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MAZZELLA v. RCA GLOBAL COMMUNS.

September 10, 1986

LAURA R. MAZZELLA, Plaintiff,
v.
RCA GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS, INC. and RCA COMMUNICATIONS, INC., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER

OPINION AND ORDER

CONNER, D.J.

 Plaintiff Laura Mazzella ("Mazzella") brought this action against her former employer, RCA Global Communications, Inc. ("Globcom"), for alleged violations of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 (1982), and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) (1982). *fn1" Mazzella raises four claims: (1) that Globcom summarily discharged her on December 14, 1981 in whole or in part because she was pregnant; (2) that the terms of her discharge were less favorable than those routinely accorded to similarly situated male employees; (3) that Globcom requires female employees who become pregnant to advise the company of their pregnancy as soon as possible, and that this requirement violates title VII; and (4) that for no legally justifiable reason her male replacement was paid a higher salary for doing the same job.

 This case was tried before the Court sitting without a jury. At the close of the trial, the parties agreed to submit post-trial memoranda, which I have carefully reviewed. This Opinion and Order constitutes my findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by rule 52(a), Fed. R. Civ. P. For the reasons set forth below, I conclude that Mazzella has failed to prove her claims by a fair preponderance of the credible evidence, and consequently, her complaint must be dismissed. I shall address each of Mazzella's contentions in the order set out above.

 I. Mazzella's Discharge

 Plaintiff's first contention is that she was discharged from her job with Globcom in whole or in part because she was pregnant. In connection with this claim, I make the following findings of fact:

 A. Findings of Fact

 Mazzella was a female employee at Globcom from April 1971 through December 14, 1981. She graduated from high school in 1968 and then attended scretarial school for 10 months. She has no college education nor has she taken any academic or business related courses since completing secretarial school.

 Mazzella joined Globcom as a secretary, and was promoted a number of times. These promotions culminated in her elevation in 1975 to the position of sales representative in the Satcom marketing department with a pay grade of 43. Tr. at 137-38, 195-96; see PX 2, PX 4. By her own admission, Mazzella had problems performing as a sales representative, and she was removed from that position. Tr. at 196-97.

 In March 1976, she secured a transfer to the Industrial Relations ("IR") or personnel department with no reduction in salary or pay grade. Tr. at 139, 197-98; PX 2. Mazzella had no training, educational background, or prior experience in personnel work. Tr. at 136-37, 199.

 Plaintiff's first work in the IR department was in the records section. Tr. at 139, 198. In 1977, she was transferred to the department's benefits section, where she was primarily responsible for processing medical insurance claims. Tr. at 141. Both jobs were essentially clerical in nature. Tr. at 198-99, 529.

 While in these positions, Mazzella was an adequate, but not outstanding employee. Each year Mazzella received a merit pay increase, see PX 2, but not as large an increase as other employees and not as much as plaintiff thought appropriate, tr. at 205-06. Mazzella's immediate supervisor in the benefits section, John Farber, was generally satisfied with her work, but Farber's supervisor, Dominick Zurlo, was critical of Mazzella's performance. He found that she spent too much time on personal telephone calls, socialized too much during working hours, was late in processing claims, and took excessively long lunch breaks. Tr. at 483-84.

 It is clear, however, that Mazzella had the potential to perform ably when she chose to do so. Globcom received several letters from persons inside and outside the company praising Mazzella's performance. Indeed, even Zurlo indicated that he believed that Mazzella "was a very bright person and that she knew how to do [her job] if she put her mind to it." Tr. at 486. But whether she had the potential or not, it is clear that more than one or two people believed that Mazzella's actual performance left something to be desired. Mazzella herself admitted that the then Vice President of Industrial Relations, Robert McHenry, was dissatisfied with her work and was trying to remove her from the department. Tr. at 214.

 In June 1979, plaintiff transferred to the department's employment section, where she reported to Richard Wilder, the Manager of Employment and Records. Tr. at 141, 142. Mazzella's title was Industrial Relations Representative and she was responsible for recruiting new employees. This was the first position in which Mazzella had significant professional level responsibilities. Charles Twitty, the new Vice President of Industrial Relations, found Mazzella's performance during this period adequate. Tr. at 419-21.

 On December 27, 1980, plaintiff married, and in January 1981, she became pregnant. The pregnancy was a difficult one, and Mazzella went on a medical leave of absence beginning in March 1981. Tr. at 149. Globcom had a liberal pre-disability and disability leave policy. An employee could take an unpaid pre-disability leave any time prior to an anticipated disability. See PX 7. A pregnant employee was entitled to a paid maternity leave for four weeks before and six weeks after a child's birth. Tr. at 402. Such an employee was entitled to return to her same or a similar job after this ten-week period. Tr. at 402-03, 456-57. Of the 42 Globcom employees who took a maternity leave between 1979 and 1983, each either returned to the same or a similar job with no reduction in salary, or resigned voluntarily while on leave. None was discharged. see Tr. at 461-63; DX LL.

