Peda v. American Home Products Corp., No. C01-3020-MWB.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
Writing for the CourtBennett
Citation214 F.Supp.2d 1007
PartiesKaren PEDA, Plaintiff, v. AMERICAN HOME PRODUCTS CORPORATION, Parent Corporation of Ft. Dodge Animal Health, Inc.; Ft. Dodge Laboratories, Inc.; Erik Haack; and Brent Strandridge, Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. C01-3020-MWB.
Decision Date20 June 2002
214 F.Supp.2d 1007
Karen PEDA, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN HOME PRODUCTS CORPORATION, Parent Corporation of Ft. Dodge Animal Health, Inc.; Ft. Dodge Laboratories, Inc.; Erik Haack; and Brent Strandridge, Defendants.
No. C01-3020-MWB.
United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division.
June 20, 2002.

Page 1008

Neil A. Barrick, Barrick Law Office, Des Moines, IA, for Plaintiff.

Deborah M. Tharnish, Davis Brown Koehn Shors & Roberts, Des Moines, IA, for Defendants.

Page 1009

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

BENNETT, Chief Judge.


 TABLE OF CONTENTS
                 I. INTRODUCTION ......................................................... 1009
                 A. Procedural Background ............................................. 1010
                 B. Disputed And Undisputed Facts ..................................... 1011
                 II. DISCUSSION ........................................................... 1012
                 A. Standards For Summary Judgment .................................... 1012
                 1. Requirements of Rule 56 ........................................ 1012
                 2. The parties' burdens ........................................... 1013
                 3. Summary judgment in employment discrimination cases ............ 1013
                 B. Peda's Sex Discrimination Claims .................................. 1014
                 1. Analytical framework: The burden-shifting paradigm ............. 1015
                 2. Peda's prima facie case ........................................ 1016
                 a. Unwelcome sexual harassment ................................. 1017
                 b. Based on sex ................................................ 1019
                 3. Legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason ........................... 1020
                 C. Standridge And Haack As Proper Defendants ......................... 1021
                 D. Wage Payment Collection Claim ..................................... 1021
                III. CONCLUSION ........................................................... 1022
                

Because employment discrimination cases so often depend on inferences rather than on direct proof of discrimination, the Supreme Court has fashioned an order of proof and presumptions, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has cautioned against the use of summary judgment, in such cases. Still, "[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed `to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (citation omitted). In this case, the court is asked to determine whether the plaintiff's case is that rara avis among employment discrimination cases in which summary judgment is appropriate.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 17). In this employment discrimination case, the plaintiff avers two causes of action. First, the plaintiff claims that she was discriminated against based on her sex and seeks redress pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and the Iowa Civil Rights Act ("ICRA"), Iowa Code chapter 216. Second, the plaintiff asserts a claim under the Wage Payment Collection Law, Iowa Code chapter 91A, on the ground that she has been subjected to an underpayment of approximately $18,000 in lost commissions.

In their brief in support of their motion for summary judgment, the defendants principally addressed Ms. Karen Peda's ("Peda") claims of sexual discrimination by arguing that Peda could not establish a

Page 1010

prima facie case of discrimination based on disparate treatment. However, in her resistance, Peda maintained that she did not allege sex discrimination based on disparate treatment, but rather that "[t]his is a matter of a hostile work environment." [Pltf.'s Br., at 6]. And while the plaintiff nonetheless responded to the defendants' argument set forth in their brief regarding disparate treatment, the court deems Peda's statements as an acknowledgment that her complaint does not allege sex discrimination based on disparate treatment. Therefore, the court will not address this argument. Likewise, the defendants utilized their opportunity to file a reply brief to address Peda's hostile work environment sex discrimination claim.

In addition, the defendants (collectively referred to as "Fort Dodge Animal Health" or "FDAH") assert that even if Peda were able to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, she cannot overcome the defendants' proffered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for her termination — that Peda was indefinitely unable to work. The defendants also argue that, in any event, the plaintiff's sex discrimination claims asserted against her supervisors, Brent Strandridge and Erik Haack, in their individual capacities cannot stand. Thus, at issue on the plaintiff's claims of sex discrimination in this motion for summary judgment is whether the plaintiff has generated genuine issues of material fact with respect to her claim of sexual discrimination based on the creation of a hostile working environment.

In her resistance, Peda maintains that she indeed can establish a prima facie case of discrimination. She asserts that "factual disputes exist as to not only whether certain facts existed as claimed by Plaintiff and denied by Defendants concerning their actions, but also whether said actions constitute a hostile work environment." [Pltf.'s Br., at 7-8]. Further, she attempts to rebut the defendants' proffered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for her termination by arguing that the defendants cannot escape liability by proffering her leave as their legitimate nondiscriminatory reason when the defendants caused her inability to return to work. [Pltf.'s Br., at 9]. Peda also argues that her action against Standridge and Haack is proper and that they should not be dismissed from this litigation because "[q]uestions of fact exist for determination as to these defendants [sic] roles in the actions that led to plaintiff's disability and resulting termination form [sic] employment." [Pltf.'s Br., at 10].

Lastly, Peda contends that her cause of action under the Wage Payment Collection Law is timely, at least as it relates to her claim for wages two years prior to March 28, 2001 — the date on which she filed her petition for relief in Iowa state court. In addition, she argues that, while she had knowledge of the underlying facts giving rise to her claim in late 1998, these suspicions do not suffice to preclude her claim for wages prior to March 28, 1999. That is so because, according to Peda, her commissions could have affected quarterly and/or year-end bonuses.

