United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Decided December 17, 2013
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For DARLENE CELLUCCI, Plaintiff: JEREMY M. CERUTTI, LEAD ATTORNEY, KATIE A. PILGREN, ARI RISSON KARPF, KARPF KARPF & CERUTTI, BENSALEM, PA.
For RBS CITIZENS, N.A., doing business as CITIZENS BANK, RBS CITIZENS FINANCIAL GROUP, INC., Defendants: SARA A. BEGLEY, LEAD ATTORNEY, NIPUN J. PATEL, REED SMITH LLP, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.
Plaintiff Darlene Cellucci brings this employment discrimination action against RBS Citizens Financial Group, Inc. and its subsidiary, Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania. (collectively, " Citizens Bank" ). Cellucci claims that her employment with Citizens Bank was terminated because of her age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (" ADEA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Citizens Bank has moved for summary judgment, and, for the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion in its entirety.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND 
Cellucci began working for Citizens Bank in 1999, at the age of 51. Pl.'s Resp., Ex. C, Cellucci Dep. 81:13-15, 83:2-3, ECF No. 21-3. She was soon promoted to branch manager of Citizens Bank's Broad and McKean Street location in Philadelphia, and she remained in that position until her employment was terminated in April 2012. Id. at 76:3-9, 83:4-7.
From 2008 to 2011, Cellucci was supervised by Brian Williams, a Citizens Bank regional manager. Cellucci describes her relationship with Williams as " wonderful," and she has never accused him of age discrimination or unfairness of any kind. Id. at 83:22-24, 88:1-3; see also Pl.'s Resp. 6, ECF No. 21. In February 2009, she received an annual performance review from Williams that gave her an overall rating of 3 out of 5, indicating that her objectives were " fully achieved." Pl.'s Resp., Ex. E, 2009 Annual Performance Evaluation, ECF No. 21-5. A few months later, however, Williams gave her a verbal warning due to her branch's failure to meet minimum performance expectations for the previous six consecutive quarters. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 4, Verbal Counsel Memo, ECF No. 20-4. Cellucci's 2010 performance review indicated similar problems; Williams assigned her a " 2" rating, suggesting that development was needed. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 6, 2010 Performance Review, ECF No. 20-6. In particular, Williams noted that, although Cellucci possessed " very strong leadership skills which her team responds to," she " had a challenging year" with regard to the quantitative sales benchmarks recorded on the branch's " scorecard." Id.
In March of 2011, Williams transferred to a different position, and Cellucci began reporting to Westton Geer, a new regional manager. Pl.'s Resp. 6; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 4, ECF No. 20. Soon after Geer took over, he called Citizens Bank's Employee Relations Service Center (" ERSC" ) to discuss three employees, including Cellucci, who had been rated a " 2" on their 2010 performance reviews and had failed to achieve their performance goals for the first quarter of 2011. Pl.'s Resp. 32-33;
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 8, ERSC Case No. 385907-0, ECF No. 20-8. ERSC recommended that each employee be placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (" PIP" ). ERSC Case No. 385907-0.
Geer gave Cellucci her PIP on or around April 20, 2011. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 10, Cellucci PIP, ECF No. 20-10; Cellucci Dep. 106:24-107:7. The PIP noted her performance deficiencies, explained that she had sixty days to " demonstrate immediate and sustained improvement," and advised that if her performance did not improve she " may be subject to further disciplinary action, up to and including termination." Cellucci PIP. Cellucci signed the PIP, but later called ERSC to clarify several aspects of it. In particular, Cellucci called to make sure that she had sixty days to improve her performance, as Geer told her she had only thirty days. ERSC Case No. 385907-0. Cellucci also claimed that some of her performance benchmarks were incorrect, and ERSC told her that her PIP would be amended if she provided the scorecards showing her actual results. Id. Cellucci did so, and it appears from ERSC records that her sales score was changed from 57% to 67%. Id.
One day after receiving her PIP, Cellucci went on a medical leave of absence to undergo knee surgery. Pl.'s Resp. 7; Cellucci Dep. 106:9-12. She returned from leave in July 2011, and shortly after her return she had an unpleasant conversation with Geer. According to Cellucci, Geer asked her when she was going to retire, and commented that she " probably had a fat 401(k) and a pension." Cellucci Dep. 94:1-3, 98:21-99:14. He also asked her about the retirement plans of two other employees, and told her that " the bank is changing and it needs new younger faces." Id. at 131:18-132:24; see also id. at 137:21-138:1. Cellucci responded that she did not appreciate those comments, that she was too young to retire, and that she could not afford to do so. Id. at 94:4-8, 133:1-10, 240:5-8. Nonetheless, Geer allegedly asked Cellucci about her retirement plans several more times during the year prior to her termination. Id. at 97:14-15.
In September 2011, Cellucci called ERSC with concerns about Geer's treatment of her. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 13, ERSC Case No. 404723-0, ECF No. 20-16. She again complained that Geer told her that she only had thirty days to improve her performance (rather than sixty), and she sad that he had " offered her the option of stepping down to a Banker position." Id. Noting that she only had two years left before she could retire, Cellucci explained that she felt Geer was " forcing her out the door." Id. As a result of Cellucci's call, ERSC explained to Geer that he needed to give Cellucci sixty days before " corrective action" could be taken. Id.
Several months later, in January 2012, Geer issued Cellucci her 2011 performance review, which again rated her performance a " 2." Pl.'s Resp., Ex. G, 2011 Performance Review, ECF No. 21-7. Geer explained that Cellucci had " worked and lived in the South Philly community for many years and ha[d] built strong relationships with customers that visit her branch," but that her " challenge will be continuing to adapt to the recent and ongoing changes in the banking industry." Id. He further stated that Cellucci had " a well tenured team who could potentially be set in their ways and more challenging to coach." Id. He noted that, although Cellucci " works extremely hard at trying to achieve her goals," her efforts had " not shown up" in the scorecard benchmarks, and her branch still had " major" deficiencies in sales numbers. Id.
In addition to issuing Cellucci her performance review, Geer also gave her a " final written warning," which gave her until March 10, 2012 to correct her performance deficiencies. Pl.'s Resp. 8; see also Pl.'s Resp., Ex. J, Final Written Warning, ECF No. 21-10. The warning noted that Cellucci had received a " 2" on both her 2010 and 2011 annual performance reviews (which categorized her as a " serial underperformer" ), that she had ...