United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
PAMELA A. LEEMAN, Plaintiff
REGIONS INSURANCE, INC., Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge
ruling disposes of a summary judgment motion that has awaited
ruling for an inexcusably long time. It is unusually
difficult to get one's arms around the facts in this
case, but no explanation or justification for so long a delay
approaches reasonableness. The court can only offer the
parties a sincere and embarrassed apology.
Leeman sues her former employer, Regions Insurance, on a
variety of theories for conduct connected with her employment
by Regions as an insurance agent, or "producer".
She was paid through commissions. Ms. Leeman is a female, was
born in 1949, and ws more than 40 years old throughout her
employment with Regions from 1996 to March 31, 2015. She sues
Regions for sex and age discrimination, for discriminatory
retaliation, and for violation of the Equal Pay Act, and for
breach of contract. The court granted Regions' summary
judgment on the contract claims (Counts 1 and 2) [Doc. No.
85], and, for the following reasons, grants its motion for
summary judgment on all remaining claims (Counts 3-8) [Doc.
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, discovery
materials, disclosures, and affidavits demonstrate no genuine
issue of material fact, such that the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Protective Life Ins. Co. v.
Hansen, 632 F.3d 388, 391-392 (7th Cir. 2011). The court
must construe the evidence and all inferences that reasonably
can be drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to
Ms. Leeman, the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). But inferences
cannot be based only on “speculation or conjecture,
” Herzog v. Graphic Packaging Int'l Inc.,
742 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir 2014); Tubergen v. St. Vincent
Hosp. & Health Care Ctr., Inc., 517 F.3d 470, 473
(7th Cir. 2008), and “the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-248 (1986) (emphasis in
original); see also Dawson v. Brown, 803 F.3d 829,
833 (7th Cir. 2015). “[T]he requirement is that there
be no genuine issue of material fact.” Id.
“A genuine issue of material fact arises only if
sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to
permit a jury to return a verdict for that party.”
Egonmwan v. Cook County Sheriff's Dept., 602
F.3d 845, 849 (7th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks omitted).
following facts are taken from the summary judgment record
and are viewed as favorably to Ms. Leeman as is reasonable.
Leeman worked as an insurance agent for Regions and its
predecessor, Miles & Finch, from 1996 until April 1,
2015, when she was terminated.
2006 to April 2015, Ms. Leeman was compensated under an
agreement that was executed while she still worked for
Regions predecessor, Miles & Finch; but she remained an
employee at will. Under the terms of Ms. Leeman's
employment agreement, she received a portion of Miles &
Finch's commission when a client purchased insurance from
her - generally 35% on business she handled alone. Ms. Leeman
also co-managed accounts with Brett Cain. She and Mr. Cain
worked out a side agreement with Miles & Finch for those
shared accounts under which they received a 50% commission
and split the commission evenly.
early 2007, Regions purchased some of Miles & Finch's
assets. Regions continued to employ several of Miles &
Finch's agents, including Ms. Leeman (born 1949), Brett
Cain (born 1961), Pierre Fox (born 1969), Douglas Heath (born
1955), James Iovino (born 1969), Richard Lemming (born 1947),
William Martin (born 1970), Joseph Sandifer (born 1971),
William Thatcher (born 1957), and Christopher Williamson
(born 1968). The agents' job responsibilities and
compensation structure were unchanged, and Ms. Leeman and Mr.
Cain were allowed to continue their shared account
President Mike Miles, who also worked as a producer, handled
the reassignments of customers and accounts for Regions from
1996 until his June 2012 retirement. Ms. Leeman believes
Regions' reassignments from one producer to another were
unfair and discriminatory. Regions says it reassigned accounts
from a departing producer to a successor producer based on a
variety of factors, such as whether a producer had a
connection to the account or the first producer, whether a
producer had particular experience with the account's
industry, and whether a producer had contacts geographically
near the account.
Miles reassigned most of his accounts to his daughter, Jenny
Fisher, when he retired. Ms. Leeman understood until 2013
that all of Mr. Miles's accounts had been reassigned to
Ms. Fisher. When Mr. Miles was thinking about retirement in
early 2012, he told Brett Cain (who shared accounts with Ms.
