United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
G. SMITH, J.
engineer for a truck manufacturing company brought this
action against her employer alleging, inter alia,
gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Act. After a trial, the jury found that the
employer had violated those laws by failing to promote the
plaintiff based on her gender and retaliating against her for
complaining about discrimination. The jury awarded her
compensatory damages and determined on an advisory basis the
amount of front pay and back pay to award. In an action tried
on the facts with an advisory jury, Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 52 requires the court to find the facts specially
and state conclusions of law separately. Accordingly, the
court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of
law, determining that the plaintiff is entitled to $6, 823.08
in back pay and no front pay.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Melissa Koch's Initial Years With Mack Trucks,
plaintiff, Melissa Koch (“Koch”), began working
for the defendant, Mack Trucks, Inc. (“Mack”), in
April 1997. Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at 46, Doc. No. 97. She
first worked at Mack's Winnsboro, South Carolina plant,
building highway trucks as a process technician on the
chassis line. Id. at 46-48. After one-and-a-half to
two years, Mack promoted her to the production supervisor
position on the cab line, where 20 to 25 employees reported
to her. Id. at 50-52. Koch then transferred to
different Mack facilities twice in the following eight years-
first to the New River Valley, Virginia plant in July 2002,
and then, following a five-month voluntary layoff, to the
Macungie, Pennsylvania plant in May 2010. Id. at
52-53, 57-59. When Koch arrived in Macungie, she was the only
woman in production management, which included, in ascending
order of authority, at least 30 production supervisors, six
business team leaders, one business unit manager, one
director of operations, and one plant manager. Id.
at 62-65; Trial Tr. Dec. 18, 2018, at 152-54, Doc. No. 103.
Mack's Failure To Promote Koch To Business Team
after arriving at the Macungie plant, Koch began working as a
first-shift production supervisor on the cab line, reporting
to Jon Tosh (“Tosh”), a business team leader.
Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at 62-63, 88. Approximately 12 to 15
times each year between the end of 2011 and 2013, Koch
covered some of Tosh's duties when he was absent.
Id. at 63-64, 132; Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at
202-04, Doc. No. 98. The duties Koch covered included
schedule evaluation, manpower placement, and safety and union
issues on the cab line-key items that would make the plant
successful for the day. Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at 203-05.
Over the course of 2014, Koch covered some of Tosh's
duties more often, a total of two to three months, because
Mack intermittently relocated Tosh to better assist
production in a low-performing paint department. Trial Tr.
Dec. 12, 2017, at 132-33, 138; Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at
146, 204, 213, 226.
December 2014, a “cliff event” in the paint
department caused Mack to shut down the plant numerous times
and relocate Tosh to the paint department on a “long
term temporary” basis. Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at
138-39; Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at 147; Trial Tr. Dec. 18,
2017, at 133-34. Jim Flannery, the plant's director of
operations at the time, told Koch that Tosh's relocation
would be short term, “a few months.” Trial Tr.
Dec. 12, 2017, at 138. Koch “knew it was going to be
longer, ” although not permanent, and Tosh told her he
also had a feeling the relocation would be “long term
temporary.” Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at 147.
Nevertheless, Tosh and others expected him to return to his
position as business team leader over the cab line.
Id. at 227; Trial Tr. Dec. 14, 2017, at 15, Doc. No.
101. Tosh did in fact return to his former position around
September 2015. See Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at
138-39 (Tosh's relocation lasted until at least the end
of July 2015); Trial Tr. Dec. 14, 2017, at 15-19 (explaining
that Tosh returned to his former position in 2015 around the
time that Kevin Duchala retired and Brad Ibach moved to first
shift to replace Duchala in late 2015); Trial Tr. Dec. 18,
2017, at 145 (explaining that Duchala retired during the
third quarter of 2015, likely in September); but see
Trial Tr. Dec. 14, 2017, at 186 (Tosh's relocation lasted
only three to six months).
than promote Koch to Tosh's temporarily vacated position,
Mack reorganized its existing business team leaders'
responsibilities. Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at 138; Trial Tr.
Dec. 13, 2017, at 149. Prior to Tosh's transfer, three
business team leaders worked at the Macungie plant in
assembly on first shift, none of whom worked in the paint
department: Tosh, Kevin Duchala (“Duchala”), and
Aaron Shay (“Shay”). Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at
144-46. Following Tosh's transfer to the paint
department, Shay assumed Tosh's vacated position as
business team leader over the cab line, and Duchala assumed
Shay's responsibilities as business team leader over one
of the chassis lines, while also retaining his prior
responsibilities. Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at 139; Trial Tr.
Dec. 13, 2017, at 147-49 (Duchala “absorbed one
[spot].”). Although Shay assumed Tosh's former
position, Koch continued to cover some of Tosh's former
duties and taught Shay about the cab line, of which he had no
experience. Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at 138-40; Trial Tr.
Dec. 13, 2017, at 211-12. Specifically, Koch still helped
supervisors with manning issues in the morning and answered
their questions, while Shay managed paperwork. Id.
Mack never solicited applications for Tosh's vacated
position. Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at 138; Trial Tr. Dec. 13,
2017, at 148-49. Koch testified that if Tosh's position
“was going to be temporarily filled, let me temporarily
fill it.” Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at 148. The jury
agreed and found that Mack's failure to promote Koch to
Tosh's vacated business team leader position in December
2014 violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(“Title VII”) and the Pennsylvania Human
Relations Act (“PHRA”).
