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Denyse H. Morales v. Pnc Bank

October 3, 2012


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


Currently pending before the Court is Defendant PNC Bank, N.A.'s Motion for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.


This matter involves an employment discrimination dispute between Plaintiff Denyse Morales ("Morales") and Defendant PNC Bank ("PNC"). Ms. Morales is a forty-five year old, Hispanic/African-American female from Trinidad and a practicing Jehovah's Witness. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) PNC hired Ms. Morales on July 10, 2006 as a Licensed Financial Sales Consultant ("LFSC") in its Rydal branch office. (Id. ¶ 9.) She was interviewed and hired by Audrey Ackaa ("Ackaa"), the Branch Manager of the Rydal Branch. (Id. ¶ 38.) Ms. Ackaa is African-American, and her mother is of Spanish and Jamaican descent. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 2, Dep. of Audrey Ackaa ("Ackaa Dep."), 196:17--197:6, May 23, 2012.) The Rydal Branch was, in turn, supervised by Regional Manager Raza Gilani, who oversaw fifteen branches in the Philadelphia Metro Region. (Def.'s Mot. Summ J., Ex. 3, Dep. of Raza Gilani ("Gilani Dep."), 6:19--7:9, May 23, 2012.) In addition to Ms. Morales, there were five other LFSC's within the region who Mr. Gilani oversaw. (Gilani Dep.17.) Mr. Gilani is of Pakistani origin and is a Muslim. (Am. Compl. ¶ 38; Answer ¶ 38; Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 36; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 36.)

As an LFSC, Ms. Morales's job duties included selling certain investment and traditional banking products to PNC's customers, including checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, and loans. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 1, Dep. of Denyse Morales ("Morales Dep."), 18--19, 21, Apr. 4, 2012.) She possessed a number of licenses, including Series 6 and 63 licenses from the National Association of Securities Dealers. (Id. at 18--19.) These licenses allowed her to sell certain types of PNC banking products. (Id.) Her job responsibilities also included meeting with customers and participating in "call nights," at which employees contacted potential customers by telephone in order to generate sales. (Id. at 18, 23; Ackaa Dep. 66.) Additionally, Ms. Morales was required to profile and refer customers to Scott Troilo, the Financial Consultant in the Rydal Branch, when customers were either interested in instruments she was not licensed to sell or potential investments over $100,000. (Morales Dep. 17:5--17, 21:18--22:3; Def.s' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 4, Decl. of Scott Troilo ("Troilo Decl."), ¶ 5.) As an LFSC, Ms. Morales was required to meet minimum monthly production goals. (Morales Dep. 24:15--25:22.)

Starting during her first month of employment, Ms. Morales did not meet her minimum revenue goals. (Am. Compl. ¶ 40; Ans. ¶ 40.) This trend continued throughout her employment at PNC. (Morales Dep. 132:13--133:1, 213:24--215:5.) In three of the first five months of 2007, she did not meet her minimum revenue requirements of 60,000 minimum revenue credits. (Morales Dep. 202:3--16.) After this failure, Ms. Ackaa furnished Ms. Morales with a verbal warning for her sales performance and provided her with specific steps to improve her investment sales results. (Morales Dep. 28:1--14, 31:2--6, 205:9--16; Ackaa Dep. 185:5--186:2.) Following this warning, Ms. Morales began to be transferred to different branches in addition to her work in the Rydal branch. (Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 17--18; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 17--18.) PNC alleges that these transfers were designed to increase the number of customer referrals she received and to help her meet her revenue goals. (Gilani Dep. 11:14--12:14, 93:5--95:1; Ackaa Dep. 202:14--203:4.) Morales claims the transfers were to "low opportunity" branches, and they made it difficult for her to create stability with her clients. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 17--18.)

Ms. Morales' numbers continued to fall "well short" of the goals set for her, as she failed to meet her monthly investment production goal of $1,000 in each month from January to October, 2007 and failed to meet her revenue credit production goal of 60,000 in seven of those ten months. (Morales Dep. 214:9--216:13.) Mr. Troilo also communicated to PNC management that Morales's performance was below expectations and that she was not referring a sufficient number of customers to him. (Troilo Decl. ¶ 6.) Ms. Morales contends that she was referring sufficient customers to Mr. Troilo, but he failed to update the referrals assigned to him and she did not receive proper credit. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts, Ex. H, Morales Affidavit ("Morales Aff."), ¶ 12.) In October, Ms. Ackaa rated Morales' performance as "marginally achieves," which disqualified her from receiving incentive pay under PNC's policy. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 5, Decl. of Audrey Ackaa ("Ackaa Decl."), ¶ 6.)