Leeman) that he wanted Mr. Cain to take over Mr. Miles's
Dilling Group Account in Logansport. Ms. Leeman handled
nearly all the other accounts in Logansport. Mr. Miles told
Mr. Cain not to mention the plan to anyone. Ms. Leeman
didn't learn of the reassignment of the Dilling account
and a related account to Mr. Cain until 2013, the year after
Mr. Miles retired and after the accounts had generated $200,
000 in revenue for Mr. Cain. Based on his observations, Mr.
Cain opined that Mr. Miles avoided women and found Ms. Leeman
Mr. Miles's accounts related to the Kokomo schools were
assigned to Phil Thatcher. Before that, Ms. Leeman had worked
with Mr. Miles in servicing those accounts, and, she says,
had a relationship with school officials. Mr. Thatcher
hadn't been involved with these accounts or any other
school accounts before receiving the Kokomo schools accounts.
Leeman was never reassigned a retiring producer's account
until just before her resignation. She had a few accounts
reassigned from Mr. Miles in 2004, when he was still
employed, but those accounts were reassigned to Mr.
Miles's daughter, Jenny, in 2012.
began to make changes to the terms of compensation in 2012,
when it reduced the rate of compensation on new
co-managed/shared accounts from 25% to 17.5%.
2013, Regions adopted what it called its "Verticals
Program" to encourage partnering and sharing of
information and resources between producers with familiarity
in a specific industry. Producers with such familiarity were
designated through the Verticals Program. A producer's
participation in the program was entirely voluntary. Ms.
Leeman asked to participate, but never got into the program.
She says Regions Chief Operating Officer J.R. Martin told her
in late autumn 2013 that a producer had to be nominated to
gain access to the program. He asked her about her accounts
in the medical field and told her she would be nominated
because of her experience with medical accounts. As Ms.
Leeman remembers it, Mr. Martin called her later to tell her
that Regions President James Iovino had rejected her
nomination in favor of Chris Williamson. Mr. Iovino testified
that he didn't recall discussing Ms. Leeman and the
Verticals Program with Mr. Martin. He said Ms. Leeman
wasn't made a part of the program because she never
volunteered. Ms. Leeman said at her deposition that she never
told Mr. Iovino or any other "member of management"
that she wanted to participate." Mr. Iovino also
testified that as things turned out, participation in the
Verticals Program didn't generate much extra business for
stage, the court must credit Ms. Leeman's telling of the
events, so the court accepts that Ms. Leeman told the COO she
wanted to participate and either the COO kept her wish to
himself and told her than the President rejected her
participation, or the President rejected her participation
and didn't remember things accurately at his deposition.
In either event, the court accepts that Ms. Leeman asked to
participate, wasn't admitted into the Verticals Program,
and was lied to by someone in Regions management. Chris
Williamson, a younger man, was allowed into the Verticals
introduced its "Producer Validation Program" around
July 2013. Each producer had to generate at least $350, 000
to be a validating producer. Mr. Martin spoke with Ms. Leeman
by phone a few times in 2013 about what she had to do under
the program. In early 2014, Regions announced that it would
terminate any producer not on track to be a validating
producer that year. Regions identified five producers
(including Ms. Leeman) as non-validated.
President and CEO of Regions Indiana, James Iovino, met with
Ms. Leeman on March 11, 2014. He told Ms. Leeman she was
below the threshold validation level. Ms. Leeman didn't
know she was on the non-validated list until Mr. Iovino told
her in March 2014. By Regions's calculations, Ms. Leeman
was about $100, 000 below the validation threshold. Ms.
Leeman disputed the numbers Mr. Iovino relied on, but agreed
she was below the $350, 000 threshold.
Iovino told Ms. Leeman that she would be let go if she
didn't meet the threshold validation level, and offered
her the option of retiring. Mr. Iovino told her that in light
of the numbers, she would be terminated in July, or
"your other option is you can go ahead and retire,"
in which event Mr. Iovino would try to get Regions to allow
her to stay until the end of the year. Mr. Iovino ...