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Brangman v. AstraZeneca, LP

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 19, 2013


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Plaintiff Deborah Brangman brings suit against Defendants AstraZeneca LP and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, LP (" AstraZeneca" ). Brangman alleges that AstraZeneca subjected her to disparate treatment on the basis of her race and gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count I), and the Delaware Discrimination Employment Act (" DDEA" ), 19 Del. C. 710, et seq. (Count II), and discriminated against her on the basis of her disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (Count V) and Delaware Persons with Disabilities Employment Protection Act, 19 Del. C. 720, et seq. (Count VI). She alleges that AstraZeneca retaliated against her in violation of Title VII (Count III), the DDEA (Count IV), the ADA (Count VII) and the Delaware Persons with Disabilities Employment Protection Act (Count VIII). Additionally, Brangman alleges that AstraZeneca violated the Delaware Whistleblowers' Protection Act, 17 Del. C. § 1701, et seq. (Count IX) and that AstraZeneca interfered in its insurer MetLife's determination of her long term disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (" ERISA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. (Count X).[1]

I exercise federal question jurisdiction over Brangman's Title VII and ADA claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over the claims brought under Delaware law pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

AstraZeneca has filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking judgment in its favor against Brangman on all of her claims. I will deny Defendant's motion for summary judgment on Counts I and II (Title VII and DDEA discrimination claim on the basis of race and gender) because genuine issues of material fact exist. Because there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Brangman's supervisor knew that she reported him to the compliance department, I will deny AstraZeneca's motion for summary judgment for Count IX, Brangman's whistleblower claim. Because I find that a plaintiff may bring DDEA claims in conjunction with Title VII claims, I will deny AstraZeneca's motion for summary judgment on Brangman's DDEA claims, Counts II and IV.

I will grant in part and deny in part AstraZeneca's motion for summary judgment as to Brangman's Title VII and Delaware Discrimination retaliation claims, Counts III and VII, as follows: the motion is granted as to Brangman's claim that she was retaliated against under Title VII for whistleblowing, and Brangman's claim that AstraZeneca retaliated against her for filing an EEOC charge by terminating her and interfering with MetLife's long-term disability decision. The motion is denied on the claim that AstraZeneca retaliated against her in connection with the EEOC charge by denying her short term disability benefits, and her retaliation claim concerning her August 2009 internal complaint.

For reasons described below, I will grant AstraZeneca's motion for summary judgment for Counts V, VI, VII, VIII and X (Brangman's ADA, ADA retaliation and ERISA claims).

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Deborah Brangman worked for the biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in various marketing positions from 1996 until she was terminated in 2011. She is an African American woman with an MBA degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In February 2008, she became Director of Learning Services within AstraZeneca's Customer Alignment Organization. As a director, she collaborated with senior leadership across marketing and sales groups to develop training initiatives. Her initial supervisor for this position, Kevin Guerette, graded her " on the high end of partially met," in her 2008 year-end performance review, commenting that she needed to work on developing her leadership skills. Brangman claims that Guerette told her that initially he intended to rank her as " fully met," but at the " calibration meeting" he attended, where managers create alignment in the evaluation process, other members of the calibration team urged him to lower her ranking to " partially met." According to Brangman, Guerette was disturbed that he was forced to lower her ranking, and said that he decided to say that she did not network enough because it was the least offensive thing he could say. Guerette denied that he made those statements.

In the spring of 2009 Brangman began reporting to Peter Brockie, a white male. Her title became Director of Training and Development, though her position was essentially the same. In July 2009, there was a meeting to introduce managers and directors to a new program called the Marketing Academy. Consultants from an outside agency were also present. At this meeting, Brockie asked Brangman to go get coffee for one of the consultants in front of other managers and directors. Brangman was " mortified and humiliated," but complied with his request. She testified that she felt like his request was " a derogatory comment" that was " racially-motivated," because " black people have historically been in servant roles," as well as " gender related."

About a week later, Brockie asked Brangman if she wanted to attend a dinner that night for key people on a project, and asked if she would drive one of the consultants back to his hotel after the dinner was over. Brangman did not feel that it was her job to drive consultants around, and felt that her invitation hinged on whether or not she could drive the consultant. At the dinner she told Brockie that she lived in the opposite direction from the hotel, and he drove the consultant back. Brangman participated in a political discussion that took place at the dinner. The following Monday, Louise Butler, who had been present during the conversation, told Brangman that Brockie was a little upset because she had been loud when voicing her opinion. Butler later testified that Brockie did not tell her to speak with Brangman about the issue. Rather, Butler volunteered to discuss it with Brangman herself.

On August 6, 2009, Brockie wrote Brangman's mid-year review. He emphasized that Brangman did a good job of facilitating work, but that he wanted to see her take on more of a leadership role during the second half of the year. He wrote that she " seems to operate in a chaotic fashion," and that he would like to see her improve her organization and attention

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to detail. Def. Ex. I. at 8. He noted that " [s]he seems to be easily flustered and/or intimidated," and that " her deliverables are often 'just in time' and seem to be rushed. Id.

On August 17, 2009, Brangman's attorney sent a letter to AstraZeneca complaining that Brockie had engaged in a pattern of harassment and discrimination against her. Thereafter AstraZeneca launched an internal investigation led by Melissa Ayers. After interviewing Brockie, his manager, and Brangman, Ayers concluded that Brangman's allegations could not be substantiated. Ayers suggested that Brockie monitor his interactions with Brangman, a suggestion that comported with AstraZeneca's practices when employees file complaints against their supervisors.

