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Ingram v. Vanguard Group, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 17, 2015

DONNA INGRAM, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE VANGUARD GROUP, INC., et al., Defendants.

OPINION

Slomsky, J.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Donna Ingram, Jo DiGiovanni, and Wendy Kenworthy bring this lawsuit against the Vanguard Group, Inc. (“Vanguard”) and several individuals who supervised them during their tenure at Vanguard. They allege that during their employment at Vanguard they were subjected to employment discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., (“Title VII”), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 951, et seq., (the “PHRA”), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., (the “ADEA”).

In the Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 24), Plaintiffs assert the following claims:

• Count I: Plaintiff Ingram against Defendants Vanguard, Christopher Hammond, Martin Schamis, Tracy Richards, and Christopher Schmidt for race discrimination based on disparate treatment, [1] a hostile work environment, [2] and disparate impact[3] in violation of Section 1981.
• Count II: Plaintiff Ingram against Defendants Vanguard, Hammond, Schamis, Richards, and Schmidt for retaliation[4] in violation of Section 1981.
• Count III: Plaintiff Ingram against Defendant Vanguard for race discrimination based on disparate treatment, a hostile work environment, and disparate impact in violation of Title VII.
• Count IV: Plaintiffs Ingram and DiGiovanni against Defendant Vanguard for retaliation for their complaints of race discrimination in violation of Title VII.
• Count V: All Plaintiffs against Defendant Vanguard for gender discrimination based on disparate treatment and a hostile work environment, as well as retaliation, in violation of Title VII.
• Count VI: Plaintiff Ingram against Defendant Vanguard for race discrimination based on disparate treatment and a hostile work environment, as well as retaliation, in violation of the PHRA.
• Count VII: Plaintiffs Ingram and DiGiovanni against Defendant Vanguard for retaliation for their complaints of race discrimination in violation of the PHRA.
• Count VIII: All Plaintiffs against Defendant Vanguard for gender discrimination based on disparate treatment and a hostile work environment, as well as retaliation, in violation of the PHRA.
• Count IX: Plaintiff DiGiovanni against Defendant Vanguard for age discrimination[5] and retaliation in violation of the ADEA.
• Count X: Plaintiff DiGiovanni against Defendant Vanguard for age discrimination"[6] and retaliation in violation of the PHRA.
• Count XI: All Plaintiffs against Defendants Hammond, Richards, Schamis, and Schmidt, and additional Defendants Brian Hamilton, Bob Smith, and Bob Arata for aiding and abetting liability under the PHRA.

(Doc. No. 24 ¶¶ 243-315.)

Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss Partially the Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 26.) In the Motion, they seek to dismiss: (1) Plaintiffs’ claims asserted in paragraphs 48-58, 75, 134-53, and 192-208 of the Amended Complaint because they are time barred; (2) Plaintiffs’ hostile work environment claims; and (3) Plaintiffs’ disparate impact claims.[7] Defendants’ Motion is now ripe for a decision.[8] For reasons that follow, Defendants’ Motion (Doc. No. 26) will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND

A. The Parties

1. Plaintiff Donna Ingram

Plaintiff Donna Ingram is an African American woman. (Doc. No. 24 ¶ 8.) She began working at Vanguard in November 2000 and, at the time the Amended Complaint was filed, was on leave from her position as Team Leader in Vanguard’s Retail Client Account Services Department. (Id.)

2. Plaintiff Jo DiGiovanni

Plaintiff Jo DiGiovanni is a Caucasian woman. (Id. ¶ 9.) She began working at Vanguard in 2004 and, at the time the Amended Complaint was filed, was on leave from her position as Team Leader in Vanguard’s Retail Client Account Services Department. (Id.)

3. Plaintiff Wendy Kenworthy

Plaintiff Wendy Kenworthy is also a Caucasian woman. (Id. ¶ 10.) She began working at Vanguard in November 1997 and was fired from her job at Vanguard as Team Leader on October 20, 2013. (Id.)

4. Defendant Vanguard Group, Inc.

Defendant Vanguard Group, Inc. (“Vanguard”) is an investment management company. (Id. ¶ 11.) It offers mutual funds and other financial products and services to individual and institutional investors in the United States and abroad. (Id.) It has an office in Malvern, Pennsylvania. (Id.)

5. Defendant Christopher Hammond

Defendant Christopher Hammond was a Manager in the Retail Processing Group at Vanguard. (Id. ¶ 22.) Hammond directly supervised Plaintiffs Ingram and Kenworthy. (Id.)

6. Defendant Martin Schamis

Defendant Martin Schamis was a Senior Manager in Retail Client Account Services and was the “skip-level” supervisor[9] of all three Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 23.)