 Mazzella suffered a miscarriage, and returned to her job on May 26, 1981. Tr. at 149-50. Upon her return, Mazzella's immediate supervisor was Alvin Silverstein. Wilder had resigned from Globcom just before Mazzella went on her disability leave, and Silverstein was hired to replace him as Manager of Employment and Records. Tr. at 150, 287. Silverstein testified that his new job was not a career step upwards, and conceded that one could reasonably argue that it was, in fact, a step down from his previous position. Tr. at 393-94.

 When Silverstein was hired, Globcom's President, Valerian Podmolik, informed him that he was expected to improve the company's personnel activities. Specifically, Podmolik directed Silverstein to put the employment activities on a par with the company's technical accomplishments, to increase the speed of recruiting, and to create a personnel department that Podmolik could be proud of. Tr. at 286.

 From May 1981 through Mazzella's discharge on December 14, 1981, the employment section was essentially a three-person operation consisting of Silverstein, Mazzella, and a woman named Nancy Charles. Silverstein managed the unit and did recruiting for certain upper-management and engineering positions. Tr. at 294-95. Mazzella and Charles shared the balance of the work. see PX 13. Mazzella was responsible for recruiting new employees for marketing, engineering, operations, union, Globcom Systems, Inc., and international services positions. In addition, she was responsible for ordering employee service awards, helping to organize the 25-year award dinner, approving employee "family store" purchases, organizing the annual savings bond drive, logging employment requisitions, running the job-posting program, and developing an employee orientation program and employee handbook. Tr. at 291-93. Charles, on the other hand, was responsible for recruiting new employees for computer programming and financial department positions. She was also responsible for running the employee suggestion program, arranging employee relocations, making periodic reports to the Equal Employment Opportunity authorities, and recruiting students for the Minorities in Engineering Program Tr. at 288-91. While Mazzella was responsible for a greater number of assignments, the amount of work she had to do was roughly equal to the amount Charles had to do. Tr. at 287-88. Both Mazzella and Charles were expected to spend about 90 percent of their time on recruiting.

 In July 1981, Silverstein met with Mazzella to present her scheduled annual salary increase, the amount of which had been previously determined by Wilder, Silverstein's predecessor. Tr. at 295. Silverstein had been informed that, under company policy, he could defer granting Mazzella the increase because she had been absent for several months on medical leave. Tr. at 151, 295. However, he decided to give Mazzella the pay raise because he thought it was important to start his relationship with plaintiff off on the right foot. When Silverstein informed Mazzella that she would receive a salary increase, she initially expressed surprise, stating that she had not expected to receive the raise. Tr. at 295. But before the meeting was over, Mazzella began to express disappointment with the size of the increase. Id. Silverstein responded that there was room for growth within her salary grade, and that if her performance warranted it, he could recommend her promotion to a higher salary grade. Tr. at 296.

 But beginning in June 1981 and continuing through plaintiff's discharge in December 1981, Silverstein became cognizant of many deficiencies in Mazzella's work performance. These included problems in nearly every area of Mazzella's responsibilties. For example, in the recruiting area, in the early summer of 1981, Mazzella was assigned to recruit bench technicians for Globcom's Edison, New Jersey facility. Tr. at 305-08. Silverstein instructed Mazzella to contact military outplacement centers and technical schools in order to locate technicians trained on the same type of equipment Globcom used. Tr. at 308. Mazzella never did so. Id. On another occasion, plaintiff was assigned to assist with a Sunday-morning "open house" to recruit technical programmers. She arrived late, apparently hungover, and Silverstein had to send her home. Tr. at 311-12.

 In addition to these first-hand observations, Silverstein and his immediate supervisor, Charles Twitty, frequently received complaints from department managers about Mazzella's recruiting activities. For instance, a number of managers complained to Silverstein that Mazzella did not keep them adequately informed about the progress of efforts to fill their staff openings. Tr. at 304, 308. One embarrassing incident arose because Mazzella did not advise a manager, Tony Falco, that an engineer scheduled to begin working for him had withdrawn his acceptance of Globcom's employment offer. Falco approached Silverstein on the day the engineer was to have started work and asked why he had not appeared. It was only after Silverstein asked Mazzella what had happened that he learned that the employee was not coming -- which Silverstein then had to explain to Falco. Tr. at 308-09.

 Twitty heard complaints that Mazzella failed to screen resumes appropriately. For instance, Joe Terry Swaim, a Vice President of Engineering, complained that managers in his department were being sent job applicants whose applications had obviously not been screened because the applicants had no qualifications for the particular position at issue -- such as teachers applying for engineering software positions. Tr. at 423.