In January 2008, after a December in which Ms. Morales's numbers were again short of her monthly goal, Ms. Ackaa placed her on a ninety-day probation period. (Ackaa Dep. 64:5--22, 187:2--15.) The written notice of probation informed Morales that failure to meet the expectations outlined in the notice could lead to further corrective action, including termination. (Id. at Ex. 14.) During the probationary period, Ms. Morales again failed to meet her monthly investment revenue goals and did not have any referrals that resulted in closed sales. (Morales Dep. 33:5--19, 229:15--230:18.) As a result, on April 28, 2008, Ms. Ackaa informed Morales that she had conferred with Mr. Gilani and the Human Resources Department and that PNC decided to discharge her due to her poor performance. (Morales Dep. 33:20--24; Ackaa Decl. ¶¶ 9--10.)

Ms. Morales does not dispute that her numbers were below the minimum goals set for her during her employment. Rather, she claims that similarly situated employees also failed to meet their revenue production goals but were not placed on probation or terminated. Ms. Morales cites three specific employees in particular: Ada Altbregen, Meena Shah, and Magda Eghbal. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 52, 70, 86; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 15, 29, 52, 70, 86.)

Ada Altbregen was a Financial Sales Consultant (FSC) at the Rydal branch. (Morales Dep. 104:3--20; Ackaa Dep. 41:4--14.) Unlike an LFSC, FSC's are unlicensed and cannot sell investments to customers and, as a result, do not have monthly production requirements or goals with regards to investments. (Id.) FSC's were required to refer potential investment sales to an LFSC or a company broker. (Ackaa Dep. 40:6--18.) Ms. Morales claims that Ms. Altbregen was favored by Ms. Ackaa because Ackaa would open accounts for Altbregen instead of Morales, give Altbregen extra time off for lunch, ignore policy violations or customer complaints about Altbregen, and approve vacation time for Altbregen over Morales. (Morales Dep. 96:9--11, 100:17--21, 140:2--4, 174:22--175:16, 232:21--22, 244:2--8.) Ms. Altbregen was Jewish and was given time off for Jewish holidays. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts, Ex. D, Dep. of Sharon Purcell ("Purcell Dep."), 121:1--7, Jun. 6, 2012.) Ms. Morales contends that she outperformed Ms. Altbregen, but Ms. Altbregen was not required to call in or e-mail Mr. Gilani to update him on her daily activities, attend call nights, or cover other branches in the region. (Morales Dep. 100:17--21, 140:2--4, 244:7--8.) Ms. Altbregen was later discharged in August 2010 for a policy violation. (Ackaa Dep. 19:1--9.) Sharon Purcell, another employee in the Rydal Branch, also felt that Ms. Ackaa favored Ms. Altbregen compared to the other employees in the branch. (Purcell Dep. 101:11--16, 113:14--114:12, 121:8--15.) Ms. Purcell did not attribute the favoritism to race, religion, or national origin. (Purcell Dep. 34:5-7, 89:12--90:3.) Like Ms. Morales, Ms. Purcell was African-American and a practicing Jehovah's Witness. She worked at PNC for ten months, from July 10, 2006 through May 11, 2007. (Purcell Dep. 36:5--18.) She did not work at PNC during the last eleven months of Morales' employment. (Id.)

Meena Shah and Magda Eghbal were both LFSC's like Morales, though at other branches in the region. (Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 66; Pl.'s. Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 66.) Ms. Morales claims that Ms. Shah and Ms. Eghbal did not consistently meet their monthly revenue goals but were not placed on probation or terminated.*fn1 (Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 66, 67; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 66, 67, 70, 78.) To support her claim, Ms. Morales notes that Ms. Shah also failed to meet the minimum revenue requirements in three of the first five months of 2007, after which she was not disciplined. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 15.) Similarly, Ms. Morales claims that Ms. Shah did not reach her investment requirement in three of the first four months in 2008-the period during which Morales was on probation. (Id. at ¶ 29.) Morales claims that Ms. Eghbal failed to meet her goal for two of the four months in the same period.*fn2 (Id.) Ms. Shah is of Pakistani descent, as is Mr. Gilani.*fn3 (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Supp. Facts ¶ 2.) PNC states that both Shah and Eghbal met their monthly revenue and investment goals more consistently than Morales. (Ackaa Decl. ¶ 8, Exs. B, C.; DeFeo Decl. ¶ 5, Ex. A.)

