United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Nicholas Ranjan United States District Judge
Jeffrey Mikula brings claims for retaliation and sex
discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Act (the “PHRA”) and
negligent/intentional infliction of emotional distress as the
result of Defendant West Shore Window & Door, Inc.'s
decision to terminate his employment. West Shore contends
that it terminated Mr. Mikula for
“insubordination.” Mr. Mikula claims that this
proffered reason is pretextual, and that he was really
terminated as retaliation for reporting an inappropriate and
harassing comment made by one of his supervisors and for not
conforming to the “sexist and male chauvinistic gender
stereotype” that prevailed at West Shore.
Shore has moved for summary judgment on all of Mr.
Mikula's claims. [ECF 36]. The Motion is fully briefed
and ripe for disposition. For the reasons below, the Motion
will be DENIED with respect to the
retaliation claims and GRANTED with respect
to the sex discrimination and emotional distress claims.
Mr. Mikula's Begins His Employment at West
Shore is a home improvement business focusing on window and
door replacements and bathroom remodeling. [ECF 37, at 1].
2017, Mr. Mikula began working for West Shore as a Field
Sales Manager in West Shore's Oakmont office. [ECF 38, at
¶ 1]. As a Field Sales Manager, Mr. Mikula supervised
approximately six Field Service Representatives and managed
the Field Sales Department. [Id. at ¶¶
4-5]. Initially, Mr. Mikula reported directly to West
Shore's President and CEO, William Werzyn. [Id.
at ¶ 2].
Shore contends that Mr. Mikula failed to meet expectations in
this role. [ECF 38, at ¶ 11]. Mr. Mikula does not
dispute that he failed to meet certain performance
benchmarks, but argues that he was not “expected”
to meet those benchmarks due to the “disarray” of
his department when he assumed the role. [ECF 44, at ¶
Mr. Mikula Is Transferred to Another Job.
October 2017, West Shore transitioned Mr. Mikula to the
position of In-Home Sales Representative, under Neil Parker.
[ECF 38, at ¶ 13]. According to West Shore, it made this
move because of Mr. Mikula's “unsatisfactory
performance” [id. at ¶ 13] and the
transition was “not a promotion within [its]
system” [id. at ¶ 15]. Mr. Mikula, on the
other hand, argues it was a promotion because he would have
received a significant salary increase as a result of the
change. [ECF 44, at ¶ 13].
his role as the Field Sales Manager, as an In-Home Sales
Representative, Mr. Mikula would have been solely responsible
for selling West Shore's products to potential customers
with no direct reports and no management responsibilities.
[ECF 38, at ¶¶ 14-15]. Mr. Mikula would also no
longer have a guaranteed salary; instead, his compensation
would be based purely on commissions. [ECF 39-1, at
condition of his transition, West Shore required Mr. Mikula
to undergo three weeks of training. [ECF 38, at ¶¶
20-21]. West Shore also claims that Mr. Mikula agreed to
accept West Shore's proven sales techniques and processes
in “blind faith” and fully support its products
for a period of 90 days. [Id. at ¶ 16]. West
Shore imposed this added condition “due to [Mr.
Mikula's] prior history of confrontational conduct and
questioning West Shore's processes.” [Id.
at ¶ 17]. Mr. Mikula denies that he ever agreed to a
period of “blind faith” acceptance of West
Shore's sales processes and policies. [ECF 44, at ¶
West Shore Terminates Mr. Mikula.
Shore contends that during his training period, Mr. Mikula
repeatedly violated the “blind faith agreement, ”
despite numerous warnings. [ECF 38, at ¶¶ 22-33].
As a result, on the recommendation of Mr. Parker, West Shore
terminated Mr. Mikula on October 24, 2017 for
“insubordination.” [Id. at ¶¶
38-39]. Mr. Parker's recommendation was “reviewed
and approved” by the Director of Human Resources, Josh
Wood. [ECF 39-4, at ¶ 14]. Mr. Mikula also offers
affidavit testimony that Mr. Werzyn and Mr. Leary were
involved in the termination decision. [ECF 43, at 14-15].
Mikula argues that this reason was pretextual and that West
Shore actually fired him in retaliation for reporting
“harassing sexual comments by his training
supervisor” [ECF 43, at 4] and for failing to conform
to “the sexist and male chauvinistic gender stereotype
to which [West Shore's] management team adhered,
fostered, and preferred” [ECF 13, at ¶ 44].
