United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MADELINE COX ARLEO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court by way of Defendant
Kuehne Nagel Inc.'s (“K”) and Defendant
Maren Dedermann's (“Dedermann” or together
with K, “Defendants”) motion for partial
summary judgment against Plaintiff Jacquelyn Hopkins
(“Plaintiff” or “Hopkins”). ECF No.
50. Plaintiff opposes the motion. ECF No. 51. For the reasons
stated below, the motion is GRANTED in part
and DENIED in part. I.
Background In this employment dispute, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants discriminated against her because of
her age and her disability. Plaintiff further alleges that
Defendants subjected her to a pattern of continuous and
ongoing harassment, which ultimately culminated in her
Employment at K
was born on March 5, 1961. Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶
1, ECF No. 50-2. She was hired to work in K's
accounting department in 1985. Id. ¶ 2. In
1995, Plaintiff began working as a brokerage clerk in
K's import department and became an Import Coordinator
in 1999. Id. ¶¶ 76-77. She was supervised
directly by the Import Supervisor, who reported to the Import
Manager. Id. ¶ 79-80.
August 2012, Maren Dedermann became the Import Manager.
Id. ¶ 95. Towards the end of 2012, Dedermann
informed Plaintiff that the Import Department had received a
“low” grade for opening files; as a result,
Dedermann told Plaintiff that she needed to take on that
task. Id. ¶ 111. Although Plaintiff was
uncomfortable with opening new files, she told Dedermann that
she would do it until someone else was hired. Id.
¶ 111. Dedermann reassigned five of Plaintiff's
clients to another Import Coordinator because she noticed
that Plaintiff was unable to handle as much work as her
colleagues. Id. ¶ 116. Plaintiff continued
working with her remaining four clients and did not complain
to human resources about opening new files. Id.
¶¶ 117, 123. Because Plaintiff was opening files in
addition to her regular work, she often stayed late to
complete her work. Pl.'s Counter Stmt. ¶ 20. Though
her job title and base pay did not change, Plaintiff later
received a two percent raise instead of the usual annual four
percent because she needed to “process more shipments
per month.” Hopkins Dep. Tr. 104-06.
point prior to May 2013, Plaintiff told Dedermann that she
and her boyfriend made a nice couple. Defs.' Stmt. ¶
126. She also told Dedermann that she “should make
beautiful children.” Id. ¶ 127. Dedermann
replied that Plaintiff could be her babysitter when she
retired. Id. ¶ 128. Plaintiff did not complain
to anyone inform human resources about Dedermann's
comment. Id. ¶¶ 129-30.
morning of May 28, 2013, Plaintiff experienced dizziness
during her morning commute and left work early. Id.
¶¶ 133-35. Plaintiff took paid vacation days on May
28, 30, and 31, and took a paid sick day on May 29.
Id. ¶¶ 136-37. On May 30, 2013, Plaintiff
saw her primary care physician, Dr. Parnes, who diagnosed her
with a Transient Ischemic Attack (“TIA”).
Pl.'s Counter Stmt. ¶ 38. Plaintiff went for a
series of medical tests after she saw Dr. Parnes. Defs.'
Stmt. ¶ 140. Plaintiff's echocardiogram, CT scan,
and carotid artery test came back negative for a TIA.
Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 143-45. Plaintiff testified
that she was not aware of any test that demonstrated that a
TIA definitively occurred. Id. ¶ 146.
returned to work on June 3, 2013. Id. ¶ 150. On
days that she had follow-up medical testing, Plaintiff used
paid vacation days because she had already utilized her sick
days for the year. Id. ¶¶ 151-55, 169.
However, Dedermann failed to keep Plaintiff's accrued
time current, which complicated her ability to take time off.
Id. ¶ 43. Plaintiff did not indicate that she
was taking time off to go to the doctor, id. ¶
157, and never told her immediate supervisor, Susan Marme
(“Marme”), how often she was going to the doctor,
id. ¶ 161. Around this time, Dedermann assigned
Plaintiff three or four new customers because the sales team
had brought in new business. Id. ¶¶
174-75. Plaintiff verbally complained to Dedermann that she
was still required to open new files. Id. ¶
January 2014, Plaintiff received a performance rating of 6.5
out of 10 during her review, which falls between “fully
satisfactory” and “excellent.” Id.
