The opinion of the court was delivered by: GERARD E. LYNCH, District Judge
Plaintiff Heidi Scheller brings this employment discrimination
action against her former employer Willis Group Holdings, and its
affiliated entities (collectively, "Willis"). Plaintiff alleges
that she was underpaid and constructively discharged due to her
sex, in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,
42 U.S.C. 2000e-2 et seq. ("Title VII").*fn1 In an Opinion
and Order dated March 18, 2005, this Court granted a motion by
Scheller and Shelley Hnot for class certification. Hnot v.
Willis Group Holdings Ltd., 01 Civ. 6558 (GEL), 2005 WL 659475
(S.D.N.Y. March 21, 2005). Defendants now move for summary
judgment against plaintiff Scheller's individual claims on the grounds that they are
time-barred, and that plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie
case or demonstrate that defendants' alleged non-discriminatory
reasons for their actions were pretextual. For the reasons below,
defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in
Heidi Scheller was hired by Willis, an insurance brokerage
company, in August 1993 as an Account Executive with the officer
title of Vice President, to work in the Boston, Massachusetts
office. (Scheller Dep. 7, 26; Brown Aff. Ex. D.) When she joined
Willis, Scheller brought with her a lucrative account, Thermo
Electron Corporation ("Thermo"), and three other clients.
(Scheller Aff. ¶ 16-22.) In early 1994, Scheller was appointed
the "international resource" for Willis in Massachusetts, to
advise colleagues and clients about overseas insurance issues.
(Scheller Dep. 138-140.) She was promoted to Senior Vice
President in 1997. (Brown Aff. Ex. F.) Scheller reported to Jay
Sarrey and the Chief Executive Officer ("CEO") of Massachusetts,
David Jollin.*fn3 (Scheller Dep. 20, 33.)
During Scheller's employment, she received a base salary, which
increased each year (except 1997 when there was a salary freeze).
(Profeta Aff. Ex. 13.) Scheller's salary was lower than the base
salaries of a number of male producers/account executives.
Scheller was also eligible to receive incentive compensation.
(Sarrey Aff. ¶ 36.) In 1996 and 1997, she had an Incentive Bonus
Plan where she was paid ten percent of any new business she
garnered, plus ten percent of any net annual increase in renewal business. (Scheller
Aff. ¶ 94, Ex. 25, 26.) Each employee had his or her own
individualized incentive plan. Defendants allege that Scheller's
total compensation was one of the highest in the office.*fn4
(D. Reply 15.)
Willis's contact at Thermo, Richard Somerville, closely
monitored how Willis handled the account, and he was a demanding
client. (Scheller Aff. ¶ 36; Jollin Dep. 254.) During the first
few years at Willis, Thermo generated large revenues for Willis
under Scheller's management. (Scheller Aff. ¶ 35.) Defendants
claim that Somerville eventually began expressing dissatisfaction
with the account's management, and with Scheller's negative
attitude. (Sarrey Aff. ¶ 16-17, 23, Ex. A.) Scheller avers,
however, that in 1997, she began experiencing difficulties with
the Willis Thermo team, including threats of staff departures.
(Scheller Aff. ¶ 38.) She contends that it was only after
Somerville learned that a critical employee on the team might be
transferred to other duties in January 1998 that he requested
that Sarrey oversee the Thermo account. (Id. at ¶ 49.) Willis
then reorganized staffing of the Thermo team, and Sarrey assumed
overall responsibility for the account. (Scheller Dep. 186-87.)
At the end of August 1998, Scheller was on bereavement leave.
When she returned on September 3, 1998, Jollin informed her that
she would have to take a paid 30-day leave of absence. (Scheller
Aff. ¶ 65.) Defendants allege that after the reorganization of
the Thermo team, Scheller refused to accept Sarrey's authority
over the Thermo account and was disruptive and insubordinate, and
that the leave was intended to give her time to adjust and
reconcile herself to the new management structure. (Sarrey Aff. ¶
29, Ex. A.) Scheller's leave was later extended to 90 days. (Scheller Dep. 226-27.) In a letter from her then
attorney dated November 30, 1998, Scheller resigned, effective
December 2, 1998. (Sarrey Aff. Ex. C.)
I. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment shall be granted "if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with the affidavits . . . show that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
A "genuine issue of material fact" exists if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving
party. Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 69 (2d Cir.
2001). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must
"resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in
the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion."
Cifarelli v. Vill. Of Babylon, 93 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1996).
The nonmoving party, however, may not rely on "conclusory
allegations or unsubstantiated speculation." Scotto v. Almenas,
143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998). The non-moving party must make
a "showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every]
element essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
II. Statute of Limitations
Title VII claims must be filed with the EEOC within 300 days of
the alleged discriminatory act.
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1).*fn5 Under Title VII, each discrete act of discrimination "constitutes a separate actionable `unlawful
employment practice.'" Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan,
536 U.S. 101, 114 (2002). A plaintiff can "only file a charge to
cover discrete acts that `occurred' within the appropriate time
period." Id. Recovery is precluded for acts outside the time
period, even if related acts occurred within the statutory time
period. Patterson v. County of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 220 (2d
Scheller's constructive discharge claim is unquestionably
timely. The "date that [an employee's constructive discharge]
claim accrue[s] [is] the date when she gave definite notice of
her intention to [leave]." Flaherty v. Metromail Corp.,
235 F.3d 133, 138 (2d Cir. 2000). Scheller resigned by letter dated
November 30, 1998. (Sarrey Aff. Ex. C.) Since that date is within
300 days of ...