 Silverstein received complaints that Mazzella did not perform recruiting functions promptly. One such incident involved an engineer employed by another company who had contacted John Shields, Globcom's Engineering Director, and expressed interest in joining Globcom. Shields complained to Twitty that while he had asked Mazzella on several occasions to contact this prospect and schedule an interview, she had not done so. Twitty relayed Shields' complaint to Silverstein and directed him to tell Mazzella to schedule an interview. Approximately one week later, Shields again complained to Twitty that plaintiff had not contacted this applicant. Tr. at 424-25.

 Silverstein also received an irate complaint from Nick Bafitis, Globcom's Administrator of Labor Relations, that Mazzella had rehired Barbara Yacullo, who previously had been terminated by Globcom for poor performance. Yacullo's discharge had presented a sensitive situation for the company because her husband was a union officer also employed by Globcom, and the company had no interest facing the same situation again. Mazzella contended at trial that Bafitis had approved her decision to rehire Yacullo. I find this contention incredible.

 Silverstein received complaints about Mazzella's performance of her other job functions as well. Early in the summer of 1981, Globcom's president directed Silverstein to develop a job-posting program for the company's employees. Tr. at 312-13. Openings within the company were to be posted on a special bulletin board and interested employees were invited to submit applications to the employment section. The applications were then to be screened and applicants with appropriate qualifications were to be referred to the requesting manager for an interview. Tr. at 313. Applicants who were not selected for an interview, or who were not chosen for the job after an interview, were supposed to be informed why they were rejected, how they might improve their qualifications, and why the successful candidate had been chosen. Tr. at 313-14.

 In the summer of 1981, Mazzella asked Silverstein to give her responsibility for the job-posting program, which had not yet been instituted. Silverstein commented that she seemed to have a "full plate" already, but Mazzella assured him that she would be able to handle it, and wanted very much to undertake this responsibility. Tr. at 153-54, 236, 314. Silverstein acceded to Mazzella's request.

 However, after Mazzella assumed responsibility for the program, Silverstein received complaints from managers that plaintiff was not screening applicants for appropriate qualifications. Tr. at 316. Silverstein also heard complaints that rejected applicants were not receiving feedback from Mazzella and that announcements that jobs had been filled were not being made. Id. He also received reports that jobs had not been posted because Mazzella lost or misplaced the requisitions. Id. Finally, Silverstein was the recipient of what he described as a "very nasty visit" from President Podmolik concerning the job-posting program. Id. Pokmolik came into Silverstein's office and directed Silverstein to accompany him to the hallway where the job-posting bulletin board was located. Once there, Podmolik complained that the bulletin board was an untidy and unprofessional "mess," and ordered Silverstein to straighten it up immediately. Tr. at 316-17.

 Mazzella was also responsible for the company's service award program. With this program, Globcom recognized and rewarded those employees who had given long service to the company. Employees who were about to attain a significant anniversary date in their history with the company were sent a catalogue from which they could select an award. Some of the awards available to long-time employees were expensive items, such as mantle and wall clocks and watches. Tr. at 320, 323. Mazzella was responsible for ordering the award selected by the employee and ensuring that it was sent to the employee's manager in time for presentation to the employee on his or her anniversary date. Tr. at 222-23.

 Silverstein and Twitty received numerous complaints about plaintiff's administration of the service awards program. The most embarrassing incident occurred when Mazzella failed to send a 30-year service award to President Podmolik for presentation to Larry Codacovi, an Executive Vice President reporting directly to Podmolik. Podmolik complained to Twitty in an extremely irate tone that he had been embarrassed when Codacovi reminded him that Codacovi's anniversary date had passed without the presentation of an award. Tr. at 318-19, 421. Twitty in turn severely criticized Silverstein for this foul-up. See PX 26 at 157.

 There were other complaints as well. Managers in New Jersey, California, and Puerto Rico complained to Silverstein and Twitty about late service awards, sometimes repeatedly. Tr. at 319-23, 422. Indeed, even Twitty himself complained because his own 25-year service award, a watch he received in late 1980, had the wrong date engraved on it. Tr. at 422.

 There were also problems with Mazzella's maintenance of service awards. She stored approximately ten expensive mantle clocks in her office, a partitioned space with no door, that could not be secured. Tr. at 323. Silverstein repeatedly asked plaintiff to move the clocks to an area where they could be locked up. Twitty also commented several times to Silverstein about this problem. Id. Mazzella, however, did nothing, and Silverstein was finally forced to move the clocks himself. Tr. at 323-24. Mazzella also failed to notice that a drawer in which other service awards were stored was broken and could no longer be locked. Silverstein asked her to have the lock repaired, but she never did so, and continued to store the awards there, unsecured. Tr. at 365. Silverstein also requested that Mazzella prepare an inventory of the service awards, but she never completed it. Id.

