United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MARILYN J. HORAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
18, 2017, Plaintiff Marlene Reutzel filed a Complaint
alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act,
42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. (ECF
No. 1). Defendant Answer Pro, LLC filed its Answer on October
18, 2017. (ECF No. 8). Following discovery, Answer Pro filed
a Motion for Summary Judgment, seeking judgment in its favor
on all claims, on December 14, 2018. (ECF No. 40). The
parties provided Concise Statements of Material Facts and
relevant appendices, (ECF Nos. 42-44, 50, 52, 56-57), and
briefed the issues, (ECF Nos. 41, 48-49, 55). The Court heard
oral argument on the Motion on May 29, 2019. (ECF No. 59).
The Motion is now ripe for decision.
following reasons, the Motion will be granted in part and
denied in part.
1994, Marlene Reutzel began working for Pittsburgh Telephone
Answering Service (PTAS). ECF No. 42, at ¶ 5. During Ms.
Reutzel's employment with PTAS, she worked as the sole
employee in the sales and marketing department, cultivating
new clientele through a variety of sales techniques.
Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. In addition to her
responsibilities in sales and marketing, Ms. Reutzel, along
with a handful of other PTAS employees, supervised and
trained operators, attended weekly management meetings,
answered calls at peak hours, and engaged in collections.
Id. at ¶¶ 13-14, 16-19. Her compensation
consisted of hourly wages and sales commissions. Id.
at ¶ 10. After about two years at PTAS, Ms. Reutzel was
given the title of Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
Id. at ¶ 11. The change in title affected
neither Ms. Reutzel's job duties nor her compensation.
Reutzel was subsequently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis
(MS) in 1997, and she shared this news with two coworkers,
Cheryl Holden and Vicki Bassler, shortly thereafter.
Id. at ¶¶ 97-98. Ms. Reutzel's
healthcare providers did not place, and have not since
placed, any restrictions related to her MS diagnosis on Ms.
Reutzel's work activity. Id. at ¶ 104.
fifteen years after her diagnosis, in October 2012, Answer
Pro acquired PTAS. Id. at ¶ 6. Answer Pro
retained PTAS's employees, but it made changes to the
business operations and structure. Id. at
¶¶ 7, 26. First, although Ms. Reutzel's job
duties, including supervisory duties, remained mostly the
same, Ms. Reutzel and others, who also held Vice President
titles at PTAS, did not maintain their titles following
Answer Pro's acquisition of the business. Id. at
¶¶ 20, 29. Second, around late November or early
December 2012, Answer Pro's then-Executive Vice
President, Thomas Halton, asked for weekly reports of certain
sales data prior to the weekly management meetings.
Id. at ¶¶ 40-41; ECF No. 44-1, at 15; ECF
No. 44-4, at 11. To facilitate this, site manager Joseph
Dickinson created an Excel spreadsheet for Ms. Reutzel to
enter the weekly information. ECF No. 42, at ¶ 42.
Third, Mr. Halton began running the weekly management
meeting, and around January 2013, he decided to divide it
into two meetings. Id. at ¶¶ 31, 33; ECF
No. 44-3, at 7. One weekly meeting focused on sales activity,
which Ms. Reutzel was asked to attend. ECF No. 42, at
¶¶ 33, 35. The second meeting focused on business
operations, which other supervisors, who were responsible for
the day-today operations of the call center, were asked to
attend. Id. at ¶¶ 33, 38.
addition, around January or February 2013, Answer Pro
implemented two new marketing initiatives targeting potential
clients through the company's website and postcard
mailers. Id. at ¶ 50; ECF No. 44-3, at 7. The
owner of Answer Pro, George Otte, and Mr. Halton decided to
keep these new marketing initiatives separate from the
existing marketing activities. ECF No. 42, at ¶ 55. In
order to track the results from those initiatives, inquiries
from those initiatives were funneled to Mr. Halton, or to
site manager Joseph Dickinson, or to employee Jonathan
Dickinson. ECF No. 42, at ¶ 51. According to Answer Pro,
if a caller indicated interest in engaging Answer Pro's
services, that caller's information would then be
forwarded to Ms. Reutzel to make the sale. Id. at
Mr. Halton's request that Ms. Reutzel report certain
sales data in an Excel spreadsheet, Ms. Reutzel, who was not
familiar with spreadsheets, had difficulty entering the
requested information. Id. at ¶ 43; ECF No.
44-1, at 15. Ms. Reutzel would accidentally delete columns of
information, and other information that she entered
"would kind of disappear" from the spreadsheet. ECF
No. 44-1, at 15-16, 18. After Ms. Reutzel submitted her first
spreadsheet report, in or around November or December 2012,
site manager Joseph Dickinson discussed these problems with
her. Id. at 16; ECF No. 44-4, at 11. In response,
she explained that she did not know how to use Excel, and
asked Answer Pro to pay for her to take a class. ECF No. 42,
at ¶ 44; ECF No. 44-1, at 16. Rather than agree to pay
for her to take a class, Joseph Dickinson showed Ms. Reutzel
how to use the spreadsheet and asked her to continue to
"work on it on [her] own for a while." ECF No.
