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Paul v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals

February 28, 2008

NEWTON PAUL PLAINTIFF,
v.
WYETH PHARMACEUTICALS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Brieant, J.

Memorandum and Order

Defendant Wyeth Pharmaceuticals filed this motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff Newton Paul's employment discrimination claims on August 28, 2007. (Doc. 13.) Plaintiff filed his opposition on October 8, 2007 and Defendant filed a reply on October 22, 2007. This Court heard oral arguments on October 26, 2007 and reserved decision.

Facts

The following facts are assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion only. In August 2000, Defendant hired Plaintiff, a black male of Haitian descent, as a Production Supervisor. His starting salary was $44,100.

Wyeth had a system for rating its employees' performance on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning "unsatisfactory," 2 meaning below "expectations," 3 meaning "solid performer," 4 meaning "exceeds expectations," and 5 meaning "outstanding." In his annual performance reviews for the years 2000 and 2001, Plaintiff received performance ratings of 3, or "solid performer." In January 2001, Plaintiff received a 3% increase in his annual salary to $45,460. In January 2002, he received another 3% increase in his annual salary to $46,824. When asked at his deposition whether he "believe[d] that prior to February 2002 [he was] discriminated against . . . in any way because of [his] race," Plaintiff responded "No, I can't say, no." (McQuade Decl., Ex. 1, at 54:17-21.)

In February 2002, Plaintiff was promoted to the position of Compliance Coordinator in the Consumer Healthcare Division. His salary grade level was increased from 6 to 8 and his annual salary was increased to $51,506. Defendant alleges that this 10% increase from his prior salary was the maximum increase Plaintiff could have received at that time. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff claims it was only a "subtle increase in salary." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 22.) In this position, his direct supervisor was In-grid Gibson, Manager of Investigations, who was a black female. She gave him an overall rating of 4, or "exceeds expectations," in his 2002 annual performance review.

In late 2002, Plaintiff complained to Ms. Gibson that he felt two other employees, Derek Burt and Christopher DeFeciani, were paid more than he was. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 24.) The parties dispute whether Plaintiff referred to his race in connection with the alleged pay discrepancy. Plaintiff alleges that after Ms. Gibson looked into the discrepancy, he was given an increase in pay. His employment record shows that his salary remained $51,506 from February 2002 through May 2003, the entire time Plaintiff was a Compliance Coordinator. The Defendant alleges that Ms. Gibson's supervisor, Andrew Schaschl, "had intended to give Mr. Paul a salary increase in connection with the annual salary increases that typically take effect in January 2003," but Wyeth "delayed the salary increases until July 2003." (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 26.) In the interim, in May 2003, Plaintiff was promoted to Senior Compliance Coordinator and his salary was increased to $55,112. Two months later, in July 2003, his salary was increased an additional 5.1% to $57,945. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 48, 49; Morelli Decl. Ex. 2.) Following his 2003 annual performance evaluation of 5 or "exceeds expectations," Plaintiff received a 5.3% increase in salary in January 2004 to $61,037. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 51; Morelli Decl. Ex. 2.)

Mr. Burt and Mr. DeFeciani were the only employees in compliance that Plaintiff believes were paid more than he was due to his race. Both were white. The one other Compliance Coordinator with whom Plaintiff worked at that time, Leon Williams, was black.

Mr. Burt was hired by Wyeth in 1999 as a Packaging Supervisor and started with more than eight years of job experience, although the parties dispute whether his job experience was "relevant job experience" and dispute his other qualifications for the position. Mr. Burt's starting salary was $54,900. Mr. Burt received an overall rating of 5 or "outstanding" on his annual performance reviews for 2000/2001 and 2002, and a rating of 4 or "exceeds expectations" for 2003. Mr. Burt was promoted to GMP Compliance Specialist in October 2000 and received a salary increase of 7% to $58,743. In January 2001, he received another salary increase of 4.4% to $61,351. In December 2001, Mr. Burt was promoted to Senior Compliance Coordinator and received a corresponding salary increase of 7% to $65,646. Mr. Burt ceased working as a Senior Compliance Coordinator on May 1, 2003, the same day Plaintiff started as a Senior Compliance Coordinator.

