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Pieri v. JP Morgan Chase Bank National Association

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

March 28, 2014

DEBORAH A. PIERI, Plaintiff,
v.
JP MORGAN CHASE BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

RESA SPRINGMANN, District Judge.

Presently before the Court are the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 18] and the Defendant's Motions to Strike [ECF Nos. 33 & 34]. The Defendant seeks summary judgment and requests the Court to strike the Plaintiff's Affidavit [ECF No. 24-5] as well as the Campbell Affidavit [ECF No. 24-14]. This Opinion and Order addresses all outstanding motions relating to the Plaintiff's Complaint.

BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF FACTS[1]

This case arose out of Plaintiff Deborah A. Pieri's termination of employment from Defendant JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. (Chase). The Plaintiff began her employment as a Personal Banker (PB) at Chase's Southgate Branch, located at 204 East Pettit Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana, on February 21, 2005, at the age of 50. Chase has emphasized customer service by establishing internal policies, known as "behaviors, " that employees are responsible for. For PBs, these behaviors include working the lobby, 1-2-3 drills, profile and discovery, branch manager involvement (BMI) and setting appointments.[2] When the Plaintiff began her employment she was the only PB at the Southgate Branch but was one of four at the time her employment was terminated. During the course of her employment with the Defendant, the Plaintiff was supervised by four different branch managers (BM)[3]. Upon the recommendation of the fourth BM, Paul Hargrove, the Plaintiff's employment was terminated on November, 22, 2010, when she was 55 years old.

The Plaintiff received annual performance reviews during her employment with the Defendant. In her 2005 review, covering her first ten months of employment, she received an overall rating of "needs improvement, " although BM Delagrange noted that she had "continued to improve in all areas of the PB role." (2005 Performance Review, ECF No. 20-4.) In 2006, she received a "meets expectations" for her overall rating as well as for Sales and Service Behaviors, and BM Wiebke noted her "great job of working the lobby" and good use of the phone setting up appointments. (2006 Performance Review, ECF NO. 20-5.) The Plaintiff was also designated a "National Sales Achiever" in 2006, a distinction given to the top 750 Chase PBs in the United States. In 2007, the Plaintiff again received a "meets expectations" rating for her Sales and Service Behaviors and overall rating, although BM Hart noted that she needed to be more consistent at working the lobby and to manage her time better so that she could see more customers and set appointments. (2007 Performance Review, ECF No. 20-7.) The Plaintiff also received a "meets expectations" rating in 2008 for both Sales and Service Behaviors and her overall rating. BM Hart noted improvement in the 1-2-3 Drill and involving the BM in account opening, but felt the Plaintiff needed to do a better job at working the lobby and gathering information for customer profiles as well as better time management to set appointments and see more customers. (2008 Performance Review, ECF No. 20-9.) In her 2009 review, the Plaintiff's rating fell to "needs improvement" for both her Sales and Service Behaviors and her overall rating. As to each of the Behaviors, BM Hart[4] noted that the Plaintiff did not work the lobby consistently, did not use call lists to set up appointments, did not use profiles regularly with existing customers to uncover opportunities, did not use the 1-2-3 Drill with every customer, and did not bring complete profiles to the BM, although he noted that she did involve the BM during account openings. (2009 Performance Review, ECF No. 20-11.)

The Plaintiff also received four written warnings[5] over the course of her employment. The first written warning, issued January 12, 2006, noted that the Plaintiff had not returned numerous phone messages, was not following up well with customers, and was leaving papers in her drawers at the end of the day, contrary to policy expectations. The second written warning, issued July 3, 2008, disciplined the Plaintiff for keeping customer usernames and passwords in her desk and completing an online banking transaction over the phone, against policy. The Plaintiff believes these two write ups were warranted but challenges the final two warnings, both of which were issued by BM Hargrove. ( See Pieri Affidavit, ECF No. 24-5 at 2.) The third written warning, issued June 22, 2010, warned the Plaintiff that performance in all of the Behavior areas was lacking and that failure to improve and meet expectations risked further corrective action, up to termination. On October 7, 2010, the Plaintiff was given a final written warning, where BM Hargrove noted a lack of improvement in the Behaviors. Specifically, he stated the Plaintiff was more proactive in working the lobby but was behind on making followup calls and was not completing the 1-2-3 Drill correctly. He also noted that he granted the Plaintiff's request to have four maintenance items taken from her daily duties so that she could see more customers, but still found no sustained improvement. Finally, BM Hargrove noted two incidents where the Plaintiff engaged with customers waiting in the lobby, telling them she would be right with them, when she already had a customer at her desk and other bankers were available to help the waiting customers. The warning indicates that he coached her to finish with a current customer before assisting another customer in the lobby.