After she made her complaint, Brangman claims that Brockie's discriminatory behavior continued. In September 2009, Brangman's workload significantly increased when Brockie shifted Brangman's projects that were due in 2010 to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2009. Brockie had asked her if it would be feasible to shift her workload in this manner, and she confirmed that it would. In December 2009, at a meeting related to the launch of the Marketing Academy, Brockie thanked Brangman's white male colleagues for their intellectual contributions to a project, and only thanked her for the room set-up. Also in December 2009, Brockie held a dinner party where he invited all of the people he supervised except for Brangman. It was not an AstraZeneca dinner, and he paid from his own pocket. Brangman claims that Brockie interfered with a work project in January 2010, creating confusion and making her look bad. In February 2010, Brockie began closely monitoring Brangman's whereabouts and attendance.

Preparations for year-end performance reviews took place in December 2009. On November 13, 2009, Brockie e-mailed Brangman and the other people he supervises that they should complete a self-assessment of their performances by December 4, 2009. The calibration meeting for the performance reviews ended up taking place on December 3, 2009. Brangman's colleague Matt Lehman and other peers received a phone call on December 2 that the deadline for the self-assessment had moved up. Because she was not notified, Brangman did not provide input on her performance at the calibration meeting. Brangman was also troubled that Brockie did not ask for peer reviews for her until a week after the calibration meeting, on December 11. Brockie states that he does not consider peer feedback to be determinative of an individual's overall performance evaluation. Brangman believes that different standards were applied to her white, male colleagues Greg Looney and Matt Lehmann, that their reviews contained peer feedback, and that they were not judged by how they looked.

Brockie met with Brangman to discuss her year-end performance review for 2009 in March 2010. For her year-end review, Brangman received a rating of " partially met." Brockie noted that he " did not see Debbie become the leader I had expected," that some of her deliverables were late or just in time, and that he wanted her to focus on attention to detail. Ex. J, Ex. 2. at 17-18. Brangman testified that she believes that at the calibration meeting, Brockie stated aloud to senior leadership that she " couldn't be trusted," in reference to her ability to review documents. She testified that Human Resources Business Partner Tracy Fabian confirmed that Brockie said this when she met with Brangman in March 2010. Brockie does not recall saying that she " couldn't be trusted," or writing that in her review.

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This language does not appear in the final version of her 2009 year-end review.

During this time period, Brockie used a slide in a PowerPoint presentation at a meeting that, according to Brangman, violated the " federal anti-kickback law." She did not inform Brockie. Instead, she e-mailed the presenter, Russell Pocock, to remove the slide from the presentation. Pocock removed the slide, and sent an e-mail to Brockie and copied Brangman, confirming he had deleted the slide " as per Debbie's request re compliance." Pl. Ex. 87, 227:11-15; Pl. Ex. 22. Following this e-mail, Brangman observed that Brockie did not send out a correction e-mail, so she made a report to AstraZeneca's compliance department. She reported her complaint confidentially to the compliance department, and met with Commercial Compliance Investigations Senior Manager Arthur McCarthy in AstraZeneca's Compliance Department to discuss the matter. She told McCarthy that she wished to remain anonymous, and the Compliance Department kept her complaint confidential at all times. McCarthy did not tell Brockie that Brangman made the report. The Compliance Department directed Brockie to notify the employees of the error and to correct it. On March 9, 2010, Brockie sent Brangman an e-mail describing the correction. He instructed her to send the e-mail out to the participants, and to copy Brian Martin, Arthur McCarthy and himself. Brangman did not send the correction e-mail because she felt it made it seem like it was her mistake, and could potentially make her criminally liable. Brockie eventually sent the correction e-mail instead.

In March 2010, Brangman learned that her position was being eliminated because AstraZeneca had created a Commercial Learning Organization (" CLO" ) to centralize training for sales and marketing. Prior to the creation of the CLO, only Brangman provided training for marketing, while a large group provided training for sales. Senior Director of Commercial Sales Learning Dave Ilconich was tasked with creating the structure for the CLO, and then determining which existing positions would be eliminated as a result. Ilconich and Brockie maintain that Brockie played no role in this decision. Brangman believes Brockie was involved in the decision because he had meetings with Dave Ilconich, and he provided input into the design of the organization. Brangman stated, " I know that interviews were set up with Peter [Brockie] to talk about--because Dave Ilconich stopped by my office before he met with Peter to talk about training in the new organization." Pl. Ex. 87, 21:8-12. Brockie sent an e-mail to Ilconich on March 3, 2010 inquiring as to whether Brangman's position would remain in the new structure. Brockie had come from a meeting where the attendees had discussed candidates for key positions in the new organization, and wrote to Ilconich:

As I understand it, you will have a director level position specifically for Marketing. Do you know when that position will post? On a second note, have you designed the position such that Debbie Brangman would or would not map into it. Need to know ASAP as if she is not mappable (don't think that's a real word) we need to give her formal notice that her current job is being eliminated.

Pl. Ex. 27. On March 5, 2010, Brockie and Tracy Fabian met with Brangman to inform her that her position is being eliminated and that she would have an opportunity to interview for positions in the new Commercial Learning Organizations.

On March 25, 2010 Brangman interviewed for two leadership positions in the CLO that she had applied for. The interview panel consisted of Dave Ilconich, Keisha

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Bronson, and RoseAnn Scanlon. The group decided not to offer Brangman either position. According to Dave Ilconich, this was because the panel felt that, based on her answers during the interview, Brangman did not possess the requisite level of leadership for either position, did not act decisively enough, and provided minimal information on how she developed her subordinates in her current and previous jobs. The panel concluded that others were more qualified for the position. Brangman believes that she did not receive either position because she saw that the interviewers had a copy of Brockie's 2009 " partially met" performance review, Brockie manufactured an attendance problem days before her interview, and that he had ...

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