44-1, at 16-17. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Reutzel again had
difficulty with the spreadsheet entries, resulting in a
second conversation between Ms. Reutzel and Joseph Dickinson
to address the issue. Id. at 16-18. Ms. Reutzel
again asked if Answer Pro would pay for her to take a class
on spreadsheets. Id. at 17. Joseph Dickinson
directed Ms. Reutzel to provide the relevant data to employee
Jonathan Dickinson, who would then enter the information into
the spreadsheet. ECF No. 42, at ¶ 47. According to
Joseph Dickinson, while Mr. Halton needed the sales
information for the weekly management meeting, the process by
which the information was provided was not a significant
issue. ECF No. 44-4, at 11.
March 6, 2013, Ms. Reutzel was called into a meeting with
Joseph Dickinson, Ms. Bassler, and Mr. Otte's secretary.
ECF No. 42, at ¶ 63. At this meeting, Joseph Dickinson
presented Ms. Reutzel with a memorandum, prepared in
consultation with Mr. Halton, that listed several items
concerning her job performance. Id. at ¶¶
64-65. First, the memorandum addressed customer accounts for
which Ms. Reutzel entered incorrect information into Answer
Pro's software system. ECF No. 44-2, at 1. The incorrect
data entry caused billing errors, and it had a negative
impact on Answer Pro's ability to professionally serve
those customers. Id. Next, the memorandum stated
that customer order forms were not being filled out
completely or correctly, and that names on new account forms
did not match the names entered in the software system.
Id. The memorandum also addressed a concern that Ms.
Reutzel was not reporting phone calls for a specific customer
account. Id. Finally, it noted that she was not
timely turning in the weekly sales information. Id.
Consequently, the memorandum advised Ms. Reutzel that she was
expected to turn in sales reporting "on time and
accurately," and that she was expected to make and
report the necessary calls on a specific customer account.
Id. Ms. Reutzel was also informed that she was no
longer allowed to enter customer information into the
software system. Id. Ms. Reutzel's
"supervisor access"-the software function that
allowed data entry-was thus removed. ECF No. 42, at
¶¶ 72, 78-79. Additionally, according to Ms.
Reutzel, Joseph Dickinson informed her that the sales
commissions for the accounts would be split between her and
the data entry person. ECF No. 44-1, at 27. However, by the
time Ms. Reutzel quit her job with Answer Pro three months
later, commission-splitting had not occurred. Id.
According to Answer Pro, the reallocation of data entry
duties did not result in any change to Ms. Reutzel's
compensation. ECF No. 42, at ¶ 77.
March 20, 2013-two weeks after the March 6 meeting and
memorandum-during a conversation with Joseph Dickinson after
a weekly sales meeting, Ms. Reutzel informed him that she has
Multiple Sclerosis (MS). ECF No. 42, at ¶ 99; ECF No. 44-1,
at 31. Ms. Reutzel told no other Answer Pro employees about
her diagnosis. ECF No. 42, at ¶ 100.
addition to her job performance-related issues and the
changes to Answer Pro's business operations, Ms. Reutzel
claims that throughout her employment with PTAS and later
with Answer Pro, her fellow supervisors, Vicki Bassler and
Cheryl Holden, harassed her. ECF No. 1, at ¶ 22; ECF No.
49, at 4. According to Ms. Reutzel, Ms. Bassler and Ms.
Holden, in the presence of other employees, accused Ms.
Reutzel of breaking office equipment. ECF No. 42, at ¶
94. Ms. Holden testified, however, that Ms. Reutzel
"breaking" things around the office was a friendly
running joke in which Ms. Reutzel participated. ECF No. 44-6,
at 5. Ms. Reutzel also claims that she was harassed on two
other occasions. First, an employee complained that Ms.
Reutzel had logged that employee out of the computer system
and Ms. Holden confronted Ms. Reutzel about it. ECF No. 42,
at ¶ 95. Second, in front of other employees, Ms.
Bassler incorrectly accused Ms. Reutzel of not timely
submitting a time slip and then required Ms. Reutzel to open
the time slip box to see if it was there. Id. at
April 2013, according to Ms. Reutzel, the "final
straw" occurred "when she learned that she would no
longer be getting any leads to turn into sales." ECF No.
49, at 4; see also ECF No. 50, at ¶¶
56-58, 61. Ms. Reutzel concluded that this would negatively
impact her sales commission. ECF No. 49, at 4. Answer Pro
disputes that Ms. Reutzel stopped receiving sales leads. ECF
No. 55, at 5. Additionally, although Ms. Reutzel's
testimony as to the timeline of events is not clear, she
claims that, sometime between March 20, 2013 and April 2013,
Joseph Dickinson told her that the reason why some of her
responsibilities, including sales leads, were given to
Jonathan Dickinson, was to try "to remove some of [Ms.
Reutzel's] stress" because of her MS diagnosis. ECF
No. 52-1, at 27. Answer Pro disputes that this conversation
ever occurred. ECF No. 56, at ¶ 111.
months later, on June 21, 2013, Ms. Reutzel submitted her
resignation, effective June 19, 2013, because she had secured
employment elsewhere. ECF No. 42, at ¶¶ 106-07; ECF
No. 44-2, at 4. She testified that had she not obtained other
employment, she would have continued to work for Answer Pro.
ECF No. 42, at ¶ 109. In October 2013, Ms. Reutzel filed
charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations
Commission. ECF No. 42, at ¶ 110. It was only when Mr.
Halton and Mr. Otte were informed of the EEOC charges that
they learned for the first time ...