7. Defendant Tracy Richards

Defendant Tracy Richards was a Manager in the Retail Processing Group at Vanguard. (Id. ¶ 24.) Richards was the supervisor of all three Plaintiffs. (Id.)

8. Defendant Bob Arata

Defendant Bob Arata was a Senior Manager in the Retail Processing Group at Vanguard. (Id. ¶ 25.) Arata was also the “skip-level” supervisor of all three Plaintiffs. (Id.)

9. Defendant Christopher Schmidt

Defendant Christopher Schmidt was a Manager in Retail Client Account Services at Vanguard. (Id. ¶ 26.) Schmidt also supervised Plaintiffs Ingram and Kenworthy. (Id.)

10. Defendant Brian Hamilton

Defendant Brian Hamilton was a Manager in Retail Client Account Services at Vanguard. (Id. ¶ 27.) Hamilton directly supervised Plaintiff DiGiovanni. (Id.)

11. Defendant Bob Smith

Defendant Bob Smith was a Manager in the Retail Processing Group and Retail Client Account Services at Vanguard. (Id. ¶ 28.) Smith directly supervised Plaintiff Kenworthy. (Id.)

B. Plaintiffs’ Allegations

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Vanguard has “fostered a continuous pattern and practice of discrimination and retaliation against its employees who are not young, Caucasian males.” (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiffs claim that Vanguard routinely “manages out” employees who are either female, African American, or older, by subjecting them, for example, to unmerited write-ups and performance critiques, giving them assignments for which they have no training or experience, and loading their teams with underperformers in an effort to set them up for termination. (Id. ¶¶ 32(d), 37(c), 73-78; Doc. No. 28 at 4-6.) Moreover, Plaintiffs describe a working environment at Vanguard that is hostile to employees who are either female, African American, or older. (Doc. No. 24 ¶¶ 13-18, 21, 30, 33.) Plaintiffs additionally allege that the complaint process in Vanguard’s human resources department, known as “Crew Relations, ” is not only ineffective, but facilitates retaliation against employees who file complaints. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 32(a), 34-35.) In addition to these general allegations, each Plaintiff sets forth claims in the Amended Complaint pertinent to their own employment at Vanguard. These claims are as follows:

1. Plaintiff Ingram’s Individual Claims

Donna Ingram began her career at Vanguard in 2000 as a Service Associate in Personal Financial Planning at Vanguard’s Malvern, Pennsylvania office. (Id. ¶ 45.) In 2008, she transferred to the Retail Processing Group as a Supervisor and began reporting to Jeff Fafara, who was the manager of that group. (Id. ¶ 46.) Almost immediately, Fafara instructed Ingram to “manage out” two older African American women, which Ingram refused to do in the absence of a meritorious reason to support such action. (Id. ¶ 47.) In 2010, when Ingram informed Fafara that she was pregnant, he responded by saying, “I need more boys on my team, transition your process and transition your team.” (Id. ¶ 48.) Ingram alleges that she received unwarranted negative evaluations because of her pregnancy and also had an extra fifteen-hour-a-week commitment added to her workload. (Id. ¶ 49.) She alleges that Fafara treated men more favorably than he treated women, and that he applied inconsistent performance standards for men and women. (Id. ¶¶ 49-54.) When Ingram informed Fafara’s supervisor, Bob Arata, about Fafara’s inconsistent treatment of men and women, he responded by saying, “Well, Donna, we all have our biases.” (Id. ¶ 55.)

In May 2011, Fafara was promoted and Ingram began reporting to Tracy Richards. (Id. ¶ 58.) Ingram alleges that Richards was immediately hostile toward her. (Id. ¶ 60.) Richards asked Ingram if she “needed a hug” when Ingram told her about Fafara’s discrimination. (Id. ¶ 62.) At some point, Richards disbanded Ingram’s team. (Id. ¶ 63.) After the team was disbanded, Richards transferred the lowest-performing employees to Ingram’s new team (id. ¶ 86), and Richards instructed Ingram to “manage out” and terminate African American employees (id. ¶¶ 91-98).