Koch's Transfer Out Of The Macungie
Mack reorganized its first-shift business team leaders in
December 2014, Koch received a lateral transfer to Mack's
offices in Allentown, Pennsylvania as a sales engineer in
July 2015. Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at 23, 94-95; Trial Tr.
Dec. 15, 2017, at 173, Doc. No. 102. During her sales
engineer interview, Koch explained that the position provided
her with an opportunity to work in a less stressful,
sedentary, and climate-controlled environment-a better work
environment for her multiple sclerosis (“MS”)
condition. Trial Tr. Dec. 18, 2017, at 39- 40. Had Koch
instead received the business team leader promotion, she
likely would have worked at least partially in an office
environment, as evidenced by other business team leaders
having offices, completing paperwork, creating charts and
graphs, and attending meetings. See Trial Tr. Dec.
12, 2017, at 134-36, 139-41; Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at 136,
183. At trial, Koch explained that gender discrimination
motivated her to leave the Macungie plant:
I could not deal with what was going on in the plant anymore.
It was evident there were no more changes. It was still
making my MS worse, with my legs and everything else. I
wanted out. At that point, if you had offered me a
janitor's position, I would have probably considered it.
Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at 23; see also Id. at
23-24, 50-51 (clarifying that “changes” refer to
any progress in promoting Koch or other women); id.
at 47-48 (explaining that the stress associated with
Koch's complaints in this suit, and not plant
environmental conditions, caused her MS to progress).
Therefore, although Koch wanted to leave the Macungie plant
for environmental reasons unrelated to gender discrimination,
she nevertheless would have remained at Macungie but for
Mack's failure to promote her.
Mack's Consideration Of Koch For Other
August 2014 and September 2016, Koch applied for at least 14
promotions, and Mack denied her each. Trial Tr. Dec. 13,
2017, at 39-40. At trial, Koch did not submit evidence of the
successful applicant's qualifications relative to her own
for any of the positions to which she unsuccessfully
two of those promotions, the technical preparation engineer
in October 2014 and product introduction engineer in March
2015, Mack's hiring managers chose male applicants over
Koch based on superior education credentials and more
relevant experience within Mack or its parent, Volvo.
See Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at 45; Trial Tr. Dec.
13, 2017, at 9-10; Trial Tr. Dec. 14, 2017, at 30-32; Trial
Tr. Dec. 15, 2017, at 203-07, 210; Def. Exs. 41, 44. Based on
this record, the court finds that the jury considered these
promotion denials lawful and limited its failure-to-promote
verdict to the business team leader position vacated by Tosh.
Koch's Rejection Of Promotion
spring of 2015, after Mack failed to promote Koch to business
team leader for the cab line in December 2014, Koch declined
a promotion offer. Although one of Mack's hiring managers
rejected Koch for the product introduction engineer - cab
position, he instead interviewed her for the product
introduction engineer - chassis position in March 2015. Trial
Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at 9-11; Trial Tr. Dec. 15, 2017, at
207-14. Koch expressed reservations about the position
because she believed working on the chassis line would expose
her to heat that would exacerbate her MS, she lacked chassis
experience, and any overtime or second-shift work tied to the
position would violate her MS restrictions. Trial Tr. Dec.
13, 2017, at 11-13; Trial Tr. Dec. 15, 2017, at 210-13. The
hiring manager explained to her that the chassis position was
“almost the same” as the cab position to which
she applied. Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at 10. The position was
primarily an office job, any chassis line duties were located
far away from that line's heat source, she only needed a
general knowledge of the chassis, second-shift work was very
rare, and regardless, Mack would accommodate her second-shift
restrictions. Trial Tr. Dec. 15, 2017, at 199, 208-13.
Nevertheless, Koch rejected the hiring manager's
promotion offer for the product introduction engineer -
chassis position. Id. at 214-15. The successful
candidate for the production introduction engineer - cab
position earned a $21, 063 salary, and there is no evidence
as to the salaries of the successful production introduction
engineer - chassis candidate or any other Mack employee with
that title. See Pl.'s Ex. 40.
Koch's Salary History
following table summarizes Koch's annual salary and merit
raise history between her arrival at the Macungie plant in
May 2010 and this case's December 2017 trial:
Percent Raise Over Previous Salary
May 17, 2010 - Dec. 31, 2010
Jan. 1, 2011 - Mar. 31, 2012
Apr. 1, 2012 - Mar. 31, 2013
Apr. 1, 2013 - Mar. 31, 2014
Apr. 1, 2014 - Mar. 31, 2015
Apr. 1, 2015 - July 31, 2015
Aug. 1, 2015 - Mar. 31, 2017
Apr. 1, 2017 - Nov. 30, 2017
Trial Tr. Dec. 12, 2017, at 59; Trial Tr. Dec. 13, 2017, at
81, 84-88; Pl.'s Ex. 9; Def.'s Ex. 18.
did not receive a merit raise in the spring of 2016 because
she had already received a raise upon her lateral transfer to
the sales engineer position in August 2015. Trial Tr. Dec.
13, 2017, at 95-96; Trial Tr. Dec. 15, 2017, at 172-73. While
a Mack human resources representative mistakenly included a
provision in Koch's sales engineer offer letter stating
she would be eligible for a 2016 merit increase, contemporary
male hires to the sales engineer position did not receive a
raise either. Trial ...