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PEARLSTEIN v. STATEN ISLAND UNIV. HOSP.

April 28, 1995

JANET PEARLSTEIN, Plaintiff, against STATEN ISLAND UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SEYBERT

 SEYBERT, District Judge:

 In this action, plaintiff, Janet Pearlstein, alleges that her former employer, Staten Island University Hospital (the "Hospital") *fn1" discriminated against her on the basis of gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), by eliminating her managerial position in the budget and reimbursement department of the Hospital's finance division. The Hospital claims that Pearlstein's position was eliminated because of budgetary problems and in connection with a consolidation and restructuring of the Hospital's finance division following the merger between Staten Island Hospital and Richmond Memorial Hospital (the "Merger"). Currently before the Court is the Hospital's motion for summary judgment.

 BACKGROUND

 Pearlstein began working at the Hospital in June 1988 as Budget Manager. Pearlstein's responsibilities involved making recommendations on the Hospital's budget and budget process. She was initially responsible for supervising one employee, a statistical clerk. Pearlstein acknowledged in her deposition testimony that her position was at the lowest rung of the managerial ladder within the Hospital's finance division.

 Until January 1989, Pearlstein reported to Dennis Hill, Director of Budget and Reimbursement. As a result of the Merger, in January 1989, Pearlstein began reporting to Lee Amato, the former Director of Budget at Richmond Memorial Hospital. Amato, in turn, reported to Hill. According to Hill's deposition testimony, one other woman, Laura Thompson, who prior to the Merger worked at the Richmond Memorial Hospital, continued to work in a managerial capacity within the budget and reimbursement department after the Merger.

 In August 1989, Pearlstein informed Amato that she had decided to adopt a child that was to be born sometime in late September 1989. Pearlstein requested that Amato grant her an unpaid four-month leave to commence after the adoption. Pearlstein testified that she had requested this unpaid leave after concluding, through informal discussions with various colleagues at the Hospital and reading a Hospital manual, the title of which she could not recall, that such a leave was available to all of the Hospital's women employees. According to Pearlstein, Amato congratulated her after hearing her news and told her that she was free to take the leave.

 On October 3, 1989, Pearlstein telephoned Amato at home and informed him that, because her adopted child was in the process of being born, her leave of absence would begin immediately. Pearlstein indicated that "he said that was fine. And that when I returned home after, you know, picking up my child, to come to the hospital and sign certain forms." (Pearlstein Dep. at 132.) It was Pearlstein's understanding that she would resume her position once her leave ended.

 Pearlstein went to the Hospital on October 20, 1989 to sign the requisite forms and was informed by Amato that her leave had been approved and was asked when she would return to work. Pearlstein stated that she "would like the four month leave. February 5th I would like to return. He said, 'that's fine.'" (Id. at 138.) Until January 1990, Pearlstein did not again discuss her leave with her supervisors.

 Hill testified at his deposition that Amato informed him in mid-August 1989 that Amato had granted Pearlstein a leave of absence to care for the child she was in the process of adopting. Upon hearing this plan, Hill had been "happy" for Pearlstein "because she was trying for so long to have a child." (Hill Dep. at 58.) Pearlstein appears to have commenced her leave at a time when the Hospital's finance division was in a state of flux. Hill claims that in July 1989, he had contacted the Hospital's personnel department to discuss the effects of the Merger on the budget and reimbursement department. Hill asserts that he was concerned about the overlapping responsibilities among his managers, Amato, Pearlstein and Thompson. The personnel department, according to Hill, responded that his concerns regarding overlap were valid and would need to be addressed in the future. *fn2" According to a memorandum, dated January 28, 1990, prepared by Hill (the "January 1990 Memorandum"), Pearlstein's role was specifically considered at the July 1989 meeting; "it was obvious that she no longer functioned in a managerial capacity (but her salary continued at a manager's level). It was agreed that a salary adjustment would not be made at the time, and that any appropriate adjustment would be made by reducing future pay increases." *fn3" (January 1990 Memorandum.) The memorandum also noted that since January 1989, when Pearlstein began reporting to Amato, her "overall responsibilities were reduced." (Id.) In his deposition testimony, Hill elaborated that the statistical clerk whom Pearlstein had originally been responsible for supervising had been transferred to another section of the finance division. Hill further testified that Pearlstein no longer met with executive staff and that her "overall contact with outside departments started to get diminished." *fn4" (Hill Dep. at 75.)

 Hill also asserted that in or prior to November 1989, to address this problem of overlap, Pearlstein's and Thompson's positions were changed from Budget Manager to Budget Coordinator and from Budget and Grant Manager to Budget and Grant Coordinator, respectively, while Amato's title was changed from Budget Director to Budget Manager. Without the change, Amato, who initially had the title of Director, would be reporting to Hill, who also had the title of Director, a result which the personnel department found confusing. When Amato assumed the title of Budget Manager, Pearlstein and Thompson each assumed the title of Coordinator, still a managerial level position, in order to avoid a problem similar to that which existed between Amato's and Hill's former titles. It is unclear whether Pearlstein was ever informed that her title had been changed, as Hill asked Amato to notify Pearlstein but did not know whether Amato had done so.

 In December 1989 and January 1990, the Hospital allegedly discovered that the effects of the Merger would cause a budgetary shortfall for 1990. Hill testified in his deposition that the Hospital's president instructed the vice president of each area to "achieve a dollar budget reduction" to address the this anticipated budgetary shortfall. (Id. at 67.) Jerry Felisi, Vice President of Finance, supposedly subsequently directed Hill to "look at reducing the number of managers" in his area, as "there were proportionally too many managers to non managerial personnel." (Id. at 68.) Hill indicated that while Felisi decided that changes to reduce this imbalanced proportion were necessary, it was Hill's "decision on which individual it would affect." (Id.)

 Hill decided in the middle of January 1990 that Pearlstein's position would be the one to be downgraded. On January 22, 1990, while she was still on leave, Pearlstein received a telephone call from Hill informing her that, for budgetary reasons, her position was being eliminated. Hill stated that since Pearlstein's "skills were so good," he wanted to offer her a non-managerial position as a financial analyst at the Hospital, earning thirty percent less income. (Pearlstein Dep. at 152.) Pearlstein did not accept this job offer.


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