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Hammel v. Marsh USA Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 6, 2016

MARNIE HAMMEL, Plaintiff,
v.
MARSH USA INC. and MARSH & MCLENNAN COMPANIES, INC. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Marnie Hammel filed suit against Marsh USA Inc. ("Marsh") and Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. ("MMC"), alleging violations of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), DC. Code Ann. §§2-1401.01 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act[1], arising out of Plaintiffs employment as a FINPRO Claims Advocate in Washington, D.C. Plaintiff alleges that her former employer, Defendant Marsh, discriminated against her on the basis of her sex, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, and pregnancy, and retaliated against her for reporting harassment. Presently before the Court is Defendants' [37] Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [2] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall GRANT-IN-PART and DENY-IN-PART Defendants' [37] Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background[3]

         Plaintiff Marnie Hammel, an attorney licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, worked for Marsh[4] for approximately five years, from May 2007 to July 2012. See Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 22, 111. For the entirety of her employment with Marsh, Plaintiff worked as a Claims Advocate in Marsh's Financial Products and Liability Practice ("FINPRO") group, which "advises client[s] on financial and professional exposures or management liability exposures." See Id. ¶¶ 3, 19, 80, 111; see or/so PL's Opp'n, ECF No. [42], at 2-3. Marsh's Claims Advocacy Practice is a division of FINPRO that analyzes a client's exposures, assists clients in policy drafting, interacts with insurance carriers on behalf of clients involved in litigation, obtains insurance coverage and payments for clients, and consults with clients on issues that arise in the course of a complex claim negotiation and/or settlement. -See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 6; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 6. The Claims Advocacy Practice is a national practice, with employees located in certain Marsh offices across the United States from New York to San Francisco, which, during the time relevant to the claims in this suit, comprised approximately 12-14 full-time employees. -See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 7; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 7.

         1. Plaintiff Works in Marsh's Chicago Office from 2007 to 2009

         In early 2007, Plaintiff interviewed with several Marsh Managing Directors[5] in Chicago and New York, including: Andrea Lieberman, at the time, the only FINPRO Claims Advocate in Chicago, David Nikolai, the Chicago FINPRO Practice Leader, and Lou Ann Layton, the head of the national FINPRO Practice. See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 12. Plaintiff was subsequently offered a position in the Claims Advocacy Practice in Marsh's Chicago office as a Vice President ("VP"). Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 14, 19. On April 4, 2007, Plaintiff signed a written job offer from Marsh for a Claims Advocate position, reporting to Ms. Lieberman. Id. ¶ 19. The offer letter specified that Ms. Hammel would have the officer title of VP and confirmed her annual base salary of $125, 000, which was the amount that Ms. Hammel had negotiated with Marsh as part of the interview process. Id. ¶¶ 14, 19; .see also PL's Offer Letter, Defs.'Ex. 11, ECF No. [37-3]. The offer letter also indicated that her compensation would be "considered for adjustment in succeeding years as part of our normal performance appraisal process." PL's Offer Letter, Defs.' Ex. 11, ECF No. [37-3].

         Ms. Hammel worked in Marsh's Chicago Office reporting to Managing Director Andrea Lieberman from May 14, 2007 until March 30, 2009, when she officially transferred to Marsh's Washington, D.C. office. See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 22; Hammel Dep. Tr, Defs.' Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 39:3-15.[6] During that time, Ms. Lieberman was a direct, outspoken, and demanding boss. -See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 23; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 23; Hammel Dep. Tr., Defs.' Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 62:22-67:21, 152:8-12. Plaintiff alleges, however, that Ms. Lieberman demanded more of Plaintiff in particular and that Ms. Lieberman was respectful and caring towards her other subordinates, but frequently disparaging of Ms. Hammel in public and in humiliating ways. See PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 23; Hammel Dep. Tr, Defs.'Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 63:13-64:13.[7]

         Plaintiff cites several incidents in July 2007 and November 2007 where Ms. Lieberman allegedly demanded that Ms. Hammel "suck it up and come into work" on days when Ms. Hammel had been sick with various illnesses, including a foot infection and bronchitis. See Hammel Diary (Nov. 12, 2007), Defs.'Ex. 4B, ECF No. [37-3]. Plaintiff alleges that throughout her illnesses, Ms. Lieberman would call her multiple times a day, leaving voice mails and scheduling Ms. Hammel for client meetings and calls when she knew Ms. Hammel was too ill to work. See Hammel Dep. Tr, Defs.' Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 58:3-18. After these incidents, Plaintiff informed David Nikolai, the Chicago FINPRO Practice Leader, who allegedly said that Ms. Lieberman was a Managing Director and that there was nothing he could do. Id. at 58:19-59:1. Upon learning that Plaintiff had brought the matter to Mr. Nikolai's attention, Ms. Lieberman allegedly called Plaintiff into her office, looked Plaintiff in the eye, and said that Plaintiff had "some fucking nerve complaining about a managing director in this company, " and that she put her hands on her desk, stood up, and yelled, "I'm your manager and I can be a bitch if I want to." See PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶¶ 25, 27; see also Hammel Dep. Tr., Defs.' Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 82:20-83:13.

         In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Lieberman told Ms. Hammel, in front of other colleagues, that she was all "smoke and mirrors, " that Ms. Lieberman was "surprised at how little" Ms. Hammel knew, and that it was Ms. Lieberman's "job to put [Ms. Hammel] in her place" and "cut her down to size." Hammel Dep. Tr, Defs.' Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 79:15-80:05. Plaintiff also alleges that Ms. Lieberman expressed disbelief that Ms. Hammel had any friends and that Ms. Lieberman chastised co-workers for befriending Ms. Hammel. Id. at 61:04-22, 69:19-70:08. Plaintiff also alleges that throughout her time working under Ms. Lieberman, Ms. Lieberman heavily scrutinized her work travel and required her to report to the office unnecessarily before work trips. Id. at 59:8-61:3. Plaintiff contends that Ms. Lieberman did not raise her voice, use foul language, or impose comparable expectations regarding leave and travel with respect to other employees. See Id. at 67:22-68:14; see also Hammel Decl., PL's Ex. 2, ECF No. [42-2].

         Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Lieberman specifically targeted Plaintiff because she is a lesbian and alleges that she did not fit within Ms. Lieberman's conception of a female subordinate employee. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Lieberman made disparaging comments and belittling facial gestures when Ms. Hammel discussed her same-sex partner and that Ms. Lieberman made comments regarding Ms. Hammel's status as a gay woman. Id. at 69:07-18. On one occasion, Ms. Lieberman allegedly referenced Ms. Hammel's sexual orientation by asking if a friend who was visiting in the office was gay, and when Ms. Hammel responded that the individual was not gay, Ms. Lieberman allegedly responded, "no offense, but why would she be friends with you [Ms. Hammel] then." Id. at 69:19-70:08. Plaintiff also alleges that Ms. Lieberman routinely made fun of Ms. Hammel's style and manner of dress and made comments regarding Ms. Hammel's athleticism, allegedly stating in front of clients and co-workers, "that's how you are, people like you"-which Ms. Hammel interpreted as a reference to her status as a lesbian. Id. at 78:02-79:07. Plaintiff also alleges that upon her nomination for a "superstar of the month" award, Ms. Lieberman asked Plaintiff whether the person who had nominated her for the award was gay. Id. at 70:09-18.

         Over the course of her time in Marsh's Chicago office, Plaintiff repeatedly complained of Ms. Lieberman's conduct to human resources, managers, and colleagues. Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 27, 39; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 27, 39. For example, Paul Denny, who in January 2008 took over for Mr. Nikolai as Chicago FINPRO Office Head, testified that Ms. Hammel came to him on at least ten occasions in 2008 with complaints about Ms. Lieberman. Denny Dep. Tr., Defs.'Ex. 13, ECF No. [37-3], at 14:7-25. Plaintiff alleges that upon her complaints to management, Ms. Hammel's supervisors frequently advised her that they were aware of the circumstances and that Ms. Hammel should "let it go." Hammel Dep. Tr., Defs.'Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 113:12-14.

         On December 15, 2008, Ms. Lieberman met with Ms. Hammel, informed Ms. Hammel that she was aware of Ms. Hammel's allegations, and questioned Ms. Hammel as to "why she would make false allegations of illegal conduct to Marsh N.Y." PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 25h; Lieberman's 12/15/08 notes, PL's Ex. 12, ECF No. [42-9]; Lieberman Dep. Tr, Defs.'Ex. 2, ECF No. [37-3], at 124:18-126:13. Ms. Lieberman also contacted Human Resources and expressed her concern that "there was an employee who made allegations that were so grossly unsupportable by fact." Lieberman Dep. Tr, Defs.'Ex. 2, ECF No. [37-3], at 131:3-132:1; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 25h.

         In late 2008, Ms. Hammel requested a transfer from Chicago to Washington, D.C with the hope of getting a fresh start in a different office. See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 43; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 43; see also Hammel Dep. Tr, Defs.' Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 12:4-10. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Lieberman, after learning that Ms. Hammel had requested a transfer to the Washington, D.C. office, called Ms. Hammel into her office and told her that "no one's job at this company is safe, " that "a lot of people were being fired, " that Ms. Hammel should "wait and see" as to whether she would keep her job, and that Ms. Hammel "had some nerve" requesting a transfer to a different office. See Hammel Dep. Tr., Defs.'Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 94:12-95:06. Ultimately, Ms. Hammel's transfer request was approved by several of FINPRO's seniors managers who believed that Ms. Hammel and Ms. Lieberman would both benefit from working in separate offices. See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 43; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 43; Brew Dep. Tr, Defs.' Ex. 6, ECF No. [37-3], at 76:25-77:6; Layton Def Tr, Defs.'Ex. 5, ECF No. [37-3], at 44:24-45:04. Plaintiffs transfer to the Washington, D.C. became effective March 30, 2009. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 47.

         During her two years in Marsh's Chicago office, Plaintiff received one "merit raise"-a salary increase from $125, 000 to $128, 500 in 2008-but did not receive an end-of-year bonus or a promotion in either 2008 or 2009. See Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 76-79; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶¶ 76-79. Plaintiff, however, did receive $10, 000 in 2009 to cover her moving expenses to Washington, D.C. See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 79; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶79.

         2. Plaintiff Works in Marsh's Washington, D.C. Office from 2009 to 2012

         Although Plaintiff would have a new supervisor in the Washington, D.C. office, Plaintiff continued to work with Ms. Lieberman on projects during Plaintiffs time in the Washington, D.C. office. See PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶¶25, 47; see also Hammel Emails, Pl.'sExs. 15, 16, 17, ECF Nos. [44-3], [44-4], [44-5]. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Lieberman would frequently reach out to Ms. Hammel for assistance on Chicago accounts and then would purposefully undermine Ms. Hammel's relationships with clients on those accounts. See PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶47; Hammel Dep. Tr, Defs.' Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 119:11-124:4. Plaintiff also alleges that Ms. Lieberman attempted to undermine her career prospects at Marsh and that Plaintiff s new supervisors told her that Ms. Lieberman and Mr. Nikolai "had basically poisoned the well" and that it was "not good to have an enemy in Dave Nikolai." Hammel Dep. Tr., Defs.' Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 105:04-106:09.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Ms. Lieberman attempted to ruin Ms. Hammel's wedding and related leave in September 2010 when Ms. Lieberman insisted that Ms. Hammel keep working on a Chicago account despite a request by the client's Managing Director to transfer the files back to Ms. Lieberman. See Hammel Dep. Tr., Defs.'Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 157:03-164:03; Mann Emails, PL's Ex. 23, ECF No. [44-7]. A few weeks later, Ms. Hammel got married to her fiancee and took leave to go on her honeymoon. See Hammel Dep. Tr, Defs.' Ex. 4, ECF No. [37-3], at 157:03-164:03. Upon her return, Ms. Hammel received a written discipline for insubordination and refusing to perform work assigned to her. See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 67, PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶79. Following Ms. Hammel's receipt of the written warning in November 2010, Ms. Hammel contacted Human Resources to dispute the written warning and to complain of Ms. Lieberman's treatment of her. See PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶25j. See also Hammel Emails, Pl.'sExs. 15, 16, 17, ECFNos. [44-3], [44-4], [44-5].

         In February 2011, Ms. Hammel became pregnant with twins. See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 94; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 94. On April 25, 2011, Ms. Hammel notified Human Resources that she was pregnant. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 93. During Ms. Hammel's pregnancy, Marsh approved each of the accommodations requested by Ms. Hammel, including working from home certain days during her pregnancy and granting her request for 21 weeks of maternity leave. (October 10, 2011 -February 27, 2012). See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 94; PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 94.

         While Ms. Hammel was on maternity leave, her supervisor, Damien Brew, lowered Ms. Hammel's prior performance rating of 4 to a rating of 3, or "Meets Expectations." See PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶ 94; Hammel 2011 Performance Review, PL's Ex. 25, ECF No. [44-8]. On January 13, 2012, while Ms. Hammel was still on maternity leave, she received an email from Ms. Lieberman informing Ms. Hammel that "many people do work from home when they are out on maternity leave" and that she expected the same from Ms. Hammel. Lieberman Emails, PL's Ex. 26, ECF No. [42-17]. Ms. Hammel contacted Mr. Brew and Human Resources regarding the email, and Mr. Brew clarified that Ms. Hammel was not required to work while on maternity leave. Brew Emails, Def'sEx. 34, ECF No. [37-5]. Mr. Brew and another executive, Paul Denny, were frustrated with Ms. Lieberman's behavior and agreed that Ms. Lieberman and Ms. