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Ogawa v. Nationwide Financial Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 2, 2015





Plaintiff Charmane Ogawa alleges in this employment discrimination action that Defendant Nationwide Financial Services, Inc. ("Nationwide"), her former employer, discriminated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"); and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951 et seq. ("PHRA").[1] Ogawa, who is African American, alleges that Nationwide illegally failed to promote her to either of two positions to which she applied.[2]

Before the Court is Nationwide's Motion for Summary Judgment, Ogawa's response in opposition thereto, and Nationwide's reply. Because Ogawa has not established that a reasonable factfinder could find that she has satisfied the prima facie case for either her race discrimination or age discrimination claims, the motion shall be granted.


A. Ogawa's Education and Employment History

Charmane Ogawa received an Associates of Science degree in Paralegal Studies from Pierce Junior College in Philadelphia in 1991. Def.'s Mot. Ex. E. ("Ogawa Dep.") at 30:22-31:7; see also id. Ex. O ("Ogawa Resume"). She began work at Friedman & Lorry in Philadelphia in 1996, and when she left the firm in December 2000 she was the Senior Domestic Relations Paralegal. See Ogawa Resume. She then worked as the Executive Assistant to the Chairman and CEO at Citizens Bank in Philadelphia from February 2001 through March 2004. Id. Following that, from February 2001 through February 2006 she was a Compliance Paralegal at Citizens Bank. Id.

Ogawa was hired by Nationwide in 2007 as the Executive Secretary to Doff Meyer, the Vice President of Marketing for the Nationwide Financial Investment Management Group in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. See Ogawa Dep. at 19:8-17. According to the job description for the Executive Secretary position, Ogawa's duties included managing correspondence and communications, managing Meyer's calendar, scheduling meetings, planning meal arrangements, coordinating travel arrangements, preparing reports and exhibits for presentations and projects, and maintaining office records. Id. Ex. G. She concedes that her position was administrative-secretarial and that she did not work on the investment side of the company. Ogawa Dep. at 18:12-15, 19:14-17, 58:2-6. According to her own resume, Ogawa's tasks in her position at Nationwide included managing external vendors and consultants, negotiating and managing external contracts and services, HR systems and employee relations, managing budgetary and financial activities, preparing agendas and collecting materials for corporate meetings, and managing off-site meetings. Ogawa Resume. Nationwide has an alphabetical spectrum "for job identification and related salary ranges for non-officer employees, with an A-band at the entry level and an H-Band at the high end." Def.'s Mot. at 4; see also id. Ex. H ("McDonnell Dep.") at 22:10-24:5. Ogawa's position was a D-Band position. Def.'s Mot. Ex. CC ¶ 6.

In 2009, Ogawa earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from University of Phoenix. Id. at 75:19-25. She testified that Meyer informed her that if she continued her education and obtained a graduate degree, then she "definitely could help [her] move up in the company." Id. at 17:8-10. Many of Ogawa's performance evaluations written by Meyer reflect Ogawa's desire to advance at Nationwide and the steps she needed to take to achieve that goal. In her midyear 2011 evaluation, Meyer wrote of Ogawa that she was "putting new focus on a specific development plan and building skills that can help her in her goal to advance professionally." Def.'s Mot. Ex. I at 3. To that end, Meyer suggested that Ogawa develop a knowledge of the mutual fund market, beginning with the "[b]asics of Mutual Fund products and how they are promoted to advisers, " and that she "[a]cquire as many competences required to advance in the company, " as well as develop "biz knowledge." Def.'s Mot. Exs. J, K. In her end-of-year 2012 evaluation, Meyer wrote that Ogawa "has an opportunity to increase her industry knowledge by studying the wealth of information about mutual funds and the industry that is available on site at [King of Prussia]. This will be important if she wishes to move into the business unit." Def.'s Mot. Ex. L. In mid-2013, Meyer further stated that Ogawa's business knowledge "remains an opportunity for development" and that she "should learn about the business, our products and processes (beyond her immediate role)." Def.'s Mot. Ex. M.

In Spring 2011, Ogawa enrolled in a master's program at Lincoln University, and she received a Master of Science in Administration degree with a concentration in Human Resources Management in December 2012. Def.'s Mot. Ex. P.[3] While a student at Lincoln, Ogawa took courses in Corporate Finance, Strategic Marketing Management, and Compensation Analysis & Planning, as well as a Global Financial Management seminar. Id. The remainder of her courses included Organizational Behavior, International Human Resource Management, Organizational Staffing, Employee and Labor Relations, Research Methodology, Management Information Systems, and Human Resource Management, and others. Id.

B. Senior Analyst, Proposals Position

In May 2012, before Ogawa was awarded her master's degree, Jennifer McDonnell, the current Assistant Vice President of IMG Strategic Accounts at Nationwide, posted an opening for "Senior Analyst, Proposals, " an E-band position tasked with the following responsibilities, among others:

• preparing responses to specific business related Requests for Proposals for existing and potential investment clients and customers;
• administering the proposal process, "working closely with all areas of the company to prepare a response that accurately reflects all current and proposed capabilities of assigned business/product";
• ensuring that responses are customized to meet clients' business objectives, are technically accurate, and are in compliance with all internal and external regulations;
• "[p]repar[ing] finalist presentations to support the efforts of the business development, and/or sales, accurately incorporating the components of the RFP responses"; and
• serving as a technical consultant to other areas of the company, including sales and product development.

Id. Ex. S. The requirements for the position were as follows:

• undergraduate studies in business administration or a related field preferred;
• participation in, or attainment of, technical coursework;
• required Federal and/or state licensing registration "within the time period designated by the business unit";[4]
• three years' experience "including, but not limited to, product plan administration and sales, customer services, sales consulting, relationship management, project management, communication, and marketing";
• knowledge of marketing techniques and approaches, systems analysis, and project management; and
• "[m]ust have knowledge of products, services and processes of the related business unit."


Ogawa applied for the position; she was approximately 42 years old at the time. Ogawa Dep. at 113:18-21. On June 29, 2012, she interviewed with McDonnell for approximately one hour. See McDonnell Dep. at 35:8. Ogawa testified at her deposition that she did not have experience coordinating response materials for requests for proposals, one of the principal responsibilities of the position. Ogawa Dep. at 70:18-23. She had never reviewed response documents for technical accuracy nor did she have experience "dealing with any sort of regulatory infrastructure that may apply to the investment side" of the company. Id. at 71:22-72:22. On the topic of financial regulations, Ogawa testified that she does not know what FINRA stands for, described Sarbanes-Oxley as "a regulatory institute, " and acknowledged that while she had heard of Dodd-Frank, she did not know what it was. Id. at 73:4-24.

After the interview, McDonnell concluded that Ogawa lacked the "minimum relevant experience" for the position and that "her investment knowledge was not to the level that I needed for that role." McDonnell Dep. at 36:16-17, 36:21-23. McDonnell testified that at the time of the interview Ogawa had no certifications or resume-listed experience that gave McDonnell the sense she was qualified for the Senior Analyst position. Id. at 56:21-57:2.

A. There is nothing in here that is investment related. And investment is different than banking, so there's nothing investment related in this resume.
Q. What sorts of things would you be looking for, for the senior analyst position specifically?
A. I would be looking for roles that-where they did research and analysis on mutual funds, competitive analysis of products in the industry, the- having knowledge of mutual fund ...

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