Mr. Mikula Reports Alleged Harassing Comment.
alleged harassing comment was an attempted joke made by Mr.
Parker at a staff meeting on October 11, 2017. Approximately
12 people attended this meeting, including at least two
women. [ECF 39-1, at 97:22-98:7]. Mr. Mikula described the
joke as follows:
A. So the meeting was supposed to start at 8:30 or whatever
time it was and Neil asked Mike Plumbee and myself to remain
outside the meeting for the first part. And we were out there
for maybe an hour, and they asked us to rejoin the meeting.
And whenever we first came in, he was introducing us and he
said this is Jeff Mikula and this is Mike what's your
last name? What is it? It's-Mike Hunt-no, no. That's
[Id. at 99:24-100:7]. Mr. Mikula reported the
comment to Mr. Wood later that same day. [Id. at
Wood stated that he found this “joke” to have
violated West Shore's policies and immediately addressed
the incident with Mr. Parker. [ECF 39-4, at ¶ 19]. Mr.
Wood further stated that he “did not disclose the
identity of the person who made the report to Mr.
Parker.” [Id.]. Mr. Parker, for his part, also
stated that he “did not know which employee had
reported [his] comment to the Human Resources Department and
had no reason to suspect that it was [Mr. Mikula].”
[ECF 39-2, at ¶ 18]. Mr. Parker stated that Mr.
Mikula's “report played no role whatsoever in my
decision to terminate his employment.” [Id. at
¶ 19]. Mr. Wood also claims that Mr. Mikula's
“report of Mr. Parker's comment was not a factor in
the decision to terminate his employment.” [ECF 39-4,
at ¶ 24].
Mikula disputes this version of events and claims that his
supervisors disapproved a “prior complaint about
sexually harassing/offensive statements to his female
staff.” [ECF 44, at ¶ 62].
Alleged Gender Stereotype.
Mikula does not provide the precise contours of the alleged
gender stereotype to which he claims he did not belong. To
support his claim regarding the existence of the stereotype,
Mr. Mikula simply cites a general “corporate culture of
disapproval of complaints about inappropriate sexist comments
towards West Shore's female employees.” [ECF 43, at
12]. As evidence of this “corporate culture, ”
Mr. Mikula offers the comment made by Mr. Parker,
management's response to an incident that occurred at the
Hookstown Fair in August 2017, and allegedly fewer
opportunities available to the women at West Shore.
[Id. at 11-12].
Hookstown Fair, some of Mr. Mikula's female team members
reported that a third-party vendor made sexist comments
towards them. [ECF 39-1, at 112:15-113:14]. Mr. Mikula
reported it to the event's organizers and when that
failed to remedy the situation, he pulled West Shore's
employees from the event. [Id.]. Mr. Mikula admits,
however, that he was not disciplined for this decision and
that his supervisor at the time, Mr. Leary, never told him he
made the wrong decision. [Id. at 115:2-9]. Mr.
Mikula asserts that Mr. Leary later expressed disapproval to
one of his colleagues, Jaime Bader. [Id. at
115:12-17; ECF 45-3, at ¶ 4].
Mikula also claims that West Shore gave female employees
fewer opportunities, especially as design consultants. [ECF
39-1, at 107:23-108:7]. But his own testimony directly
contradicts this claim, as he acknowledged that, while he
worked at West Shore, there were three female design
consultants. [Id. at 108:25-109:9]. He further
acknowledged that there were women in management positions,
women who reported directly to Mr. Weczyn, and that a woman
replaced him in his old job. [Id. at 109:15-110:1,
115:15-22, 116:9-11, 116:15-24].
additional proof, Mr. Mikula alleges that he had to request a
“more diverse candidate pool” for hiring new
employees to his team when he was the Field Sales Manager.
[ECF 39-1, at 112:17-124:11]. He admits, however, that when
he did, Mr. Wood promptly complied and provided the requested
diverse candidates. [Id. at 124:1-6].
relevant to this Motion, Mr. Mikula conceded that he never
heard Mr. Weczyn, Mr. Wood, or Mr. Leary make discriminatory
or harassing remarks about women. [Id. at
104:7-105:6]. Mr. Mikula further acknowledged:
• West Shore had an anti-harassment policy in place
[id. at 46:24-27:2];
• West Shore promoted an “open door”
complaint procedure [id. at 48:13-19];
• He felt comfortable bringing complaints during his
brief employment at West Shore [id. ...