Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

HNOT v. WILLIS GROUP HOLDINGS LTD.

April 5, 2005.

SHELLEY HNOT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WILLIS GROUP HOLDINGS LTD., WILLIS NORTH AMERICA INC., et al. Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GERARD E. LYNCH, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Shelley Hnot brings this employment discrimination action against her former employer, Willis Group Holdings, and affiliated entities (collectively, "Willis"). Plaintiff alleges that she was underpaid, denied promotions, and demoted due to her gender, in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2 et seq. ("Title VII"). She also claims that she was terminated in retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), a protected activity under Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3. In an Opinion and Order dated March 18, 2005, this Court granted a motion by plaintiffs Hnot and Heidi Scheller 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 on Hnot's individual claims on the grounds that they are time-barred, and that plaintiff can not establish a prima facie case, or demonstrate that defendants' alleged non-discriminatory reasons for their actions were pretextual.*fn1 For the reasons below, defendants' motion will be denied in part and granted in part.

  BACKGROUND

  Hnot was employed for 24 years at Willis, an insurance brokerage company. Willis has regional offices across the country, each led by a Regional Executive Officer ("REO"). (Kelly Dep. 26-27.) Each region, in turn, had local offices, headed by a Chief Executive Officer ("CEO") and Chief Operating Officer ("COO"). (Murphy Decl. ¶ 6.) Further details about Willis's organizational structure and its various job titles are set forth in the Court's class certification opinion. See Hnot, 2005 WL 659475, at *2-5. Hnot was employed in the New Jersey office, which was part of Willis's Northeast Region.

  In 1995, Hnot became a Team Leader, the only woman in the New York/New Jersey offices to hold such a position. (Hnot Dep. 113.) As a Team Leader, Hnot was responsible for managing her team, soliciting new business, and servicing the accounts held by the team. (Hnot Dep. 153-54, Murphy Dep. 95.) Hnot was also awarded an officer title of Senior Vice President, which did not increase her base salary or her eligibility for bonuses. (Murphy Decl. ¶¶ 13, 16-17.) Hnot reported to the New York COO, first Joe McSweeney and later James Murphy. (Hnot Dep. 128.)

  According to plaintiff, Willis management eventually began to systematically undermine her efforts to retain her accounts, and to obtain new business for her team. (Hnot Decl. ¶ 28, 57, 59-73.) For example, when Hnot sought the assistance of a "producer," that is, a Willis employee whose primary role was to produce business, her requests were repeatedly denied, and her own efforts to solicit new business were blocked. (Hnot Dep. 75-76, 168-70.) Hnot avers that such treatment contrasted with that accorded other, male-led, teams who had in-team producers, and assistance from non-designated producers. (Hnot Decl. ¶¶ 23, 25.) Hnot also contends that Willis management set production goals that were unreasonably high for the size of her team. (Hnot Decl. ¶ 44.)

  During Hnot's tenure as Team Leader, she was paid less than all but one of the male Team Leaders. See Murphy Decl. ¶¶ 61-65, 71-76 (showing that Hnot was paid $146,000 in 1998, the second lowest salary among eight Team Leaders). She received no raise in 1998, and was informed that this was because she had the highest ratio of salary to book of business in the New York and New Jersey offices. (Murphy Decl. ¶ 56.) Hnot also received no raise in 1999. (Id. at ¶ 67.) Hnot was similarly denied bonuses in both 1998 and 1999, purportedly because her team fell short of reaching certain financial goals. (Murphy Decl. ¶ 80.)

  After Hnot was promoted to Team Leader, she failed to be promoted to any higher position, even though the New York COO position became available in 1997 (Hnot Dep. 84), and was not filled until February 1998. (Murphy Dep. 75.) The New York CEO position was not filled until 1999, and New Jersey CEO position was filled in 2000. (Murphy Dep. 71, 75.) All these positions were filled by men. (Hnot Dep. 15, 20, 86; Hnot Dep. II 413.)

  In 1997, Willis North America began a review process called Business Process Reengineering ("BPR"). As part of the BPR process, employees were assessed based on various "skill/will" criteria. (Sicard Dep. 231-232.) Hnot's skill/will assessment was conducted by Murphy. (Mathieson Dep. 41.) Later in 1998, shortly after Murphy became the New York COO, he began to reorganize Willis's New Jersey office. (Murphy Decl. ¶ 20, Ex. A.) Subsequently, Hnot was removed from her Team Leader position, and transferred to another team. (Murphy Decl. ¶ 28, Ex. G; Murphy Dep. 48.) On August 26, 1999, Hnot filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. (Am. Compl. ¶ 51.) One month later, on September 25, 1999, Murphy was informed of the charge, and on December 17, 1999, he recommended Hnot's termination. (Murphy Dep. 55-56; Murphy Dep. II 52-53.) On March 22, 2000, Hnot's employment was terminated. Hnot, along with other female Willis employees, filed a class action complaint against Willis on July 19, 2001.

  DISCUSSION

  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). The moving party bears the burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must "resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable references in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Cifarelli v. Vill. Of Babylon, 93 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1996). In addition, the court is not to make any credibility assessments or weigh the evidence at this stage. Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 854 (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 do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), and must make a "showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.