In October 2011, Ingram began reporting to Christopher Hammond. (Doc. No. 24 ¶ 66.) Ingram alleges that Hammond overrode Ingram’s assessments of her team members in order to drive out and terminate the non-Caucasian employees who outperformed their Caucasian colleagues. (Id.) When Ingram advocated for a more consistent rating process, Hammond yelled at her in front of her team members, saying, “Well, if you need everything spelled out for you, then maybe this isn’t the job for you.” (Id. ¶ 68.) When Ingram asked Hammond to continue their conversation in private, Hammond responded by saying, “You need to get off the back of the bus.” (Id. ¶ 69.) Ingram also alleges that Hammond asked her to “manage out” African American employees. (Id. ¶ 76.) When she refused to do so, it was reflected in her 2011 evaluation, which stated that she should be “ensuring that the performance management process is driving poor performance out of the organization” and that she should “balance [her] ability to be the voice of the crew with the understanding of the needs of the business.” (Id.) In addition, Ingram alleges that when she was pregnant in 2010, Hammond told her that “they were going to make her have her baby early.” (Id. ¶ 70.)

Ingram informed Vanguard’s senior management and Crew Relations about the discriminatory behavior that she witnessed and was subjected to, but they were unresponsive. (Id. ¶¶ 77-79.) Ingram claims that, because of her complaints, she was shunned and excluded from meetings and received negative performance evaluations. (Id. ¶¶ 81-83.)

On April 10, 2012, Ingram dual-filed a Charge of Discrimination against Vanguard with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”). (Id. ¶ 87.) In August 2012, Ingram claims that in retaliation for these complaints Richards modified Ingram’s workload and told her to “look for a new role.” (Id. ¶ 89.)

In September 2012, Ingram’s senior manager, Martin Schamis, asked her if she would be attending a company charity event for United Way. (Id. ¶ 100.) Ingram responded that she would be, and Schamis said, “Wait until you see my costume.” (Id.) Schamis attended the event dressed as a giant monkey, even though the event did not call for costumes. (Id.) Ingram believes that this was intended as a racial insult. (Id. ¶ 102.) Ingram also claims that Schamis retaliated against her in her 2012 performance evaluation by including numerous inaccuracies and improperly using input from Richards, who was no longer Ingram’s manager. (Id. ¶¶ 104-10.) Ingram alleges that this was in retaliation for her complaints of discrimination. (Id.)

On June 6, 2013, Ingram filed an Amended Charge of Discrimination against Vanguard. (Id. ¶ 113.) She alleges she continued to experience discriminatory and retaliatory treatment after this charge was filed. (Id. ¶ 114.) On July 15, 2013, Ingram claims that her manager at the time, Christopher Schmidt, unfairly gave her a written alert. (Id. ¶ 117.) In this alert, Schmidt claims that Ingram did not support her peers, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (Id.) Schmidt also claims that Ingram failed to address performance issues with an African American member of her team. (Id. ¶¶ 118-19.) Ingram alleges that Schmidt was consistently disrespectful to her, while he was very respectful to his Caucasian male colleagues. (Id. ¶ 120.) In addition, Ingram claims that neither Schmidt nor Crew Relations did anything regarding offensive comments about her that a coworker posted on Facebook. (Id. ¶ 121-125.)

In October 2013, Ingram states that the discrimination and retaliation at Vanguard had become so unbearable that, at the suggestion of her doctor, she went out on leave. (Id. ¶ 126.)

She also claims that the extreme stress she experienced at Vanguard triggered and exacerbated an underlying medical condition. (Id.) Ingram’s doctor has advised her that returning to Vanguard would be detrimental to her health. (Id. ¶ 129.)

2. Plaintiff DiGiovanni’s Individual Claims

Jo DiGiovanni began her career at Vanguard in 2004 as a Supervisor in the Bank Services Department. (Doc. No. 24 ¶ 133.) In October 2006, Christine Rogers-Raestch became DiGiovanni’s manager. (Id. ¶ 135.) Rogers-Raestch and DiGiovanni’s department head, Laura Marakowski, began to harass DiGiovanni for refusing to “manage out” an older, African American, female associate. (Id. ¶ 136-38.) Rogers-Raestch changed DiGiovanni’s year-end performance rating from “Distinguished” to “Accomplished” in retaliation for DiGiovanni’s refusal to “manage out” this associate. (Id. ¶ 139.) DiGiovanni alleges that her unwillingness to “manage out” this associate continued to negatively impact her performance reviews. (Id. ¶¶ 150, 155-56.)

Rogers-Raestch also discouraged DiGiovanni from applying for managerial positions. (Id. ¶ 141.) From mid-2007 through the end of 2008, DiGiovanni alleges that she applied for roughly eight positions, but was never hired-despite being more qualified than the other applicants. (Id. ¶ 142.) After DiGiovanni was declined for several positions, Rogers-Raetsch told DiGiovanni that she was not involved with the selection process. (Id.) This conversation led DiGiovanni to believe that Rogers-Raetsch had in fact interfered with her ability to obtain these positions. (Id.) ...


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