206 F.3d 271 (3rd Cir. 2000), 98-6410, Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co.

Docket Nº:98-6410
Citation:206 F.3d 271
Case Date:March 03, 2000
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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206 F.3d 271 (3rd Cir. 2000)




No. 98-6410

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

March 3, 2000

Argued: September 16, 1999

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. Civil No. 97-cv-01059) District Judge: Hon. Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr.

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David N. Mair, Esq. [ARGUED] Henry L. Saurborn, Jr., Esq. Kaiser, Saurborn & Mair 20 Exchange Place, 43rd Floor New York, NY 10005 Counsel for Appellant

Caren I. Friedman, Esq. [ARGUED] Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 1801 L Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20507 Counsel for EEOC, Amicus Curiae

Joel L. Finger, Esq. [ARGUED] Roberts & Finger 767 Third Avenue, 12th Floor New York, NY 10017 Counsel for Appellee

Before: GREENBERG, SCIRICA and RENDELL, Circuit Judges


RENDELL, Circuit Judge.

This appeal raises a number of employment law issues relating to the recruitment, hiring and later firing of appellant, Susan Farrell. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants Planters Lifesavers Company and Nabisco, Inc., on all of Farrell's claims.1 See Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 22 F.Supp.2d 372 (D.N.J. 1998). Farrell appeals the dismissal of her retaliation and quid pro quo sexual harassment claims under Title VII and the dismissal of her North Carolina contract law claim.2 Acting

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as Amicus Curiae, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission supports Farrell's appeal from the dismissal of her federal claims. We find that Farrell established a prima facie case for both federal causes of action, and we will reverse the grant of summary judgment precluding her retaliation and quid pro quo claims. We will, however, affirm the dismissal of her state contract law claim. We have jurisdiction over this appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S 1291. The District Court had jurisdiction over the Title VII claims under 28 U.S.C. S 1331, and exercised jurisdiction over the state law claim under 28 U.S.C. S 1332. Viewing the record from Farrell's perspective, the facts in this case are as follows.


In 1992, Planters, then located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, hired Douglas DeLong as its Director of Materials Management. One of DeLong's central tasks involved formulating a plan to cut operating costs in Planters' Materials Management Department. Beginning in the early 1990s and continuing through 1997, Planters sought to cut its operating costs by consolidating its workforce. DeLong quickly reorganized the Materials Management Department, bringing together the Purchasing, Packaging Services, Graphic Design and Production Planning Departments within the Materials Management Department and placing them all under his direct authority. In August 1993, DeLong wrote a memorandum to Norm Jungman, his supervisor, suggesting Planters merge the Packaging Services and Graphic Design Departments as part of its consolidation. DeLong explained that he hoped to merge the two departments by late 1994 or early 1995.

In late 1993, Planters decided to discharge the Director of Packaging Services, Ronald Yonker. Almost contemporaneously, Planters approached Susan Farrell, through a recruiter, to become a Packaging Engineer in the Packaging Services Department. Based on her qualifications, and DeLong's recommendation, Planters subsequently considered Farrell as a candidate to replace Yonker as Director of the Packaging Services Department. At the time, Farrell was a packaging engineer at McCormick & Company in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

In January of 1994, Farrell traveled to Winston-Salem to interview. By mistake, Planters had Farrell interview with Yonker, who did not know of the decision to fire him and believed Farrell to be interviewing for another position. Concerned about her own job security by virtue of Planters' treatment of Yonker, Farrell sought assurances during the recruitment process. DeLong assured her that she would only be fired for poor performance. A number of individuals told her that Yonker had been repeatedly warned about his performance before the decision was made to terminate him.

Planters formally offered Farrell Yonker's position, retitled as Senior Manager of Packaging Services, by letter dated February 4, 1994. Planters also promised to purchase Farrell's home in Maryland for $ 240,000 and pay for Farrell's relocation back to Maryland if her employment with Planters ended within two years because of "performance concerns or position elimination." Farrell accepted the offer on February 11, 1994, and relocated to North Carolina. She began work at Planters on March 28, 1994. Farrell's husband remained in Maryland.

