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EMERSON v. E.I. DU PONT DE NEMOURS & CO.

January 25, 1989

MELISSA POTTS EMERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
E.I. DU PONT DE NEMOURS AND COMPANY, INCORPORATED and RICHARD A. JOHNSON, Defendants


James B. Zagel, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ZAGEL

JAMES B. ZAGEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 This is an employment discrimination case. The plaintiff, Melissa Potts Emerson, claims that the defendants, E. I. Du Pont de Nemours and Co., Inc. (Du Pont) and Richard A. Johnson, refused to promote or transfer her, and hornswoggled her into resigning because she is black. Emerson also alleges that the defendants' conduct has caused her severe emotional distress and created an obstacle to further employment. Both parties have moved for summary judgment.

 I

 Emerson's performance was plagued with problems from the start: she experienced difficulties completing installations as well as in working with customers and colleagues. She also had problems "relating to" Orr, but felt that Orr was a good manager who had treated her fairly. But after two months Emerson's territory was realigned, and she began reporting to Tom Luhr, and Luhr quickly grew dissatisfied with her job performance. During her tenure under Luhr the main source of difficulty was her inability to get on with those around her, customers and co-workers alike. Members of both groups complained about her attitude.

 About this time, Eugene Brown, Du Pont's Regional Manager for the Central Region, asked Bill Otto, Brown's counterpart in the Southeastern Region, to release Emerson to fill a position in Du Pont's new Recertification Center (RC). Otto assented, and Emerson was transferred. Du Pont's plan was to refurbish used ACAs for resale; and Emerson's job was to ensure that the refurbished machines performed satisfactorily. Emerson performed her technical duties adequately, but her relationship with co-workers did not improve; she also found it difficult to handle pressure. (There is perhaps a relationship between these problems, but it is one on which we need not speculate.) These problems continued throughout 1982 and 83. Emerson's job evaluations for those years show her performance as satisfactory -- though barely so -- but having no potential for promotion or supervisory duties.

 During this time Emerson was involved in more than her job: she married Dean Emerson in December of 1982. But they lived apart: he, in Iowa and Minnesota; she, in Illinois. They saw each other about twice a month.

 In early 1983, Johnson, a district manager, selected Emerson to handle phone calls and do troubleshooting for 4 of his 10 salesmen, as well as some ACA installations. Emerson was less than enthusiastic about taking all of these calls right away; but she did the job, and after approximately one month of taking calls on a trial basis, she transferred to Johnson's district in April or May of 1983. For this job, Emerson worked out of her home and was provided with a company car. Her workday ran from 6:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., averaging 20-25 calls per day. Though her milieu changed, her problems didn't. And they led to a warning that continued substandard performance would mean the loss of the company car and working out of the regional office, instead of her home.

 In February of 1984 Emerson moved back into the regional office to help Dan Kilgore, a chemistry specialist, and for further training. Though she worked fewer hours (8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.), she was fielding more calls, about 35 per day. The increased number of calls was caused by overflow from other districts when other TRs were unavailable or overloaded; this volume was not unique to Emerson, however, each of the four TRs, in the Central Region, faced the same workload.

 In January of 1984 Emerson suffered both physical and mental problems. She began to show signs of emotional wear, apparently because her marriage was falling apart and because her workload had increased. About this same time, Emerson's personal physician treated her for stress-related symptoms, hypertension, and a back injury. Two months later, in March, while at a sales kickoff meeting, Emerson told Donald Sutherland, Du Pont's Director of Clinical Systems Division, that she intended to resign in the near future. She later told Johnson the same thing.

 By letter dated 3 August 1984 Emerson sought to withdraw her resignation because the sale of her home fell through. Du Pont refused, in general because it has a general policy of not rehiring resignees, and in particular because Emerson only wanted her job back until she could sell her home and relocate with her husband (apparently when he returned from Saudi Arabia in the Spring of 1985). Emerson was less than enthusiastic about Du Pont's decision, and registered her displeasure, first in the ...


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