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Naidu v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 15, 2017




         In this action, plaintiff Viji Naidu has sued her former employer, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. (“Teva”), alleging discrimination on the basis of sex and national origin under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. She alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation, and that she was wrongfully terminated.

         Teva has now filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of all claims. For the reasons set forth below, its motion will be denied.

         I. Standard for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is warranted where the pleadings and discovery, as well as any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. Pr. 56. The moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In response, the non-moving party must adduce more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor, and cannot simply reassert factually unsupported allegations contained in its pleadings. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, supra at 325; Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989).

         When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must construe the evidence and any reasonable inferences drawn from it in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, supra at 255; Tiggs Corp. v. Dow Corning Corp., 822 F.2d 358, 361 (3d Cir. 1987). Nevertheless, Rule 56 “mandates the entry of summary judgment ... against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, supra, at 323.

         II. Factual Background

         The parties agree that Viji Naidu is a woman who was born in India and moved to the United States in 1998. Naidu Deposition, attached to Teva's Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”) as Exhibit A at 8-10. She is married and has three children. Id. at 12-15.

         In December, 2006, Teva hired Naidu to work as a database administrator. Id. at 16-17. Naidu was subsequently promoted to senior database administrator, and then senior manager. Id. at 25-6. In August, 2013, she was promoted to Associate Director of Database and Applications. Id. at 26. At around that time, Kumar Venugopal became interim Associate Director of U.S. Infrastructure, taking over a position vacated by Naidu's former supervisor, Eric Shapiro. Id. at 30-32. That appointment was later made permanent. Venugopal Deposition, attached to Motion as Exhibit B at 26.

         At the relevant time, the individuals directly reporting to Venugopal were all men, except for Naidu. Teva's Exhibit B at 12-13. They included Steven Gingolaski, Alan Wodarski and Jason Dow. Id.

         It is also undisputed that, at Naidu's 2013 work evaluation - which took place in January, 2014 - Venugopal rated Naidu at “Meets Expectations.” 2013 Performance Review, attached to Response as Exhibit K. However, at her 2014 evaluation, which took place in January, 2015, Venugopal gave Naidu only a “Mostly Meets” overall score, with a “Below Expectation” score on collaboration and influencing. 2014 Performance Review, attached to Naidu's Response (“Response”) as Exhibit L. As a result, Venugopal placed Naidu on a 90-day performance improvement plan (“PIP”). Performance Improvement Plan, January 29, 2015, attached to Response as Exhibit M. Earlier evaluations conducted by Eric Shapiro had rated Naidu highly, praising her leadership skills and relations with peers and customers. Performance Reviews from 2007-2012, attached to Response as Exhibits E-J.

         In response to concerns raised by Naidu, the PIP was revised on February 23, 2015. Performance Improvement Plan, February 23, 2015, attached to Response as Exhibit N. It included “action items deliverable”, i.e., projects to be completed and presented to Venugopal, on March 13, 2015, and April 10, 2015. Id. Also in February, 2015, Teva's Human Resources department investigated Naidu's complaint against Venugopal for discrimination on the basis of gender and ethnicity. Jessica Graybill Deposition, attached to Response as Exhibit C at 49. Human Resources found the complaint to be unsubstantiated. Id. at 63.

         On or about April 9, 2015, Venugopal notified Naidu that her employment with Teva was terminated. Plaintiff's Responses to Defendant's First Set of Interrogatories, attached as Exhibit 14 to Teva's Exhibit A, at Admission No. 9.

         The interactions between Naidu and Venugopal are otherwise in dispute. According to Naidu, during the entire period that they worked together, Venugopal made comments about her status as a working mother, asking how she managed, why she had to work, and whether it was because her husband did not make enough money. Exhibit A to Motion, at 64-69, 74-75. He made similar remarks about Heather Ems, another working mother in the office, who was Venugopal's ...

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