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Green v. McNeil Consumer Health Care

September 9, 2010

LEONTYNE GREEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MCNEIL CONSUMER HEALTH CARE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rufe, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On December 18, 2008, Plaintiff Leontyne Green ("Plaintiff" or "Green") filed the instant action, alleging race discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation by her former employer, Defendants McNeil Consumer Health Care and McNeil-PPC, Inc. ("Defendants" or "McNeil").*fn1 Now before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment,*fn2 asking the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's case in its entirety. This Motion has been fully briefed, oral argument has been held thereon, and it is ripe for disposition.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an African-American female,*fn3 began working full-time for McNeil in July 1999.*fn4 In August 2003, Plaintiff was promoted from associate product director to marketing manager for the Tylenol Professional marketing group ("Tylenol group").*fn5 Eric Bruno, employed by McNeil as the franchise director for Tylenol, became Plaintiff's supervisor in October 2004.*fn6 On February 15, 2005, Plaintiff met with Bruno to request a promotion to a consumer brand management position.*fn7 Bruno denied the request,*fn8 explaining that "I think you have a great combination of book smarts and street smarts, and I would just be concerned about... moving you on."*fn9 Plaintiff asked Bruno to provide an example of a time when she demonstrated "street smarts" at work, and Bruno had no answer.*fn10 Plaintiff reported the "street smarts" comment to Ellen McMahon, a representative in McNeil's Human Resources department, and explained that she felt that she was being treated differently by Bruno due to her race and sex.*fn11 She further notified Human Resources that she felt Bruno's behavior towards her was "consistent to how he had previously treated other Black women in his reporting structure."*fn12 McMahon then contacted Bruno to notify him that Plaintiff had been disturbed by his "street smarts" comment and that Plaintiff might contact him to discuss the matter further.*fn13

In April 2005, employees in the Tylenol group, including Plaintiff, went on a company retreat to Hershey Park.*fn14 On the second evening, the group had dinner together and then went to a bowling alley.*fn15 While at the bowling alley, Plaintiff sat and socialized with two of her female colleagues, Trisha Smith and Jen Cullen, who are Caucasian.*fn16 The day after the retreat, Plaintiff received a voicemail message from Bruno, stating that she "wasn't very engaged at dinner and at the bowling alley," and that "it's really important for the social networking of the group to make sure that [Plaintiff is] being very social with [her] colleagues...."*fn17 Smith and Cullen did not receive similar messages.*fn18 Plaintiff then left a voicemail for Bruno, stating that she did not feel it was appropriate to criticize her behavior considering that "it was apparent that [she] wasn't feeling well" at the event and he had not left similar messages for other employees.*fn19 Bruno replied in a second voicemail that he did not mean to criticize Plaintiff, but that "it would be really great for [her] to make sure that [she is] engaging with other members of the team."*fn20

Plaintiff received a promotion to marketing manager for a consumer brand, "Upper Respiratory," in July 2005.*fn21 She did not receive a pay increase along with the promotion.*fn22 Hearing that other employees had been offered a pay increase to join the "Upper Respiratory" group and believing that she was entitled to the same, Plaintiff approached Steve Smith, her supervisor and the director for the "Upper Respiratory" group.*fn23 Smith communicated her request to Bruno without success. However, Bruno contemporaneously granted a salary increase for Rebecca Sears, a Caucasian female and an associate marketing manager, who was also moving to the "Upper Respiratory" group.*fn24 Bruno claimed that Plaintiff's move to the new group did not require a salary increase because her current salary level was comparable to other marketing managers.*fn25

In the Fall of 2005, the Management Leadership Team ("MLT") at McNeil, composed of all the managers within the Tylenol group, met to conduct their annual evaluation of the group members.*fn26 Despite the designation of a "5" rating by two of Plaintiff's direct supervisors, Smith and Ken El'Sherif, Plaintiff received an overall "4" rating for 2005, her lowest score to date.*fn27 Smith and Heather Helle, another one of Plaintiff's supervisors, each observed that Bruno's evaluation had influenced the "4" rating.*fn28 Of the six objective categories in her 2005 evaluation form, Plaintiff received "MET" for three and "EXCEEDS" for three.*fn29 Bruno also gave Plaintiff a "4" rating for her 2006 performance.*fn30 McNeil terminated Plaintiff on June 9, 2006 as part of a Reduction in Force ("RIF"); Bruno was the employee responsible for choosing which four of its twenty existing full-time marketing managers would be terminated.*fn31

On or about July 28, 2006, Plaintiff filed charges of discrimination and retaliation against Defendants with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"). On October 2, 2008, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a right-to-sue letter. Plaintiff thereafter brought the instant action alleging sex-based and race-based discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,*fn32

"Section 1981,"*fn33 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA").*fn34 Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment argues that (1) Plaintiff has submitted no substantive proof of disparate treatment based on her race or gender to sustain a cause of action for discrimination, and (2) Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that Defendants engaged in any retaliatory conduct after she filed a complaint with the McNeil Human Resources department.

II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. A moving party may be granted summary judgment with respect to any claim if the evidence shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."*fn35 A court may consider "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any" in making its determination.*fn36 An issue is "genuine" if a reasonable trier of fact could find for the nonmoving party in light of the evidence,*fn37 and a court must consider the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party.*fn38

The burden is initially on the moving party to show an absence of evidence to support a claim raised by the nonmoving party.*fn39 Upon a showing by the moving party that the claims of the nonmoving party cannot be supported by the available evidence, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to rebut the motion with the elements essential to maintain its case,*fn40 through the use of its "own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."*fn41 There must be enough evidence for a reasonable juror to decide for the nonmoving party; a mere scintilla of evidence is not enough.*fn42

If the nonmoving party fails to meet its burden, summary ...


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