¶¶ 181-82. Plaintiff had received a performance
rating of 6.0 the prior year. Id. ¶ 183.
According to Plaintiff, Dedermann commented about
Plaintiff's attendance during her review and told her
that she didn't care that Plaintiff had been sick.
Id. ¶ 180; Pl.'s Counter Stmt. ¶ 31.
Plaintiff's review form also indicated that her
“attendance was an issue” and “needs to
approve in 2014 - lots of unplanned days out of the
office.” Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 186. Plaintiff signed
her review and never complained about Dedermann's alleged
comments. Id. ¶¶ 187, 189.
March 26, 2014, Plaintiff saw Dr. Parnes because she believed
she was having heart palpitations. Id. ¶ 194.
Plaintiff used a vacation day and did not tell anyone at K
about her palpitations. Id. ¶¶ 195-96. By
March 31, 2014, Plaintiff had exhausted her allotment of
annual sick days. Id. ¶¶ 191-93. Thus,
Plaintiff requested two half days of vacation via K's
time management system for additional medical
testing. Id. ¶¶ 197-98. In her
request, Plaintiff indicated that she was getting a heart
monitor and an echocardiogram. Id. ¶¶
199-200. Plaintiff's request for two half days was
ultimately approved. Id. ¶ 201. After the first
day of testing, however, Plaintiff advised Marme that she
would need to take two full days of vacation. Id.
Plaintiff returned to work on April 3, 2014, Dedermann told
Plaintiff that they had to talk because Plaintiff had used
all of her sick time. Id. ¶ 206. According to
Plaintiff, Dedermann became loud and intimidating.
Id. Nevertheless, Plaintiff later admitted that
Dedermann's behavior was not inappropriate. Id.
¶ 214. Dedermann advised Plaintiff that she wanted her
“written up with a final warning.” Defs.' Ex.
FF; see Hopkins Dep. Tr. 174:5-10. Following their
conversation, Plaintiff complained to Nadine Jones
(“Jones”) in K's compliance department
about the incident with Dedermann. Defs.' Stmt. ¶
218. Jones told Plaintiff that she would document the issue
and discuss it with upper management. Id.
¶¶ 226-27. Several days later, David Beegle
(“Beegle”), the Human Resources Business Partner
at K, informed Plaintiff that she had exceeded her allotted
sick days. Id. ¶ 231. Plaintiff claims that she
was given a piece of paper to sign during their meeting, but
she did not read it and was not given a copy. Id.
¶¶ 232- 35. After that meeting, no one ever spoke
to Plaintiff about her potential termination. Id.
thereafter, Plaintiff met with Beegle to discuss her
Dedermann complaint. Id. ¶¶ 258-59. Beegle
then interviewed six employees of varying races, genders,
national origins, and ages. Id. ¶¶ 269-70.
Beegle also interviewed Dedermann. Id. ¶ 272.
Beegle ultimately concluded that Dedermann should be coached
to control her emotions when dealing with conflict.
Id. ¶ 276. While all six employees interviewed
felt that there was “some sort of favoritism”
within the department, Beegle did not find that any protected
class consistently received favoritism. Defs.' Ex. HH. As
such, Beegle found Plaintiff's allegation that national
origin, age, and race impacted treatment of employees to be
uncorroborated. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 275. Beegle
subsequently counseled Dedermann regarding K's policies
and specifically told her that retaliating against employees
who make complaints was prohibited. Id. ¶¶
277-79, 281. In addition, Dedermann completed a workplace
harassment training course. Id. ¶ 280. Upper
management declined to otherwise discipline Dedermann and
Plaintiff was never informed of the investigation's
outcome. Pl.'s Counter Stmt. ¶¶ 67, 70. From
then on, however, Dedermann's interactions with Plaintiff
were limited to business-related issues. Defs.' Stmt.
¶ 290. Dedermann did not criticize Plaintiff's work
performance or show any anger towards her. Id.
¶¶ 294-95. Plaintiff made no further complaints to
human resources or compliance about Dedermann or anyone else.
Id. ¶¶ 297-98.
this time, Beegle suggested that Plaintiff take intermittent
leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”). Id. ¶ 299. Cigna
ultimately approved Plaintiff's request for the period of
April 2, 2014 to October 1, 2014. Id. ¶¶
304-05. No. one at K gave Plaintiff a difficult time about
her application. Id. ¶¶ 308-09. However,
instead of using her approved FMLA time, Plaintiff used
vacation time when she needed days off. Id.