BM Hargrove began his tenure at the Southgate Branch on October 1, 2009. He worked as a BM Trainee under the current but outbound BM Larry Hart until January 1, 2010, when he became the Interim BM. Hargrove became the regular BM for the Southgate Branch on March 1, 2010. During this transition Hargrove job shadowed Hart as part of his training and both men were present for the 2009 annual review, conducted on February 26, 2010, where the Plaintiff received her first "needs improvement" evaluation in years. The 2009 review also indicates that the Plaintiff was shopped[6] three times in 2009 with an average score of 83%.

In May of 2010, Hargrove communicated with District Manager (DM) Daniel McCarthy, DM Sandra Schraub, and Larry Hart his desire to issue the Plaintiff a written warning for unsatisfactory performance including a lack of consistent sales behaviors. In a May 17 e-mail, Hargrove stated that he had been coaching the Plaintiff continuously but that there had not been any sustained improvements in any of her behaviors. That same month, the Plaintiff completed a "2010 Employee Opinion Survey" where she could express her concerns. In it, the Plaintiff claimed that Hargrove had been exhibiting unprofessional behavior that made branch customers uncomfortable and was doing a very poor job. She also stated that her first two years at Chase were great, but that for most of 2008 and 2009 the BM (Hart) gave his support to another banker. She also claims Hargrove told her that there will not be another "needs improvement" evaluation, implying her employment would be terminated instead.

On June 22, 2010, Hargrove issued the Plaintiff the aforementioned third written warning for poor performance in the behavior areas. On August 10, 2010, Hargrove emailed DM McCarthy to inform him that he had spoken with human resources and was advised to do a final written warning before proceeding to termination. This final written warning was issued on October 7, 2010.

As a Branch Manager, Hargrove lacked the decision-making authority to fire the Plaintiff but recommended to his superiors that she be terminated. In November 2010, Market Manager Clifford Hemmert, Aligned Human Resources Partner Edie Sanborn, Human Resources Partner Darlene Wellington, and DM McCarthy made the decision to terminate the Plaintiff's employment after reviewing her work history, which included the following considerations: 1) the Plaintiff's performance reviews from all four of her BMs; (2) the Plaintiff's history of written warnings; (3) the veracity of Hargrove's recommendation for termination based on his management style and the possibility of transferring the Plaintiff to another branch; (4) the Plaintiff's length of employment with Chase; (5) the Plaintiff's attitude with other PBs; (6) Hargrove's performance as a BM; (7) Hargrove's tenure as a BM; (8) Hargrove's motivation for recommending the Plaintiff's termination; (9) McCarthy's experience as a DM; (10) McCarthy's observations of the Plaintiff's performance; (11) former DM Sandy Schraub's opinion of the Plaintiff; and (12) Hargrove's attempts at coaching the Plaintiff. At the time of her termination, the Plaintiff was both the oldest employee and the employee with the most seniority at the Southgate Branch. Jennifer Campbell, a younger employee who had been working as a teller, was hired into the newly vacated PB position soon after the Plaintiff's termination.

The Plaintiff filed the instant case on December 21, 2011, alleging that Chase violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) The Plaintiff asserted that she had been subjected to discrimination on the basis of her age and sought compensatory damages for lost income.

On February 8, 2013, the Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 18], along with a Memorandum in Support [ECF No. 19] and an Appendix of Exhibits [ECF No. 20]. The Plaintiff filed a Response Memorandum in Opposition [ECF No. 23] on March 25, 2013, along with an Appendix of Exhibits [ECF No. 24]. On April 15, 2013, the Defendant filed a Reply [ECF No. 27], along with a Supplemental Appendix of Exhibits [ECF No. 28]. That same day, the Defendant filed two separate motions to strike. The first was an Amended Motion to Strike [ECF No. 33] the Plaintiff's Affidavit [ECF No. 24-5], along with a Memorandum in Support [ECF No. 30]. The second was an Amended Motion to Strike [ECF No. 34] the Campbell Affidavit [ECF No. 24-14], along with a Memorandum in Support [ECF No. 32]. On April 29, 2013, the Plaintiff filed a Response as to each motion to strike [ECF Nos. 35 & 36], and the Defendant filed a Reply as to each motion on May 6, 2013 [ECF Nos. 37 & 38].

This Opinion and Order addresses all outstanding motions relating to the Plaintiff's Complaint.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if the facts supported by materials in the record show 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The motion should be granted so long as no rational fact finder could return a verdict in favor of the party opposing the motion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50; Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); see also N.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1(a) (stating that the movant must provide a "Statement of Material Facts" that identifies the facts that the moving party contends are not genuinely disputed). In response, the nonmoving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone but must use the evidentiary tools listed in Rule 56 to designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Insolia v. Philip ...


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