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Susan A. King v. Pmi-Eisenhart

February 10, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman


Plaintiff Susan King filed a three-count complaint against her former employer, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., and the Equal Pay Act as enacted as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. Defendants have filed the instant motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted.


From 2001 to 2007, plaintiff worked for defendants ("Acosta"), a food brokerage company. Prior to her employment with Acosta, plaintiff had worked as an account manager for another food brokerage company, which ceased operating in 2001, at which time Acosta acquired some of its accounts and employees, including plaintiff. Acosta quickly promoted plaintiff to business manager, which meant she was responsible for managing a retail grocery store's business in a particular market. During plaintiff's employment, she had a number of disturbing encounters with male co-workers.

The incidents of which plaintiff complains date back to 2001, when one of plaintiff's co-workers, Tom Connelly, gave plaintiff copies of romantic poems he had written for her. Then in February 2002, he showed plaintiff a photograph of himself dressed as a flasher on Halloween. In May of that year, Connelly gave plaintiff a pornographic videotape and a sex toy, telling her that he thought she would need them because she was newly divorced. Things between plaintiff and Connelly escalated in September 2004, when he called her the "c-word" during a business meeting. This incident was reported to Human Resources, and Connelly was disciplined and told to stay away from plaintiff. Some time later plaintiff and Connelly worked together again, without further incident.

Connelly, however, was not plaintiff's only problem at Acosta. In 2002, the office's general manager, Gary Moe, invited her out for after-work drinks with him and some other employees. When she arrived at the bar, only Moe and Ed Burke, another supervisor, were there. Moe told plaintiff that he had a dream about "moving her hair and kissing her neck." Plaintiff immediately left the bar. Also in 2002, plaintiff was told by an unidentified individual that she should "watch out" for Moe because of the way he stared at her and because he had allegedly had an affair with his secretary.

Plaintiff also complains about the behavior of her supervisor, Mike Puttrich. Puttrich referred to her as "Suzie Big Hair," commented on female co-workers' appearance, and in 2006, described a female co-worker's tattoo as a tramp stamp. Puttrich told plaintiff that because a female employee had been "blackballed" because she complained about a client's sexual advances.

Finally, plaintiff reports a few other incidents that occurred in 2004. That year, plaintiff received a company award. A manager made a remark that plaintiff believed downgraded the significance of the award, and on the trip to accept the award, plaintiff's co-workers shunned her. Also in 2004, plaintiff was told that she would be unable to attend a client meeting in Miami, Florida, but she ended up going to the meeting.

Within the 300 days leading up to plaintiff's filing of her EEOC charge, the following incidents took place. Puttrich told plaintiff that Gary Moe liked it when her hair was curly and that Moe paid more attention to her when she wore skirts. Puttrich referred to another employee as "Pass-Around Patti," and some of plaintiff's co-workers told her that Ed Burke, another co-worker, "used Acosta as a dating pool." Finally, plaintiff thought that her assistant, Ms. Michell Seter, was providing her with inadequate support. She complained to Puttrich, who supervised both plaintiff and Seter. In July 2007, she was given ten additional account lines to sell on a temporary basis. On August 2, 2007, plaintiff indicated that she was prepared to quit.

Over a month later, on September 10, plaintiff resigned. After resigning, she complained to Human Resources that Puttrich received better support from Seter because the two of them were having an affair. Acosta Human Resources representatives investigated the complaint and concluded that Puttrich and Seter had not had an affair. They both deny having an affair, and plaintiff offers no evidence other than her own speculation that the affair occurred. Other than this complaint and her 2004 complaint regarding Connelly, plaintiff did not make any complaints to Acosta's Human Resources department.

On October 15, 2007, plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").


I. Legal Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party shows that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of asserting the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986), and must support that assertion by citing to materials in the record. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). Once the movant has met that burden, the nonmoving party can defeat summary judgment by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the ...

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