¶¶ 310-11. Plaintiff was never disciplined for this
practice. Id. ¶¶ 312-15.
October 3, 2014, Plaintiff was offered the position of
logistics manager for Safe Food Corporation. Id.
¶ 316. Though the position came with fewer benefits, a
lower salary, and additional travel time, Plaintiff resigned
from K several hours after receiving the offer. Pl.'s
Counter Stmt. ¶ 75. In an e-mail to Dedermann, Plaintiff
noted that K would “always be not just a work place .
. . but a family.” Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 320. She
also explained that she was seeking different opportunities,
including “some additional schooling.”
Id. Plaintiff later testified that the explanation
provided in her e-mail was an accurate summary of why she
decided to resign. Id. ¶ 322. Plaintiff also
confirmed that no one at K forced or threatened her to
resign. Id. ¶¶ 325- 328.
Plaintiff could not identify any specific incident with
Dedermann that pushed her to leave, she maintained that she
felt uncomfortable at the time of her resignation because
“the level of trust” between them had broken
down. Id. ¶ 330-31. Nevertheless, Plaintiff
never told anyone at K that she was considering resigning
because of the situation with Dedermann. Id. ¶
348. During Plaintiff's exit interview, Plaintiff told
Beegle that she was moving on to other things. Id.
¶ 351. Moreover, when Beegle asked Plaintiff whether she
wanted to work elsewhere within the company, Plaintiff
declined his offer. Id. ¶¶ 352-53. During
her deposition, Plaintiff stated that she currently
experiences anxiety because of everything that occurred at
K. Hopkins Dep. Tr. 485:3-13.
initiated this lawsuit on October 14, 2015. See ECF
No. 1. On December 18, 2015, Defendants filed a Motion for
Partial Dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint. ECF No. 3. On
June 29, 2016, the Court granted Defendants' Motion in
part and dismissed Plaintiff's federal and state overtime
claims without prejudice. See ECF No. 10. Plaintiff
then filed an Amended Complaint on July 12, 2016. Am. Compl.,
ECF No. 13. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts causes
of action for: (1) violations of the FMLA for failure to
offer Plaintiff FMLA leave and for subjecting Plaintiff to a
pattern of continuous harassment which led to her
constructive discharge; (2) violation of the New Jersey Law
Against Discrimination (“NJLAD” or
“LAD”) for unlawful discrimination on the basis
of her gender, age, disability, and/or national
origin; (3) violation of NJLAD for creating a
hostile work environment; (4) violation of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) for failure to pay
overtime compensation; (5) violation of the New Jersey Wage and
Hour Law (“NJWHL”) for failure to pay overtime
compensation; and (6) intentional infliction of emotional
distress. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 58-101. Defendants answered
the Complaint, ECF No. 176, and now seek summary judgment on
all claims except the timely overtime claims brought under
the FLSA and NJWHL, ECF No. 50.
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), a motion for summary judgment will be
granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with
available affidavits, show that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[S]ummary
judgment may be granted only if there exists no genuine issue
of material fact that would permit a reasonable jury to find
for the nonmoving party.” Miller v. Ind.
Hosp., 843 F.2d 139, 143 (3d Cir. 1988). All facts and
inferences must be construed in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Peters v. Del. River Port
Auth., 16 F.3d 1346, 1349 (3d Cir. 1994).
contend that they are entitled to summary judgment on
Plaintiff's constructive discharge claim because
Plaintiff has not shown that she was subjected to objectively
intolerable conditions. Defs.' Br. at 12-16. The Court
establish a claim for constructive discharge, Plaintiff must
show that Defendants “knowingly permitted conditions of
discrimination in employment so intolerable that a reasonable
person subject to them would resign.” Gross v.
Exxon Office Sys. Co., 747 F.2d 885, 888 (3d Cir. 1984).
“Intolerability . . . is assessed by the objective
standard of whether a ‘reasonable person' in the
employee's position would have felt compelled to
resign-that is, whether [she] would have had no choice but to
resign.” Tanganelli v. Talbots, Inc., 169
Fed.Appx. 124, 127 (3d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks
omitted); see McDonough v. Cooksey, 05-cv-00135
(JHR), 2007 WL 1456202, ...