services, and Lehigh Valley Legal Services, and as part of the merger the four former directors became a management council. (David Tilove Dep. 6:17-25, Dec. 22, 2009.) Because the board of directors of North Penn felt this management council was ineffective, Victoria Coyle ("Coyle") was hired as executive Director of North Penn. (Coyle Dep. 6:23-24, 9:16-10:6.) Coyle was the youngest of the six candidates considered for the position of Executive Director. (Coyle 13:18-14:13.) After the four entities merged the fiscal department of North Penn consisted of Joe Dalkner, Marlene Pell, and Miles.*fn1 (Miles Dep. 84:25-85:4; John Bogdanovicz Dep. 47:12-22, Dec. 10, 2009.) Miles had been employed as the Fiscal Manager for Legal Services of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Inc. from 1986 until the merger. (Miles Dep. 11:14-22.) Each of the others had also formerly worked for one of the other merged entities. (Bogdanovicz Dep. 47:12-22.)

A. Miles' Work Performance

Miles was pleasant when Coyle first arrived, but she was reluctant to changes implemented as a result of the merger. (Coyle Dep. 28:16-20.) Miles demonstrated reluctance when performing timekeeping and budgeting tasks because she divided them by the four former entities, rather than treating North Penn as a unified entity. (Coyle Dep. 57:1-11.) There was, however, divisiveness among North Penn personnel in all departments after the merger. (Miles 69:14-25.) Miles was the agent of change to the four former regional offices, which caused resistance to new procedures on behalf of the merged entity. (Miles 69:14-25.) Miles was also involved in an incident keeping the fiscal department's fridge and microwave separate from the employee break room, after being instructed to integrate with the others. (Bogdanovicz Dep. 73:1-75:3.)

Miles had some strengths, but could be a "very difficult person to work with." (Coyle Dep. 26:1-2.) Coyle felt Miles's communication style was "very confusing." (Coyle Dep. 28:24-25.) Coyle was also concerned that Miles did not have all of the financial information organized in one place for easy access. (Coyle Dep. 61:10-19.) Miles does not recall Coyle ever communicating that she was dissatisfied with the reports Miles created. (Miles Dep. 86:19-25.) Coyle also believed Miles did not demonstrate effective leadership. (Coyle Dep. 37:23-38:3.) Miles was responsible for the fiscal department, but she had no direct supervisory control over the other fiscal staff. (Coyle Dep. 30:6-23.) Coyle stated that even without Miles having direct authority over the department, she could have resolved conflicts by reporting them supervisors, even if that would have made Miles's role difficult. (Coyle Dep. 65:12-66:10.)

B. Miles' Interaction with Co-Workers

Miles was considered disruptive and "nasty" by some North Penn employees. (Coyle Dep. 40:13-15.) "With [Miles] in charge, there was nothing but conflict." (Coyle Dep. 29:23-24.) She used a "very demeaning tone" on the telephone. (Coyle Dep. 66:19-20.) Miles believed her tone and language when communicating with other employees was appropriate. (Miles Dep. 48:15-20, 49:5-17.) Miles would send back employee expense reports with minor mathematical errors without informing them what the error was or simply correcting the error. (Coyle Dep. 67:10-68:2.) After communicating this concern to Miles, however, Coyle believed it was probably corrected. (Coyle Dep. 69:4-14.) Despite being friends before the merger, when working together in a single department Miles and Ms. Pell did not get along well. (Miles Dep. 68:4-69:3.) Coyle did not usually attempt to determine who bore responsibility for the disagreements between Ms. Pell and Miles. (Coyle Dep. 34:8-11.)

Coyle also heard complaints from Danna Rich-Collins, Betsy Grbenick, Sheila Fisher, Kelly Carrubba, and Bill McLaughlin. (Coyle Dep. 41:5-12.) "[T]hree out of four people at some point had expressed some sort of displeasure about [Miles] specifically." (Bogdanovicz Dep. 68: 23-25.)*fn2

C. Creation of the Chief Financial Officer Position

To resolve conflicts within the fiscal department, Coyle determined that the department needed to be restructured with a more established hierarchy. (Coyle Dep. 36:7-19.) Coyle determined that a Chief Financial Officer ("CFO") should be created, and that this person should modify the structure of the department. (Coyle Dep. 75:15-18.) Coyle determined that two of the three employees of the fiscal department, Miles and Mr. Dalkner, should be terminated. (Coyle Dep. 105:16-19.) Ultimately after the reorganization the fiscal department still contained three positions. (Coyle Dep. 106:2-107:12.) Miles told Coyle she would apply for the CFO position, to which Coyle responded "you can apply for it, but you probably won't get it." (Miles Dep. 88:15-20.) Miles then applied for the CFO position. (Coyle Dep. 90:24-91:3.)

Miles was one of the final three candidates for the CFO position, but was ultimately not selected. (Coyle Dep. 91:16-92:3, 104:23-25; Rejection Letter to Miles, Doc. 25, Ex. M.) Coyle did not observe the standard North Penn interview process because it was "very cumbersome, but this policy was not revised at any point after she became executive director. (Coyle Dep. 89:4-90:15.) North Penn's handbook provided that for administrative staff, unlike for advocacy and support positions, the hiring panel should not include persons from the office where the vacancy existed. (North Penn Staff Handbook 8-9, Doc. 25, Ex. J.) Despite the existence of this policy, Coyle placed Ms. Pell on the interview committee. (Coyle Dep. 88:7-17.) Coyle was aware of Miles's disputes with Ms. Pell when placing her on the committee. ...

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