Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., SANTIAGO-RAMO

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtWALLACE
Citation217 F.3d 46
Parties(1st Cir. 2000) NILSAlaintiff, Appellant, v. CENTENNIAL P.R. WIRELESS CORP.; ABC INSURANCE CO., Defendants, Appellees. Heard
Decision Date05 November 1999
Docket NumberSANTIAGO-RAMO,No. 99-1789,P

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217 F.3d 46 (1st Cir. 2000)
NILSA SANTIAGO-RAMOS, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
CENTENNIAL P.R. WIRELESS CORP.; ABC INSURANCE CO., Defendants, Appellees.
No. 99-1789
United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit
Heard November 5, 1999
Decided July 6, 2000

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Judith Berkan, with whom Mary Jo Mendez and Berkan/Mendez were on brief, for appellant.

Marshal D. Morgan, with whom Edwin J. Seda-Fernandez, Isabel Abislaiman and Axtmayer Adsuar Muniz & Goyco, P.S.C. were on brief, for appellee Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp.

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Before: Torruella, Chief Judge, Campbell and Wallace,* Senior Circuit Judges.

WALLACE, Circuit Judge.

Nilsa Santiago-Ramos sued her former employer, Centennial P.R. Wireless Corporation (Centennial), for sex discrimination and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII), and for violations of Puerto Rico law. A magistrate judge, sitting by consent of the parties, entered summary judgment for Centennial. The district court exercised jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §a1331, and we have jurisdiction over this timely appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

I

Our review of the record is in a light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Davila-Perez v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 202 F.3d 464, 466 (1st Cir. 2000).

Centennial, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Centennial Cellular Corp. (parent company), is a telecommunications business that began operations in Puerto Rico in early 1996. Amaury Rivera, Centennial's vice president and general manager, and Thomas Bucks, chief financial officer and comptroller of the parent company, interviewed Santiago-Ramos for a position as Centennial's director of finance and administration. Rivera gave Santiago-Ramos a written job offer dated June 12, 1996, which she accepted and returned as requested. Santiago-Ramos was chosen over two male applicants and received several work assignments before formally beginning work on July 1, 1996. She also signed a 90-day probationary contract dated July 1, but she disputes that the probationary contract is valid.

Santiago-Ramos was the only female among Centennial's four high-level executives. She was responsible for Centennial's finance, certain personnel matters (including oversight responsibility for the drafting and implementation of an employee manual), and some inventory assignments. Because Centennial was beginning operations in Puerto Rico, all employees' responsibilities were somewhat fluid and all were expected to work more than the normal 40-hour work week. Santiago-Ramos reported directly to Rivera in Puerto Rico and to Bucks at the parent company. Phil Mayberry, the parent company's senior vice president for Puerto Rico operations, was Rivera's direct supervisor and oversaw all Puerto Rico operations from his parent company office.

At the time she worked for Centennial, Santiago-Ramos had one child and planned to have another child within several years. After beginning work, she was directly asked about her ability to balance work and family obligations. In one instance, Rivera asked Santiago-Ramos whether it was possible for her to handle simultaneously her job, child care, and marital responsibilities. Several times, he questioned how her husband was managing, considering she was not home to cook for him. The questions were not asked only by Rivera: two weeks before she was dismissed, Mayberry asked Santiago-Ramos how well her work was proceeding in light of her child. She responded that her work was going well and that she planned to have a second child within several years. Mayberry stated that having another child was a lot of work, and he questioned whether Santiago-Ramos could perform her job effectively after having a second child. She responded that she would be able to meet both work and family obligations. Santiago-Ramos sensed that Mayberry disliked her response.

Another incident directly involved Santiago-Ramos, Rivera, and Mayberry. During Santiago-Ramos' tenure at Centennial, the company planned a major job fair at

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which a large number of employees would be hired. In preparation for the event, Rivera met with Santiago-Ramos and an advertising consultant. Rivera discussed a profile he drafted identifying the people the company was and was not interested in hiring. The profile purportedly excluded from consideration as Centennial employees older persons with heavy non-work commitments, married women, and women with children. Rivera told Santiago-Ramos that the profile was "nothing personal against you," but that he preferred unmarried, childless women because they would give 150% to the job. Later in this meeting, Rivera telephoned Mayberry, read the profile to him, and Mayberry approved it. Santiago-Ramos told Rivera that she opposed the profile, stating it was discriminatory. However, she never reported her objection to Mayberry or any other parent company representative. She did not actually see the profile, and questions regarding marriage and children were not included on the interview questionnaire used at the job fair.