Ms. Morales believes that the disciplinary action taken against her and her eventual termination were in retaliation to her refusal to attend a "mandatory" employee Halloween party on October 31, 2006, which conflicted with her religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness. (Morales Dep. 97:2--15, 121:18--124:6; Aacka Dep. 77:1--15.) After informing her managers that she was not planning on attending, Mr. Gilani told Morales that the party was an employee appreciation party, not a religious event, and that she did not have to attend in costume. (Morales Dep. 125:2--126:6.) Ms. Morales claims that Mr. Gilani told her that attendance at the party was mandatory because PNC had spent a lot of money on the event. (Morales Dep. 123:11--124:6.)

Morales claims that, before the party, she was in good standing with PNC and was lauded by both Ms. Ackaa and Mr. Gilani. (Pl.'s Supp. Facts ¶ 6) However, after her refusal to attend the party, she alleges that she was targeted by Ms. Ackaa and Mr. Gilani in an effort to "conjure" up disciplinary actions and reasons to support her eventual termination. (Morales Dep. 98:10--99:10, 122:22--123:7, 126:10--127:14.) She believes that her refusal to attend the party led to her being required to check in with Mr. Gilani at the end of each day, to her being required to attend performance counseling, and to her eventual termination. (Morales Dep. 122:16--123:7, 126:10--127:14.) PNC claims that out of an invited one-hundred and seventy-five employees in the region attended the party, only approximately seventy attended. (Defs. St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 39.) Ms. Morales responds by stating that the party was not intended for all employees in the region, but only those in close proximity to the venue (which itself was not capable of accommodating one-hundred and seventy-five persons). (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 39.) No employee in the region, including Morales, received any counseling or disciplinary action for not attending the party. (Defs. St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 40; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s St. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 40.)

Aside from her refusal to attend the Halloween party, Ms. Morales also filed other complaints against PNC during her time there. She called PNC's Employee Relations Information Center ("ERIC") hotline to lodge complaints. Ms. Morales called the hotline once during her employment, on or around April 4, 2007, and allegedly raised two issues: (1) that she was not being paid commissions after being placed on probation*fn4 , and (2) that Ms. Altbregen had special lunch privileges in the Rydal Branch. Ms. Morales did not state in her call that she felt she was the target of discriminated or retaliation. (Morales Dep. 157:19--158:5, 163:21--164:10; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts, Ex. I, ERIC Call Log.) She claims this was done because she did not feel comfortable lodging complaints about discrimination or retaliation. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 45.)

Additionally, Ms. Morales submitted a written "rebuttal" and sent an e-mail to Mr. Gilani in November of 2007 as responses to formal warnings for failing to meet her revenue goals. (Morales Dep., Exs. 19, 21.) In these written rebuttals, Ms. Morales protested that the expectations for her were too high, that her production suffered because she was required to cover other branches, and that the products she was permitted to offer were unsuitable for elderly customers in the Rydal branch. (Id.) She also requested the opportunity to study for a Series 65 Examination, which would have provided her with an additional license by which she could sell additional products. (Id., Am. Compl. ¶ 81; Answer ¶ 81.) Ms. Morales claimed that the license would allow her the opportunity to offer a wider and more appropriate array of investment alternatives to the customer base at the Rydal Branch. (Am. Compl. ¶ 81; Resp. to Am. Compl. ¶ for discrimination, and that no other employees were succeeding in making their production numbers on a regular basis. (Ackaa Dep. 163:13--165:20, 174:3--14, Ex. 10.)

On June 2, 2008, acting pro se, Ms. Morales filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Omployment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and requested her charge be dual-filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") in accordance with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). On December 29, 2009, the EEOC issued her a "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" ("Right to Sue letter"), finding no evidence of discrimination. On March 29, 2010, Morales filed the current action in federal court setting forth five counts for relief: (1) race discrimination under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), (2) religious discrimination under Title VII; (3) national origin discrimination under Title VII; (4) retaliation under Title VII; and (5) violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Defendant PNC filed a Motion to Dismiss the religious discrimination and retaliation claims on March 17, 2011. This Court granted ...

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