Mr. DeFeciani was hired by Wyeth in 1987. He worked in a number of different positions at Wyeth, with corresponding salary increases, and became a GMP Compliance Specialist in July 2000 at a salary of $49,032. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 38.) Mr. DeFeciani received performance ratings of 5 or "outstanding" on his annual performance reviews for 2000, 2001, and 2002. Plaintiff contends that he and Mr. DeFeciani "were both in Compliance at the same time, both had the same duties and responsibilities, thus both were equally qualified, thus should have made the same salary." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 37.) However, as Defendant points out and as apparent from the employee profiles that Plaintiff attached as Exhibits 2 and 4 to the declaration of Steven Morelli, Mr. DeFeciani was a GMP Compliance Specialist from July 2000 to December 2001 and a Senior Compliance Coordinator from December 2001 to August 2002, whereas Plaintiff was a Compliance Coordinator from February 2002 to May 2003 and a Senior Compliance Coordinator from May 2003 to January 2004. Plaintiff and Mr. DeFeciani only overlapped in the area of compliance for approximately six months, during which time they did not hold the same position. Mr. DeFeciani's salary as a Senior Compliance Coordinator, which started at $62,556 in December 2001 and increased to $68,694 by August 2002, was greater than Plaintiff's salary as a Senior Compliance Coordinator, which started at $55,112 in May 2003 and increased to $61,037 in January 2004. However, Mr. DeFeciani had been working at the company over 13 years when he became Senior Compliance Coordinator, whereas Plaintiff had been working at Wyeth for less than three years when he became a Senior Compliance Coordinator. Defendant also maintains that Mr. DeFeciani had significantly more work experience, an extremely diverse work background, and higher performance evaluations that Plaintiff, but Plaintiff disputes that these factors were the basis for Mr. DeFeciani's higher salary. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 43.)

Plaintiff contends that Mr. DeFeciani "was afforded more opportunities by the managers to spend more time with them outside the office." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 38.) He admits, however, that "he has socialized with managers [Robert] Bracco and [Walter] Wardrop . . . approximately four times" and that Mr. Bracco loaned him a set of golf clubs and recommended a golf pro for lessons, but that Bracco "failed to invite [Plaintiff] on the golf outings [with] white employees . . . or . . . invite [Plaintiff] on his boat." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 45.)

In late 2003, the Consumer Healthcare Division at Wyeth's Pearl River facility underwent a corporate restructuring, or "Organizational Cascade," which affected all employees and resulted in employees being moved to new positions. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 53.) Beginning January 1, 2004, Plaintiff was moved laterally to a new position, Senior Material Scheduler. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 54; Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 54, 56.) His salary remained the same, $61,037. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 56.)

As a Senior Material Scheduler, Plaintiff was responsible for the purchase and inventory of raw materials from outside vendors. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 54; Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 54, 56.) Failure of vendors to deliver the necessary raw materials could have resulted in a shut down or cut back in manufacturing operations. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 55.) Plaintiff trained for the position under Robert "Butch" Babcock, whom he was replacing as Senior Material Scheduler. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 57.) Plaintiff's supervisor was Howard Mackey, then Associate Director for Planning in the Consumer Healthcare Division. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 56.) Plaintiff received a quarterly review from Mr. Mackey in June 2004 that was positive. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 59; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 59.)

On two separate occasions in September 2004, the plant experienced a shortage of DiTab, a raw material that Plaintiff was responsible for procuring. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 60.) Plaintiff maintains that Defendant "blamed [Plaintiff] for the shortage" even though Plaintiff had previously met with his supervisors "concerning efficiency of the raw materials" and informed his supervisor that "the other production planners were using the raw materials well before scheduled." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 60.)

