United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff Jennifer
Novielli worked as a “Civil Designer” for
defendant Trec Group, Inc. (“Trec”) from April
14, 2014, to February 20, 2015. Plaintiff was placed in that
job by Peak Technical Services, Inc. (“Peak”), a
staffing agency. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that she
experienced gender discrimination and a hostile work
environment, and that her employment was terminated in
retaliation for complaining about that discrimination.
Presently before the Court is Trec's Motion for Summary
Judgment. For the reasons that follow, Trec's Motion for
Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.
relevant facts as set forth in the evidence submitted by the
parties are as follows. Plaintiff Jennifer Novielli signed an
employment agreement with Peak on April 2, 2014, under which
she was assigned to work for Trec. Trec's Mot. Summ. J.
(“Trec's Mot.”) (Document No. 18, filed
November 10, 2016), Ex. D-25; Trec's Mot., Deposition of
Jennifer Novielli (“Novielli Dep.”) at
55:19-56:16. Plaintiff began working at Trec on April 14,
2014. Trec's Mot., Ex. D-25. Plaintiff's employment
agreement provided that Peak was her employer, Peak directly
compensated plaintiff, and Peak then billed Trec for
plaintiff's services. Id. Plaintiff testified
that during her employment at Trec, she worked at Trec's
facility; used Trec's computer; was interviewed,
supervised, and disciplined by Trec employees; and that the
decision to terminate plaintiff's employment was made by
a Trec employee. Novielli Dep. at 54:18-55:5, 136:10- 137:7.
Vacanti, another temporary employee placed at Trec by Peak,
also testified that he worked at Trec's facility; used
Trec's computer and printer; was interviewed by a Trec
employee; was supervised by a Trec employee who told him what
to do, and who had the power to discipline and fire him.
Trec's Mot., Deposition of Domenic Vacanti
(“Vacanti Dep.”) at 64:5-65:16. Mr. Vacanti also
testified that he believed Trec had more control over his
daily activities than Peak. Vacanti Dep. at 65:17-65:19.
testified that in August of 2014, she discussed her rate of
pay with Mr. Vacanti. Novielli Dep. at 47:22-24. Mr. Vacanti
testified that he was “shocked” to learn that he
earned more than plaintiff because plaintiff had a college
degree in engineering and Mr. Vacanti did not. Vacanti Dep.
at 72:21-73:3. As a result of her conversation with Mr.
Vacanti, plaintiff requested a pay increase from her
supervisor, Richard Mannices, who told her to “go to
Peak.” Novielli Dep. at 47:3-48:8. Plaintiff
communicated with Peak, and Peak “said they would talk
to Trec about it.” Novielli Dep. at 48:4-8. Eventually,
plaintiff received a pay increase to match her male
coworkers. Novielli Dep. at 133:11-15.
plaintiff's request for a pay increase, plaintiff
testified that Mr. Mannices “stopped talking” to
her and “purposefully ignore[d]” her in front of
coworkers such that plaintiff felt “inferior.”
Novielli Dep. at 134:12-135:7. Plaintiff also testified that
Mr. Mannices allowed the male employees in the office to
“bicker loudly, ” but told plaintiff that she
“needed to soften [her] tone” during
confrontations with coworkers. Novielli Dep. at 78:18-79:4.
testified that she raised concerns about Mr. Mannices during
a meeting with Barbara Tulskie, owner and president of Trec.
Novielli Dep. at 78:18-80:8, 30:2-5. That meeting took place
on October 15, 2014. Concise Statement of Material Facts
¶ 28 (Document No. 18, filed November 10, 2016).
Specifically, plaintiff testified that she told Ms. Tulskie
that Mr. Mannices “was treating [her] differently than
the male employees. He would not address [plaintiff.] He
would not speak to [plaintiff.]” Novielli Dep. at
80:1-8. Ms. Tulskie stated in her affidavit that “there
was no type of gender discrimination alleged by the Plaintiff
nor any other type of alleged discrimination alleged by the
Plaintiff” at the October 15, 2014 meeting. Trec's
Mot., Affidavit of Barbara Tulskie (“Tulskie
Aff.”). Plaintiff admitted that she did not put into
writing any allegations of unlawful discrimination during her
time at Trec. Novielli Dep. at 80:17-82:21. According to
plaintiff, after her complaints, in November of 2014, Mr.
Mannices told plaintiff that she “needed to softer
[her] tone and be less assertive, ” and that she
considered this to be in retaliation for her various
complaints. Id. at 92:17-93:16.
contract was terminated on February 20, 2015. Novielli Dep.
at 53:21-54:1; Pl.'s Mem. in Opp., Ex. D. Peak's log
of its communications with Trec reads “[l]etting Jen
Novielli go as of 2/20 . . . Wants a replacement asap. Needs
ADA experience.” Pl.'s Mem. in Opp., Ex. D. When
asked about that log entry, Mr. Mannices testified that Trec
did not plan to replace plaintiff immediately, and that Trec
did not ultimately replace plaintiff. Trec's Mot.,
Deposition of Richard Mannices (“Mannices Dep.”)
at 84:4-3. Rather, Mr. Mannices testified that by February of
2015, Trec “had planned to let [plaintiff] go because
of the lack of work.” Id. at 72:15-24. Ms.
Tulskie also stated by affidavit that plaintiff was
terminated because her services “were no longer
required due to lack of work.” Tulskie Aff.
“Barbara and Joseph Tulskie made the final decision to
terminate Plaintiff [sic] temp services after discussing with
Rich Mannices.” Tulskie Aff; see also Mannices
Dep. 72:10-14. Joseph Tulskie is Mr. Mannices' superior
at Trec. Mannices Dep. at 9:5-8.
to plaintiff, her primary project at Trec was “the ADA
project.” Novielli Dep. at 63:14-16. She further
testified that at the time of her termination, the ADA
project was not yet finished, and that the project would take
“a few months” more to complete. Id. at
62:10-64:14. In May of 2015, or about three months after her
termination, plaintiff received a text message from George
Yenovkian, a male employee at Trec, asking for
“assistance with an ADA diagram.” Id. at
60:22-61:12; 147:23-148:10. Mr. Yenovkian had never worked on
the ADA project during plaintiff's time at Trec.
Id. at 148:11-13. Mr. Vacanti testified in his
deposition that Mr. Yenovkian began working on the ADA
project after plaintiff's termination. Vacanti Dep. at
Complaint was filed in this Court on March 17, 2016. The
Complaint included five claims against both Trec and Peak:
gender discrimination and hostile work environment under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title
VII”) (42 U.S.C. 2000e-2 et seq.) (Count One),
retaliation under Title VII (Count Two), gender
discrimination and hostile work environment under the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“the PHRA”) (43
P.S. 951 et seq.) (Count Three), retaliation under
the PHRA (Count Four), and a single claim for unequal and/or
disparate pay under both the federal Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C.
§ 206, and the Pennsylvania Equal Pay Act, 43 P.S. 336
(Count Five). On July 22, 2016, plaintiff filed a Motion for
Voluntary Dismissal as to all claims against Peak and Count
Five of the Complaint in its entirety. The Court granted the
Motion. What remains in the case are Counts one through four
against Trec as the sole defendant. After discovery was
completed, Trec filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment
as to the four remaining Counts.
Summary Judgment Standard
Court will grant summary judgment if “the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material when it
“might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine
“if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
Court's role at the summary judgment stage “is not
. . . to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether . . . there is sufficient
evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a
verdict for that party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at
249. In making this determination, “the court is
required to examine the evidence of record in the light most
favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and resolve
all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”
Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007).