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Rhoades v. Young Women's Christian Association of Greater Pittsburgh

July 27, 2010


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



Plaintiff, pro se, Beatriz Rhoades ("Rhoades") brings this action alleging a claim for discriminatory pay under the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) ("EPA"), and retaliatory discharge, 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3). Defendants have moved for summary judgment dismissing the Amended Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, I grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the Amended Complaint.

I. Legal Standard

In order to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate that "there is no genuine issue of material fact and...the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Jurimex Kommerz Transit G.M.B.H. v. Case Corp., 2007 WL 2153278, at *1 (3d Cir. July 27, 2007) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "[W]here the party opposing a motion for summary judgment bears the ultimate burden of proof, the moving party may discharge its initial burden of showing that there is no genuine of material fact by showing -that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Player v. Motiva Enter., LLC, 2007 WL 2020086, at *9 n.4 (3d Cir. July 13, 2007). "If the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the nonmoving party must, in their opposition to the motion, identify evidence of record that creates a genuine issue of material fact." Id. Moreover, "[t]o defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must 'do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. In the language of the Rule, the non-moving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' " Jurimex Kommerz Transit G.M.B.H., 2007 WL 2153278, at *1 (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)).

II. Statement of Relevant Facts*fn1

Rhoades was employed as an accountant by Defendant Young Women's Christian Association of Greater Pittsburgh ("YWCA") from September 26, 2005 to April 25, 2007. The YWCA is a non-profit corporation employing more than 200 persons in Western Pennsylvania. At all relevant times, defendant Valerie Wheatley ("Wheatley) was employed by the YWCA as its Chief Financial Officer. Defendant Barbara Manning ("Manning") served as the YWCA's Director of Financial Services. Defendant Lillian Young ("Young") held the position of Vice President of Human Resources. Defendant Dena Davis ("Davis") was the YWCA's Human Resources Manager. All of the individual defendants are female and were involved to varying degrees in the hiring of Rhoades and/or in her subsequent termination of employment. Rhoades' Employment With The YWCA

In October 2004, the YWCA made the business decision to hire an accountant with broad accounting experience to address the immediate gaps identified by the YWCA and its external auditors. The YWCA used United Way and other not-for-profit and private pay studies and surveys to determine the pay range for the position. Ultimately, Young recommended a salary range of $30,000 to $35,000 for the accountant position. Consistent with the YWCA's mission, Davis asked the Hispanic Center of Pittsburgh for recommendations for accountant candidates. The Hispanic Center recommended Rhoades.

Rhoades applied for the accountant position on August 16, 2005. She listed a desired salary range of $28,000-31,000 on her application. At the time of her application, Rhoades was unemployed, having left her previous accountant position approximately six months earlier. Her prior compensation was $10-12 per hour. Her resume described "[o]ver 10 year (sic) in accounting activities, financial statements, financial analysis, budgeting, internal and external, auditing. Experience in public accounting." (Docket No. 56-4, at 2-13.) However, her professional experience detailed six years of accounting experience in Colombia and an additional fourteen months of experience in the United States. She held a certificate of paralegal from a community college, the equivalent of a bachelor of accounting from a university in Colombia and five years of undergraduate study of law in Colombia. Her most recent accountant post was for a small company with fewer than fifty employees and a single payroll, and Plaintiff testified that she did not have much work to do there. (Docket No. 56-2, at 23-30.)

Davis conducted Rhoades' pre-screen interview. She rated Rhoades favorably and recommended that the YWCA interview Rhoades for the accountant position. Manning and Wheatley conducted two additional interviews of Rhoades. Manning decided to hire Rhoades based on the interviews and the work experience listed on her resume. Wheatley was excited to hire Rhoades and considered her "very knowledgeable in the science of accounting as well as an independent thinker and learner." Davis called Rhoades and extended her an offer for the accounting position with a starting salary of $33,000. According to Young, it was standard practice at the YWCA to offer below the highest approved salary level in order to leave room for negotiation, if necessary, as long as the offered rate was within the considered market rate for the position. Davis sent Rhoades a confirmation letter that the YWCA had hired her for the accountant position at an annual salary of $33,000, beginning on September 26, 2005.

