United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Gina Mosunic has sued her former employer, Nestle Prepared
Foods Company ("Nestle"), alleging gender-based
disparate treatment, in violation of the Rhode Island Fair
Employment Practices Act (FEPA) and the Rhode Island Civil
Rights Act (RICRA); hostile work environment, in violation of
RICRA; and retaliation, in violation of FEPA and RICRA. ECF
No. 5 at ¶¶53-73. Nestle moves for summary
judgment. ECF No. 17. Because the Court finds that there are
genuine disputes of material fact regarding the Ms.
Mosunic's gender-based disparate treatment and
retaliation claims, summary judgment on those counts is
DENIED. However, the Court finds that there is no evidence to
support the hostile work environment claim, and therefore
summary judgment on that count is GRANTED.
October 2012, Joseph's Gourmet Co. Pasta and Sauce
("Joseph's Gourmet"), which Defendant Nestle
owned, hired Ms. Mosunic as an account manager. Ms. Mosunic
was a salaried employee. Her sales territory, as an account
manager, included Rhode Island, Connecticut, and
Massachusetts. She worked from her home in Cranston, Rhode
Island, and reported to Timothy Healy, who was based in
Minnesota. Mr. Healy communicated with his sales team largely
by phone and email.
March 25, 2013, Ms. Mosunic informed Mr. Healy that she was
pregnant. Ms. Mosunic contends that Mr. Healy's treatment
of her changed drastically after this announcement. She spoke
to Human Resources about it on March 27, 2013, and again on
May 7, 2013.
Mosunic has presented emails sent to her from customers and
from Mr. Healy before her pregnancy announcement to
demonstrate that she had been doing her job satisfactorily.
For example, she provides an email from December 2012 where
Mr. Healy writes, "Thank you. Well done." Also in
December 2012, a sales support administrator from U.S. Foods,
Ms. Mosunic's largest account, wrote, "you're
the best thanks, " in response to Ms. Mosunic having
provided information about a product. In February 2013, Mr.
Healy wrote to Ms. Mosunic and Steve Sprague, another account
manager, about a change in company policy and added,
"Thank both of you for helping make Joseph's a
better company-together, we'll overcome any negative
feelings people have about 'our' company."
Again, in February 2013, Ms. Mosunic provided a customer with
some information and he responded, "You're
month after announcing she was pregnant, Ms. Mosunic had a
meeting with her largest client, and Nestle's second
largest client, U.S. Foods. Ms. Mosunic contends that the
U.S. Foods representative, Rich Querci, "screamed in
[her] face" because he wanted more marketing support
from Joseph's Gourmet. Ms. Mosunic ended the meeting and
wrote to Mr. Healy to explain what had happened. She wrote,
"I just had to abruptly excuse myself from a U.S. Foods
Peabody meeting because the director of sales, Rich Querci,
unnecessarily became extremely combative and threatening. I
told him that I had to end the meeting because he was
attacking me." Mr. Querci contends that he only asked
her standard questions about attending district meetings and
that Ms. Mosunic did not provide answers to those questions.
He denies having raised his voice or having threatened Ms.
weeks later, Ms. Mosunic met with Mr. Healy at a Joseph's
Gourmet office in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Ms. Mosunic
described Mr. Healy as "extremely agitated." When
she asked to involve Human Resources and expressed her belief
that Mr. Healy had been discriminating against her, he threw
a pen across the room. Mr. Healy later described Ms. Mosunic
as "combative" and "defensive" during
Healy submitted a memorandum to Human Resources, dated May
13, 2013, recommending that Nestle suspend Ms. Mosunic, as
Mr. Healy did not have the authority to suspend employees.
Mr. Healy's memorandum described a long list of problems
with Ms. Mosunic's job performance dating back to
November 2012, just one month after she started working for
Joseph's Gourmet. Yet, Nestle has not presented any
evidence that documents any of these problems with Ms.
Mosunic before the pregnancy announcement.
Nestle's corporate headquarters in Ohio approved the
suspension, the same day as he sent the memo, Mr. Healy
called Ms. Mosunic to inform her. Ms. Mosunic had driven to
New Hampshire that day for a customer meeting that Mr. Healy
was also scheduled to attend. Mr. Healy has stated that he
did not intend for Ms. Mosunic to make a wasted trip, but he
did not receive approval from corporate headquarters until
after she arrived in New Hampshire. Mr. Healy and other
members of the sales team picked up Ms. Mosunic's
accounts upon her suspension.
Mosunic received a regular paycheck until June 29, 2013, and
then received short-term disability benefits due to her
pregnancy. After she gave birth on November 12, 2013, she
collected temporary disability insurance benefits. On
December 30, 2013, she resigned from Joseph's Gourmet,
and the following day, Nestle sold Joseph's Gourmet and
dismissed its remaining employees.
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court
shall grant summary judgment when there is "no genuine
dispute as to any material fact" and "the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." To determine
whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact, the
Court must assess whether "the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). The Court must construe the facts in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party. Audette v.
Town of Plymouth,858 F.3d 13, 20 (1st Cir. 2017).
Furthermore, "[t]he Court does not 'weigh the
credibility of the testimony, ' but presumes 'that a
rational factfinder would accept it as stated by the
witness."' Delgado v. Pawtucket Police
Dep't,747 F.Supp.2d 341, 349 (D.R.I. 2010) (quoting
Gonzalez v. El Dia, Inc.,304 F.3d 63, 68 (1st Cir.
2002)). The moving party bears the burden of identifying the
absence of a genuine issue of ...