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Riley v. Pnc Bank, National Assoc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

September 30, 2014



DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

This matter is pending for consideration of Defendant PNC Bank, National Association's ("PNC") motion for summary judgment. [Record No. 32] Plaintiff Shirley Riley filed this action against PNC, asserting claims of age and gender discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., the Kentucky Civil Rights Act ("KCRA"), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). [Record No. 1] In addition to PNC's motion, Riley has moved the Court to exclude certain evidence and arguments during trial. [Record No. 34] Having considered the parties' arguments, the Court will grant PNC's motion for summary judgment. As a result, Riley's motion in limine will be denied as moot.


Until her termination on June 5, 2012, Riley was employed as a branch manager at PNC's Richmond Road location in Lexington, Kentucky. [Record No. 1, p. 2] Riley worked for PNC and its predecessor banks for 35 years.[1] [ Id. ] Her supervisor at the time of her termination was Diane Richert, PNC's North Regional Manager in Lexington. [ Id. ] In 2008, the Richmond Road PNC was newly-designated as a "driver" branch, a distinction indicating that its higher volume of customer traffic required a productivity increase by its employees. [Record No. 32-2, p. 29] As branch manager, Riley was responsible for the branch's overall productivity as well as her own. Her duties included, inter alia, branch-wide sales, customer satisfaction coaching, business calls, and employee training. [ Id. at p. 64] Riley was also required to undergo company-wide certification. [ Id. at p. 56]

In 2011, Riley received a negative performance evaluation from Richert.[2] [Record No. 32-4] The evaluation indicated that Riley's branch had failed to meet its goals for 2010 and was consistently receiving negative customer survey scores. [ Id. ] At the time, Riley agreed with Richert's evaluation and acknowledged that improvement was needed. [ Id. at p. 34] The performance evaluation also indicated that Riley had not completed the required PNC certification. [ Id. at p. 57] Riley attempted to obtain this certification on two occasions, but without success. [ Id. ]

In June 2011, Riley received a written warning and corrective action plan based on her continued failure to meet expectations. [ Id. at p. 47] Because Riley's allegedly deficient job performance did not improve, she received another written warning in December 2011. [Record No. 32-1, p. 7] Riley had failed to complete and submit the required documentation of her business sales calls and coaching sessions with employees. [ Id. ] Additionally, she was struggling with her own subordinates. [Record No. 36, p. 8] The branch's customer scores were still below expectations by early 2012, and Riley continued to neglect the required documentation. [Record No. 32-1, p. 8] In her self-assessment report, Riley admitted that she only "marginally achieve[d]." [Record No. 32-4, p. 35]

Following a six-week probation period in April 2012, Riley's job performance showed no improvement. Thereafter, Richert and her supervisor, James Barber, decided to terminate Riley's employment. [Record No. 32-5, p. 3] On June 5, 2012, Riley was fired from PNC at the age of 54. [Record No. 1, p. 2] Her position was later filled by a 33-yearold male. [Record No. 34-2, p. 11] As previously noted, Riley filed this action, asserting claims of age and gender employment discrimination.


Summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (2010); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Chao v. Hall Holding Co., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). A dispute over a material fact is not "genuine" unless a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. That is, the determination must be "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. CenTra, Inc. v. Estrin, 538 F.3d 402, 412 (6th Cir. 2008). However, once the moving party has met its burden of production, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Sigler v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 532 F.3d 469, 483 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475, 586 (1986)). Instead, the nonmoving party must present "significant probative evidence" of a genuine dispute... to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Chao, 285 F.3d at 424. The nonmoving party cannot simply rely upon the assertions in its pleadings. It must come forward with probative evidence, such as sworn affidavits, to support its claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the Court views all the facts and inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.


PNC argues that Riley has failed to establish that PNC's stated reason for her termination was a pretext for gender and age discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against an individual "with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Similarly, both the ADEA and the KCRA make it unlawful for an employer "to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age." 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1); K.R.S. § 344.040(1) and (2).[3] Cases under the ADEA are analyzed according to the same framework as discrimination cases under Title VII. See Grosjean v. First Energy Corp., 349 F.3d 332, 335 (6th Cir. 2003).

A plaintiff may establish a claim under the ADEA, Title VII, or KCRA by offering either direct or circumstantial evidence of discrimination. Mitchell v. Vanderbilt Univ., 389 F.3d 177, 181 (6th Cir. 2004). Direct evidence is evidence which, "if believed, requires the conclusion that unlawful discrimination was at least a motivating factor in the employer's action." Wexler v. White's Fine Furniture, Inc., 317 F.3d 564, 570 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Jacklyn v. Schering-Plough Health Care Prods. Sales Corp., 176 F.3d 921, 926 (6th Cir. 1999)). Riley acknowledges that she does not have any direct evidence of age- or gender-based animus. [Record No. 36, p. 21] Where, as here, a plaintiff cannot provide direct evidence of improper motive, she may offer indirect and circumstantial evidence under the burden-shifting approach established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 801 (1973).

Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, a plaintiff must first show that: (i) she was a member of a protected class; (ii) she was subjected to an adverse employment action; (iii) she was qualified for the position she held; and (iv) she was replaced by a person outside the protected class. Vickers v. Fairfield Med. Ctr., 453 F.3d 757, 762 (6th Cir. 2006) (applying McDonnell Douglas test to Title VII claims); Majewski v. Automatic Data Processing, Inc., 274 F.3d 1106, 1115 (6th Cir. 2001) (applying McDonnell Douglas test to ADEA case). If the plaintiff is able to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Rowan v. Lockheed Martin Energy Sys., Inc., F.3d 544, 547 (6th Cir. 2004). If the ...

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