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Mary Burton v. Teleflex

November 2, 2011

MARY BURTON
v.
TELEFLEX, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM

This is an age discrimination case. Jurisdiction is federal question. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. According to the amended complaint, plaintiff Mary Burton had been employed by defendant Teleflex*fn1 as Vice-President of New Business Development under a two-year employment agreement when she received a letter of termination. The termination was alleged to have violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. (Count I); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (gender discrimination) (Count II); and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 951, et seq. (gender discrimination) (Count III). The complaint also included supplemental claims for breach of contract (Count IV), breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count V), wrongful interference with contractual relations (Count VI), and defamation (Count VII).

Defendants moved for summary judgment and on September 29, 2010, an order was entered granting judgment in their favor on all claims.*fn2 The basis for the September 29 order is as follows.

The summary judgment record*fn3 established the following. Plaintiff was the founder of both HDJ Company, which manufactured Swiss screw machine parts, and Specialized Medical Devices, which designed and assembled a cardiovascular punch. Deposition Testimony of Mary Burton, Exhibit "A" to defendants' memorandum, a t 13, 15. In 2007, plaintiff sold HDJ and SMD to Teleflex. Burton N.T., at 16, 18-19, and at that time, entered into a two-year employment agreement with Teleflex, to terminate on April 11, 2009. Id., at 166; Employment Agreement, Exhibit "D", defendants' memorandum.*fn4 Plaintiff was 67 years-old when the employment agreement was executed. Burton N.T., at 56.

While employed at Teleflex, plaintiff's direct supervisor was Edward Boarini, Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Teleflex Medical OEM. Id., at 54. On June 3, 2008, plaintiff and Boarini attended a trade show for medical device suppliers in Manhattan. Id., at 59, 71.

According to plaintiff, the following took place at the show: . . . and I came up to Ed and I said, I asked him when he wanted to get together because he had talked to me on the phone the previous Friday and mentioned that he wanted to meet with me.

So when I got there I went to him and asked him when did he want to get together and he couldn't really even look me in the face. He said, Oh, well, he was going to be really busy, he had all these customers he had to see, he didn't have time that day, he didn't think he would have any time the next day, he was too busy, and then he talked about maybe I can give you ten minutes or so on Thursday, and I said, you know, I made all my appointments to be later because I thought you were very specific about wanting to get together with me, and he was just kind of treating me like I wasn't even there and he was treating me like a useless old woman and just like I wasn't there, and he couldn't come up with any answer. It was like what do you mean I want to see you.

I mean, he just was pretty much just trying to get rid of me. And I finally pressed it, I said, Are you asking for me to resign? Do you want me to resign? That's what I said to him. Do you want me to resign?

He said, Oh, no, no, we want you here for a long time to come and he was like, Oh no, no, that's not what I mean at all. We need you. We want you for a long time.

And I don't know if too much more happened right at that moment, but I started to walk away and shortly thereafter he said to me, he said, I think you should think about that.

Burton N.T., at 61.

Boarini's account of the conversation:

. . . I had gone there with every intention to try to have a dialogue with Mary Burton and determine what she wanted to do with the business because she had not had any progress on her performance objectives or any kind of dialogue. And within a few minutes of talking to her about setting up a time to have that conversation, she resigned. . . .

She asked me if I wanted her to resign. I said, No. Wait. Let's talk through this. Let's have a dialogue. Let's understand what we can do because we knew - I felt the relationship with her ...


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