 Plaintiff was responsible during the early summer of 1981 for coordinating Globcom's United States Savings Bond drive. The union was to participate in the savings bond campaign, and Silverstein directed Mazzella to include him in all meetings with the union and the government representative so that no problems with the union would arise. Tr. at 324. However, plaintiff did not advise Silverstein of her scheduled meetings with the union, and Silverstein later learned that Mazzella had agreed to distribute cigarette lighters bearing the initials of the company and the union to some campaign participants. Tr. at 325. Silverstein strongly objected to the inclusion of the union initials on these lighters because the company alone had paid for the lighters and the bond campaign was a company effort. Id. Mazzella attempted to excuse her actions by arguing that someone at least at the vice president level had to approve of her decision to distribute the lighters in order for it to be effectuated. Whether this is true or not, it did not excuse Mazzella's failure to advise Silverstein of her meetings with union officials as she had been directed to do.

 Twitty also received complaints about Mazzella's work on the saving bond drive. Henrietta Greco, President Podmolik's adminstrative assistant, complained to Twitty about a bond drive coodinators' meeting plaintiff had chaired. Greco complained that the meeting was poorly planned and presented, that instructions to coordinators were poorly handled, that the necessary materials were not ready, and that the meeting generally was not well organized. Tr. at 423.

 Early in the summer of 1981, Silverstein directed Mazzella to develop a revised orientation program for new employees. Tr. at 325-26. She failed to complete this assignment, or even make reasonable progress on it, despite numerous requests. Tr. at 327-29. Similarly, Silverstein asked plaintiff to draft an employee handbook. Tr. at 329. Again, Mazzella did nothing with respect to this assignment. Tr. at 330.

 Perhaps Silverstein's biggest complaint about plaintiff's performance concerned her poor attitude and work habits. There is no dispute that the employment section had an extremely heavy workload during 1981. Tr. at 287, 294. Mazzella, however, would not devote even the company's full 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. business day to accomplishing her assigned tasks. She often arrived at work after 8:30 a.m., immediately went to the company cafeteria for coffee, spent time on personal telephone calls, took long lunches, and left promptly at 4:30 p.m. or earlier. Tr. at 300-01, 429. In contrast, the other employees in the section often worked overtime. Silverstein was overworked and did a considerable amount of the recruiting himself. Tr. at 294-95. Nancy Charles, Mazzella's co-worker in the section, arrived early in the morning, often ate lunch at her desk or had no lunch at all, and worked into the evenings and over the weekends. Tr. at 301, 470. Larry Howard, who assumed some of Mazzella's recruiting duties upon her discharge, adhered to the same type of work schedule. Id. Patricia Salter, Silverstein's secretary, also worked into the evenings and came into the office on weekends. Tr. at 470.

 In July or August 1981, Silverstein began to have informal discussions with Mazzella about these performance problems. Tr. at 302. These discussions continued throughout the fall of 1981, tr. at 302, 469-70, but Silverstein saw no improvement in plaintiff's attitude or performance.

 On October 29, 1981, Mazzella learned that she was pregnant again. That day, she filed an insurance claim with the benefits section of the IR department indicating that she was pregnant. PX 45. Mazzella also informed many of her co-workers in the IR department. However, Silverstein did not learn of Mazzella's pregnancy until November 6, 1981 when Mazzella informed him of it. Tr. at 339. Twitty also did not learn of plaintiff's pregnancy until November 6, 1981, when Silverstein mentioned it to him. Tr. at 428.

 Having observed no improvement in plaintiff's attitude or work performance, Silverstein held a formal meeting with her on November 3, 1986. Tr. at 302-03. Silverstein reviewed with Mazzella her performance deficiencies to date, and informed her that she would be terminated if her performance did not improve. Tr. at 331.

 On November 6, 1981, at plaintiff's request, Silverstein and Mazzella met again. Tr. at 162, 338. They reviewed the matters discussed at the November 3 meeting, and Silverstein reiterated that if plaintiff's performance did not improve, she would be discharged. Tr. at 338. Nonetheless, Silverstein was encouraging, and the meeting ended on a positive note. Tr. at 340. As she left Silverstein's office, Mazzella remarked to Silverstein, "Oh, by the way, I'm pregnant." Tr. at 340. As noted above, this was the first Silverstein learned of Mazzella's pregnancy.

 Silverstein observed no improvement in plaintiff's attitude or performance following the November 3 and November 6 meetings. Growing increasingly concerned that Mazzella had not realized the seriousness of the situation, on November 16, 1981, Silverstein sent her a written memorandum. Tr. at 341. In his memorandum, Silverstein reviewed what he perceived to be the ...


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