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Stewart v. Progressive Business Publications, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 26, 2018



          JOYNER, J.

         This employment discrimination action is before the Court at the present time for disposition of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the motion shall be granted.

         Factual Background

         In July 2016, Plaintiff, Sheaunte Stewart applied for a position with Defendant, Progressive Business Publications, as a telephone marketing representative. Plaintiff, who was some six months pregnant at the time of her application, was interviewed a short time after submitting her application by the Manager of Defendant's Branch location in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, Dorothy Scollon. On July 13, 2016, Ms. Scollon sent Plaintiff an email offering her the job and informing her that her on-the-job training would begin on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 and would last for four days, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and that she would be paid at the rate of $8.40 per hour. Included in Plaintiff's training materials was information regarding Defendant's wage structure such as its base salary, performance bonuses, its rules, standards, personal breaks, paid training, working hours and other policies, as well as an explanation that reads as follows:

When you complete the training period, you will be promoted to Permanent Marketing Rep. To successfully complete the training period, you must achieve .60 sales per paid hour or higher. Managers have the discretion to promote a trainee who has not generated .60 or higher, if the manager determines that the trainee's attitude, effort, and skills are such that they believe they will improve their performance and soon reach desired minimum rate. Otherwise, the trainee will not maintain their employment with the company. (emphasis in original)

         Plaintiff was one of an unknown number of trainees when she reported for work on July 26th, a group consisting of both men and women. Plaintiff's first four days of training were without incident. To the best of her recollection, Plaintiff was the only trainee who was noticeably pregnant. On Monday, August 1, 2016, following a brief office birthday celebration, Plaintiff testified that Ms. Scollon “pulled her to the side” and “said that it looked like I was due any day, like I was about to drop.” Plaintiff told her that she wasn't due until October and that she “wasn't about to drop, ” but Ms. Scollon said she didn't believe her. Plaintiff testified that Ms. Scollon looked at her like she was “some type of like a beach ... whale or something, ” and that “she seemed like she was mad a little bit, like my pregnancy was like a bad thing to her, like she was just like disappointed, like, you know.” Plaintiff said that Ms. Scollon sent her home early that day - sometime between 12:45 or 1 p.m.

         Later that afternoon, Plaintiff was struck by a car and she therefore didn't work the following day. Nor did she report for work the day after that because she had been subpoenaed to testify as a witness in an assault case. On Friday, August 5th, at 8:30 a.m., Ms. Scollon called Plaintiff on the phone and told her that “it wasn't going to work out.” Although Plaintiff acknowledges that she's not sure how many of her fellow trainees lasted past a week, she thinks it may only have been five. Likewise, Plaintiff is unaware of what her sales per hour were or what the sales per hour figures were for the other trainees in her group. In actuality, Plaintiff's sales per hour were only .41 and thus she did not meet the benchmark of .60 set by the company.

         Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit on September 14, 2017 pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et. seq. and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §951, et. seq. alleging that Defendant discriminated against her in the terms and conditions of her employment because of her female gender and because she was pregnant. Defendant denies these allegations and submits that its decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment at the end of her training period was for a lawful, non-discriminatory reason - her failure to satisfy the .60 sales-per-hour criteria for promotion to permanent marketing representative. Discovery on this claim has now closed and Defendant moves for the entry of judgment in its favor as a matter of law.

         Standards for Entry of Summary Judgment

         Motions for summary judgment are permitted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, subsection (a) of which provides as follows:

A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense - or the part of each claim or defense - on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall 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. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.

         As this rule makes clear, summary judgment is appropriately entered only when the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Willis v. UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, 808 F.3d 638, 643 (3d Cir. 2015). An issue of fact is said to be material and genuine if it “affects the outcome of the suit under the governing law and could lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party.” Parkell v. Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 323 (3d Cir. 2016)(quoting Willis, supra. and Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)).

         It is also well-settled that in considering a motion for summary judgment, the reviewing court should view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Burton v. Teleflex, Inc., 707 F.3d 417, 425 (3d Cir. 2013). “If the non-moving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, ‘the moving party may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to carry that burden.'” Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006)(quoting Wetzel v. Tucker, 139 F.3d 380, 383, n.2 (3d Cir. 1998)). Thus, where the defendant is the moving party, the initial burden is on the defendant to show that the plaintiff has failed to establish one or more essential elements of her case. Hugh v. Butler County Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 267 (3d Cir. 2005).

         In response, and “to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, ‘the non-moving party must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non-movant.'” Burton, supra, (quoting Jakimas v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., 485 F.3d 770, 777 (3d Cir. 2007)). Thus, “[t]he moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the non-moving party fails to make “a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Moody v. Atlantic ...

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