A. Procedural Background

Peda filed this case on March 2, 2001. She amended her complaint on April 12, 2002 and averred three causes of action. First, she alleged sexual discrimination in violation of Title VII and the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Second, she alleged age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623 et seq. and the Iowa Civil Rights Act. And last, she made a claim pursuant to the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law. On May 1, 2002, however, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of Peda's age discrimination claims. (Doc. No. 24).

Page 1011

Thus, only Peda's sexual discrimination and wage claims remain at issue on this motion for summary judgment, which the defendants filed on April 17, 2002. (Doc. No. 17).

In this motion, Peda was represented by Neil Barrick of Barrick Law Firm, Des Moines, Iowa. The defendants were represented by Deborah Tharnish of Davis Brown Koehn Shors & Roberts, Des Moines, Iowa. A jury trial in this case is scheduled for August 19, 2002.

Subject matter jurisdiction over Peda's federal claim is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, which provides for original jurisdiction of claims under Title VII in the United States district courts. The court has jurisdiction over the state law claims alleging violations of the ICRA and the Wage Payment Collection Law under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), which confers "supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to the claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution."

B. Disputed And Undisputed Facts

Although the court will not attempt an exhaustive discussion of the disputed and undisputed facts presented by the record in this case, some discussion of the factual background is required to contextualize Peda's claims and the parties' arguments for and against summary judgment. Those facts include a brief synopsis of the nature of the defendants' business, Peda's employment with FDAH, and the circumstances surrounding Peda's termination from that employment.

Fort Dodge Animal Health sells and distributes veterinary pharmaceutical products. Peda began working for FDAH in June of 1996 as a companion animal pharmaceutical sales representative for the northern half of Iowa. As a territory manager, Peda reported to Erik Haack, the regional manager. Brent Standridge, another individual defendant named in this litigation, is Haack's superior and the senior vice president of sales and marketing for North America.

Peda's performance evaluations in both 1997 and 1998 were adequate, scoring a 70 out of a possible 100 points in the 1997 calendar year evaluation and a 69.5 in 1998. A score in the range of 60-69 points indicates a "marginal performance level," while a score in the range of 70-79 indicates a "good performance level." [Deft.'s App., at 26, 34]. Nevertheless, Peda received modest merit salary increases those years: 4.4% on January 1, 1998 and 4.23% on January 1, 1999. Peda's job performance problems included a failure to adequately push the sale of the drug Etogesic, which was a primary sales emphasis for FDAH. In fact, out of 79 full-time...

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4 practice notes
  • Holmes-Martin v. Leavitt, Civil Action No. 07-2128 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 7, 2008
    ...the plaintiff's argument fails to adequately rebut the defendant's non-discriminatory reason. Peda v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 1007, 1020 (N.D.Iowa 2002) (holding that the plaintiff's argument that the defendant "caused Plaintiff's inability to return to work" cannot "hold water......
  • Peda v. Fort Dodge Animal Health, Inc., No. C03-3010-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • November 24, 2003
    ...to generate a jury question on her claims of sex discrimination under both Title VII and the ICRA." Peda v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 1007, 1022 (N.D.Iowa 2002) ("Peda I"). As all of the federal law claims had been disposed of, this court exercised its discretion under 28 U.S.C. ......
  • Soto v. John Morrell & Co., No. C02-4029-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • October 6, 2003
    ...law should not substitute the language of the federal statutes for the clear words of the ICRA." Peda v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 1007, 1015 (N.D.Iowa 2002) (citation As retaliation claims under the ICRA are evaluated under the same standards as the federal retaliation claim, co......
  • Wright v. Ross Holdings, LLC, No. 14-1106
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • April 22, 2015
    ...or hostile that it poisoned the work environment." (citations and quotation marks omitted)); Peda v. Am. Home Products Corp., 214 F. Supp. 2d 1007, 1022 (N.D. Iowa 2002) (holding that defendant's motion for summary judgment to dismiss individual defendants is denied as moot because summary ......
4 cases
  • Holmes-Martin v. Leavitt, Civil Action No. 07-2128 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 7, 2008
    ...the plaintiff's argument fails to adequately rebut the defendant's non-discriminatory reason. Peda v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 1007, 1020 (N.D.Iowa 2002) (holding that the plaintiff's argument that the defendant "caused Plaintiff's inability to return to work" cannot "hold water......
  • Peda v. Fort Dodge Animal Health, Inc., No. C03-3010-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • November 24, 2003
    ...to generate a jury question on her claims of sex discrimination under both Title VII and the ICRA." Peda v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 1007, 1022 (N.D.Iowa 2002) ("Peda I"). As all of the federal law claims had been disposed of, this court exercised its discretion under 28 U.S.C. ......
  • Soto v. John Morrell & Co., No. C02-4029-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • October 6, 2003
    ...law should not substitute the language of the federal statutes for the clear words of the ICRA." Peda v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 1007, 1015 (N.D.Iowa 2002) (citation As retaliation claims under the ICRA are evaluated under the same standards as the federal retaliation claim, co......
  • Wright v. Ross Holdings, LLC, No. 14-1106
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • April 22, 2015
    ...or hostile that it poisoned the work environment." (citations and quotation marks omitted)); Peda v. Am. Home Products Corp., 214 F. Supp. 2d 1007, 1022 (N.D. Iowa 2002) (holding that defendant's motion for summary judgment to dismiss individual defendants is denied as moot because summary ......

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