In late September 2004 and/or October 2004, the plant experienced a shortage of Zinc Oxide, which Plaintiff was responsible for procuring. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 61; McQuade Decl. Ex. 1, at 118.) The parties disagree on whether the shortage caused a shutdown of all production of Centrum and Silver, two products manufactured at the Pearl River plant, and whether the shortage threatened a shutdown of all manufacturing operations at the facility. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 62, 63; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 62, 63.) Plaintiff believes that "even if the plant run[s] out of a particular raw material . . . the plant can still operate, as the work will just be directed to another material." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 64.)

Defendant maintains that Plaintiff was responsible for the shortage of Zinc Oxide. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 61.) Plaintiff states that the shortage was not his fault, but the fault of the "SAP" system, through which he ordered the material. Plaintiff alleges that "the SAP system failed to automatically submit the order to the vendor as it was supposed to." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 61.) During that incident, on October 3, 2004, Mr. Mackey sent an email to Plaintiff urging that "[i]t is critical we get our hands on this situation. We need to work through this Zinc Oxide crisis and ensure there are no other ones on the way. I am counting on you to right the ship. If you need a hand . . . don't hesitate to ask me or anyone else." (McQuade Decl. Ex. 1, at Ex. 20.) In response, Plaintiff wrote, "Thank you and I am on board to rectify the situation. Very tough lesson, but nonetheless...I have learned. I appreciate the support and I will not hesitate to ask." (McQuade Decl. Ex. 1, at Ex. 20.) When asked at his deposition whether he felt that he was "unfairly singled out in any way as a result of this [Zinc Oxide] incident," Plaintiff stated, "[I]t was my responsibility, I didn't get the confirmation. So I accepted the responsibility, it was an error." (McQuade Decl. Ex. 1, at 154.) Plaintiff maintains, however, that he "does not admit that he alone was responsible for the shortage of the Zinc Oxide." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 65.)

At Plaintiff's 2004 annual performance review, he received an overall rating of 3, or "on target" from his supervisor Howard Mackey (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 66), which Plaintiff admits is "an average rating" (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 68). The review included mention of the DiTab and Zinc Oxide incidents. (McQuade Decl. Ex. 1, at Ex. 16.) Mr. Mackey also received an overall performance rating of 3 that year, down from a rating of 4 for 2003, in part because of the Zinc Oxide crisis. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 67; Mackey Decl. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he felt his performance review was unfair because although the DiTab and Zinc Oxide incidents were "a critical issue, . . . outside of that [he had] never heard anything about [his] performance." (McQuade Decl. Ex. 1, at 155.) Plaintiff submitted a written rebuttal to the performance review, in which he disputed that the plant ever experienced a shutdown of production. (See McQuade Decl. Ex. 1, at Ex. 17.) Rather, Plaintiff claimed that "[a] majority of those [alleged production shutdowns] were not shutdowns just interruptions due to availability of materials." (McQuade Decl. Ex. 1, at Ex. 17, p. 31.) Plaintiff "believes he was given a lower review based upon his race, and that more opportunities were given to the non-minority employees." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 72.)

Plaintiff spoke to Joanne Rose, an associate director of human resources, about his review and Ms. Rose told him that the rating was "not bad and to keep plugging away." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 72.) In February 2005, Plaintiff met with Joseph Vitanza, a Managing Director, to discuss his performance review. Plaintiff told Mr. Vitanza that he had been expecting a minimum rating of at least a 4. Mr. Vitanza told Plaintiff "that he should not be discouraged by his rating, that he had a bright future with Wyeth, and that he needed to stay focused." (Vitanza Decl. ¶ 3.)

On January 1, 2005, Plaintiff received an annual salary increase of 3.8% to $63,356. On July 1, 2005, Plaintiff received another salary increase, of 3.5%, which brought his salary to ...


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