Rhoades received a copy of the accountant job description from the YWCA. The job summary provided that Rhoades would be "[r]esponsible for fixed assets management and documentation, general ledger account reconciliations, monthly review of indirect and direct cost allocations, preparation of monthly closing transactions, maintenance of investment schedules, general journal entry preparation and review, report preparation. Participates in payroll, and accounts payable activities." (Docket No. 56-16, at 13.) Rhoades was considered a supervisor, and was responsible for supervising Roberta Shemm, Donna Palmire and Scott Reed, and insuring the accuracy of the data that they were inputting. Rhoades reported to Manning, the Director of Financial Services.

On April 26, 2006, Rhoades received her six-month performance review from Manning. (Docket No. 68-11, at 7-11.) She received "achieves expectations" in each of the categories reviewed. The evaluation also set a number of goals to be completed within a designated time frame: (1) have the payroll/accounts payable assistant trained in payroll processing by September 30, 2006; (2) have a process to perform audits of salary distribution, benefit distribution and tax distribution to ensure accuracy in place by June 30, 2006; (3) compile a list of most frequent problems as basis for a "frequently asked questions" sheet to be completed by August 31, 2006; and (4) develop a process for reconciling payroll accounts and accounts payable/general ledger on a monthly basis by July 31, 2006.

According to Rhoades, she complained to Manning in July 2006 that her predecessor, Edward Kennedy, had been paid more money than she was paid. Rhoades claims that Manning responded that she did not make the decisions about salaries. (Docket No. 68-1.) Manning testified that she did not have any memory of the conversation. (Docket No. 85-2, at 12.) Wheatley recalls that Rhoades mentioned to her that Edward Kennedy had made more money than Rhoades. Wheatley explained that Kennedy must have negotiated a higher salary. (Docket No. 68-1, at 163-65; 85-1, at 7.)

Donna Palmire resigned from the YWCA in February 2006. Scott Reed was hired in April 2006 and resigned on September 11, 2006. Their positions were filled with temporary employees. In part as a result of this instability in the assistant positions, Rhoades was unable to delegate the processing of the payroll and spent her work time doing it herself, rather than meeting the goals set forth during her six-month review. (Docket No. 56-2, at 37-40.) She was also unfamiliar with the Ceridian payroll system used by the YMCA and was still trying to learn it. (Id. at 39.) Rhoades admitted during her deposition that, after six months on the job, she did not know the Ceridian system well enough to create an audit process, only enough to process payroll. (Docket No. 68-1, at 108.) On August 29, 2006, Rhoades sent an e-mail to Manning explaining that "Scott and I we do not know how the system works in AP and GL and how they are interacting." (Docket No. 56-4, at 25.)

According to Defendants, Rhoades had significant attendance issues between July and October 2006. An attendance report notes twelve instances of leaving early or arriving late during this period. (Docket No. 56-4, at 21-23.) Rhoades disputes that this record is completely accurate. (Docket No. 56-2, at 43-46.) Also in October, e-mails from Judy Barefoot indicate that Rhoades was not posting invoices in the proper month. (Id. at 26-27.) That same month, while Manning was on vacation, an excel spreadsheet that Rhoades was working on became corrupted. Rhoades believed that someone intentionally sabotaged the spreadsheet. (Docket No. 56-2, at 50.) Manning testified that an investigation was not conducted because Rhoades told her that she would not accuse anyone in the department of corrupting the data, and no one else had access to the data. (Docket No. 56-9, at12.)

On December 15, 2006, Rhoades received her annual performance evaluation from Manning. (Docket No. 56-4, at 43-49.) Rhoades received an overall grade of "Needs Improvement." Areas of criticism included, inter alia:

* "Ms. Rhoades did not work closely with the Payroll/Accounts Payable Assistant to ensure that procedures and knowledge for processing the payroll is transferred";

* "Ms. Rhoades does not refer to internal and external guidelines, policies and procedures to ensure that her work is accurate";

* "Employee benefits were posted to the incorrect period twice during the 1st quarter of 2006-07";

* "Vendor invoices are frequently misplaced, entered weeks after submitted, and unable to be located when being pulled for payment";

* "Ms. Rhoades does not plan and complete payroll activities in a timely manner";

* "Ms. Rhoades has appointments which cause her to come to work late, leave early on a regular basis. The frequent absenteeism presents an ...

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