Nor were these the only comments made by Rivera and Mayberry concerning women employees and pregnancy. For instance, Rivera allowed Santiago-Ramos to choose his new secretary. Santiago-Ramos hired Toni Mejas, a mother of two. When Rivera later discovered that Mejas had two children, he questioned Santiago-Ramos about whether her choice was a good one. On another occasion, Mayberry and a number of employees from the parent company visited Puerto Rico to assist in the Centennial job fair. Upon noticing that Santiago-Ramos was speaking with another female employee, Mayberry called out to nearby male employees, "guys watch out with the females, next thing we know they will be running the company." Also, Mejas heard Mayberry state that he did not like women with children working at Centennial. Other evidence puts Mayberry's comments in perspective: Bucks testified in a deposition that it did not surprise him that Mayberry questioned whether women with children could fulfill work responsibilities, and Rivera referred to Mayberry as a "big time machista."

Mayberry and Rivera were not the only Centennial and parent company employees who made comments about women, work, and children. We relate several instances by way of illustration. Two employees in Santiago-Ramos' department stated that a secretary at Centennial who was on maternity leave should not have become pregnant so soon after joining the company and that she would most likely be fired as a result. These same employees told Santiago-Ramos and Mejas separately that they should not get pregnant or they would be fired. On a trip Santiago-Ramos took for training at the parent company, one of the parent company's directors complained to Santiago-Ramos that his secretary stopped working late after having children, and "that is what happens when we hire females in the child-bearing years." A parent company employee, who came to Puerto Rico to assist with the job fair, told Santiago-Ramos that he was "in the interviewing mood," and asked her in front of a number of other employees how long she had been married, how many children she had, and what their ages were.

During her three months' employment at Centennial, several problems occurred that Centennial, at least partially, attributes to her. First, when a shipment of 500 telephones crucial to Centennial's telecommunications operations arrived, five telephones, with a combined value of $2000, were missing. Santiago-Ramos had inventory responsibility over this shipment, and that these units were missing was not discovered until several days after the telephones arrived. Second, Centennial incurred demurrage charges on a shipment containing communications towers because they were picked up at the San Juan docks late. However, Santiago-Ramos denies that she was responsible for ensuring that the towers were properly received. Third, electrical service was cut off at several Centennial locations because utility bills

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were unpaid. Santiago-Ramos was responsible to pay these bills, and Centennial bore reconnect charges to restore power. Fourth, the Centennial employee manual, over which Santiago-Ramos had ultimate oversight responsibility, was not completed during her employment.

Because Centennial was a start-up company, its employees were under constant evaluation. Nevertheless, neither Bucks nor Rivera ever told Santiago-Ramos that her work was unsatisfactory. When Santiago-Ramos came to the parent company for training two weeks before her dismissal, Mayberry stated that he had no intention of firing her. Rivera reported that up to the day Mayberry instructed him to do so, he also had no intention of firing her.

On September 27, 1996, Santiago-Ramos' 89th day of employment with Centennial, Mayberry told Rivera to dismiss her. Rivera did so without providing Santiago-Ramos an explanation. The events leading up to that decision are not entirely clear. For instance, Bucks testified in his deposition that he, Rivera, and Mayberry jointly discussed Santiago-Ramos' employment during the preceding week and collectively agreed that her employment should be terminated. Mayberry stated that he discussed firing Santiago-Ramos and his rationale for doing so several times with Rivera. However, Rivera recalls only one conversation, held the day Mayberry told him to fire Santiago-Ramos. The record contains a memorandum Rivera wrote dated September 27, 1996, stating that Santiago-Ramos was dismissed and identifying four reasons for doing so; however, Mejas, who typed the memorandum from Rivera's dictation, testified in a deposition that the memorandum was not prepared on September 27, and was only written after Santiago-Ramos initiated...

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