In mid-November 1994, Farrell traveled to Chicago to attend a Pack Expo, an annual packaging exposition, with a number of Planters and Nabisco, Inc. managers. While attending the show, DeLong told Farrell that his supervisor, Norm Jungmann, was about to be fired and that he would assume Jungmann's position shortly. DeLong then praised Farrell's work performance, told her that he felt her

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style complemented his, and asked her if she would be interested in becoming the head of the Industrial Engineering Department in addition to her duties as manager of the Packaging Engineering Department once he replaced Jungmann.

A few hours later, DeLong asked Farrell to accompany him the next day on a planned business trip to Puerto Rico to tour a Planters' facility. DeLong instructed Farrell to book tickets on the same flight as his, with seats together. Farrell made the arrangements. DeLong and Farrell had traveled on business trips together on two prior occasions.

During the flight to Puerto Rico on November 16, 1994, DeLong placed his hand just above Farrell's knee while telling Farrell that his wife became jealous when he traveled with Farrell. He asked Farrell whether her husband became jealous when she traveled with DeLong. Farrell responded by removing his hand from her leg and firmly telling him "no, I don't give him a reason to and I suggest you do the same." Farrell says DeLong's demeanor changed when she rejected his advance: he turned away, curled up and slept or pretended to sleep.3 Farrell and DeLong engaged in little or no further conversation for the rest of the flight. The next day, DeLong flew back to Winston-Salem, informing Farrell that he was leaving a day early in order to find out more about Jungman's termination.

Farrell also says that DeLong often commented when she wore a skirt, and states that in October, DeLong told her that she was pretty calm considering she was living apart from her husband and that he would be "bitchier" if he were her. However, after the November flight, DeLong never made reference to the advance on the plane, nor made a second advance.

On December 13, 1994, less than a month after the trip to Puerto Rico and less than two weeks after Planters paid for her possessions to be moved to North Carolina and purchased her home in Maryland, Gary Eckenroth, Planters' Vice President for Human Resources, went to Farrell's office and asked her to come up to his office. On the way, Eckenroth told her that Planters was going to eliminate her position. Once inside his office where DeLong was waiting, Farrell says Eckenroth told her Planters would call her termination a position elimination, in order to allow Farrell to retain benefits and give her a severance package, but that she was actually being terminated because of interpersonal problems with other members of Planters' management. When Farrell asked for specifics, DeLong mentioned Suzanne Jabbour and Ed Lyons. He also made general reference to some others whom he did not name. After Farrell protested, questioning why Planters had just paid for movers and purchased her house in Maryland if they were terminating her, Eckenroth said that he did not know that Planters had just moved her. Eckenroth then asked DeLong to leave the room. Once DeLong left, Farrell says that Eckenroth told her that he had not checked DeLong's report of complaints and he promised he would do so.

The next day, Farrell spoke with Jabbour and Lyons and they both denied making negative comments to DeLong, but confirmed that DeLong had asked them about her. Lyons also told Farrell that he had told DeLong that he felt DeLong had a personal problem with Farrell. That same day, Farrell says Eckenroth told her that Jabbour and Lyons came to him and confirmed that they had not made negative comments about her to DeLong. In fact, DeLong's own internal memorandum, dated December 8, 1994 states "Ed Lyons

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said she was helpful with his group." Eckenroth also apologized for not having investigated DeLong's claim, but told Farrell that she would have to leave because rumors of her termination had begun to circulate. A few days later, Eckenroth talked to her about accepting the severance package in return for releasing her claims. Farrell did not agree to any terms of separation and left her position on December 28, 1994.

DeLong's memorandum, dated December 8, describes the events leading up to Farrell's termination. The memorandum refers to three conversations he had on December 7 and 8 with various Planters' managers who came to DeLong and complained about Farrell. The memorandum then refers to a meeting between DeLong and Eckenroth, spurred by these conversations, where they "discussed the option of eliminating" Farrell's position and merging the Packaging and Graphics Departments as DeLong had suggested in 1993.

DeLong notes that he spoke with Planters' managers, including Jabbour and Lyons, "to gather feedback about Farrell." DeLong summarizes their comments: "The most common response received was, `I don't know what she does.' `A lot of talk but no results.' `Nice suit, but nothing in...

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