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Greenman v. Metropolitan Property & Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

June 6, 2017

LEIGH ANN GREENMAN, Plaintiff
v.
METROPOLITAN PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM

          Mary M. Lisi Senior United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on review of a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) issued by Magistrate Judge Sullivan on March 22, 2017 (ECF No. 39). Because the Plaintiff filed a timely objection to the R&R, the Court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which an objection has been made. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). The Court has thoroughly reviewed and considered the R&R, the Plaintiff's objection thereto (ECF No. 41), and the Defendant's response (ECF No. 43), as well as the submissions by the parties in connection with the Defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 20-23, 33-35, 37-38). Having done so, the Court now adopts the R&R in its entirety. Accordingly, the Defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

         I. Factual Background

         Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company (“MetLife”), a Rhode Island corporation, operates as a personal lines property and casualty insurer. Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts (“SUF”) ¶¶ 1, 2. MetLife sells and services auto and homeowner insurance and other miscellaneous personal lines of insurance. SUF ¶ 3. During the time period in question, MetLife employed approximately 360 people at its Quaker Lane, Warwick, Rhode Island office, including a 15-employee Product Marketing group, which was under the supervision of Robert Lundgren (“Lundgren”), Vice President of Marketing, and John Delemontex (“Delemontex”) Director of Product Marketing. SUF ¶¶ 4-7. Within the Product Marketing group are (in the order of increasing seniority) the following positions: Marketing Analyst, Marketing Consultant 1, Marketing Consultant II, Senior Marketing Consultant, and Senior Marketing Consultant II.[1] SUF ¶ 11. The entry level position of Marketing Analyst requires 0-2 years of experience and falls under the supervision of more senior employees, such as the Marketing Consultants. SUF ¶ 12. Marketing Consultants generally have between 2-5 years of experience at the low end and 5-7 years of experience at the more advanced level. Senior Marketing consultants and Senior Marketing Consultants II have 7-8 or more than 8 years of experience, respectively. They are also expected to work more independently on project-based tasks without ongoing close supervision. SUF ¶¶13, 14. According to Plaintiff, she was considered a Marketing Analyst but had more than two years of experience, provided her time as a temporary employee were included. She also maintains that she was able to work on projects without supervision. SDF ¶ 12.

         In early 2012, Lundgren was informed by MetLife of the need to cut his budget by 8%, or $800, 000, as part of an expense reduction plan, which itself was part of a larger corporate reorganization. SUF ¶¶ 15, 16, 18. According to MetLife, Lundgren took into account the company's changing shift in focus from retail sales to the growth in group sales.[2] SUF ¶ 20. Lundgren's decision as to which programs and personnel to cut were made in consultation with Delemontex. SUF ¶ 19.

         According to MetLife, Lundgren decided to eliminate the position of Marketing Consultant David Cleveland (“Cleveland”) and that of the sole Marketing Analyst, the Plaintiff.[3] SUF ¶¶ 24, 25. MetLife maintains that Lundgren based his decision to terminate these positions on what would have the least negative impact on the Product Marketing Group, SUF ¶ 23. Plaintiff, however, insists that her position was cut because she was pregnant and planning to take FMLA leave. SDF ¶ 23. Plaintiff agrees, however, that the decision to eliminate her position was made because she had less experience in marketing relative to the other members of the Product Marketing Group under Delemontex. She also acknowledges that in addition to the two positions within Delemontex's area, Lundgren decided to cut one of the two individuals in the research area who was focused primarily on data analysis supporting retail sales. SUF ¶¶ 29-31.

         On the Friday prior to the planned layoffs, which were scheduled to take effect on Monday, May 21, 2012, Kerri Gulesserian (“Gulesserian”), who had previously assumed temporary supervisory responsibilities in the Product Marketing group while Delemontex was rotated to a sales assignment, SUF ¶7 n. 2, informed Delemontex that Plaintiff's spouse was about to be laid off from his position as a contractor for MetLife. SUF ¶¶ 32, 33. Delemontex relayed the information to human resource employee Deb Duchala (“Duchala”) and also left a voice mail for Lundgren ¶¶ 34, 35. Concerned about the effect of the loss of income to both Plaintiff and her spouse at the same time, Lundgren decided to delay Plaintiff's layoff. As a result, only Cleveland and Mann were laid off on May 21, 2012. SUF ¶¶ 37-39.

         Plaintiff calls these asserted facts into question because (1) she herself had not informed Gulesserian about her husband's possible layoff; (2) Duchala only learned about Plaintiff's pregnancy on the Friday prior to the planned layoff date; (3) Lundgren learned the news from Ms. Ridley; and (4) “MetLife's stated policy does not allow for the effect of termination to be factored into the termination decision.” SDF ¶¶ 33-37, Pltf's Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 183. Plaintiff does not dispute, however, that Lundgren learned about her husband's layoff[4] and that Lundgren decided not to lay off Plaintiff as planned. Id.

         On October 9, 2012[5], Plaintiff began her maternity leave. SDF ¶ 41. According to MetLife, it provided Plaintiff with appropriate notice of the workplace leave that was available to her, SUF ¶ 42; Plaintiff disagrees on the grounds that because she was terminated in the course of her leave, the notice “was not actually notice of ‘leave that was available to Plaintiff.'” SDF ¶ 42. It is undisputed that Plaintiff initially received paid leave and that her leave became unpaid as of December 21, 2013. SUF ¶ 44. Likewise, it is undisputed that Plaintiff's twelve weeks of FMLA leave was originally scheduled to conclude during the first week of January 2013, and that during the course of Plaintiff's leave, Lundgren became aware that an enhanced severance program provided by Metlife would only be available for employees who were laid off during 2012. SUF ¶¶ 45, 46. Lundgren sought to determine whether making the layoff date in 2012, rather than 2013, would be financially advantageous to Plaintiff. Although Plaintiff asserts that Lundgren also considered whether the earlier date would benefit MetLife by getting Plaintiff “off the books, ” SDF ¶ 47, she does not refute that Lundgren sought to make such a determination or that the earlier layoff date would have been financially advantageous to her, when compared with a 2013 layoff date.[6] Id. Based on an analysis provided by Duchala, Lundgren determined that the additional severance benefit available in 2012 would yield a significantly better financial outcome for Plaintiff. SUF ¶48. Plaintiff was laid off as of December 26, 2012, which rendered her eligible to receive additional severance.[7] SUF ¶ 49.

         Subsequently, Plaintiff reported to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training that her job had been eliminated. SUF ¶ 50. Plaintiff, who does not dispute this assertion, suggests that she was replaced with temporary employees after her departure. SDF ¶ 50.

         It is undisputed that Gulesserian, who had taken maternity leave twice while at MetLife, was not laid off during the Product Marketing group budget reduction. Two other female employees who also had taken maternity leave while they were members of the Product Marketing group were all subsequently reinstated and/or promoted. SUF ¶¶ 68, 69.

         II. Procedural History

         On December 16, 2014, the Plaintiff filed a three-count complaint (the “Complaint”) in Rhode Island state court, asserting (Count I) Rhode Island Civil Rights Act Discrimination, (Count II) Family Medical Leave Act Retaliation, and (Count III) Family Medical Leave Act Interference (ECF No. 1). After removing the Complaint to this Court, MetLife filed an answer on January 13, 2015, generally denying Plaintiff's claims and raising a number of affirmative defenses (ECF No. 2).

         Following a lengthy and, at times, contentious discovery period, MetLife filed a motion for summary judgment on August 26, 2016 (ECF No. 20). On December 8, 2016, the Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to MetLife's motion (ECF No. 33), to which MetLife filed a reply on January 9, 2017 (ECF No. 37). In addition, MetLife filed a motion to have portions of its Rule 56 SUF deemed admitted and to strike Plaintiff's SUF (ECF 38).

         On March 22, 2017, following a hearing, the Magistrate Judge issued a detailed 29-page R&R, in which she recommended that MetLife's motion for summary judgment be granted “[be]cause Plaintiff has presented no competent evidence that would permit a reasonable fact finder to conclude that [MetLife's] decision to select her for lay-off was concocted to mask the improper goal of getting rid of a pregnant worker or a worker entitled ...


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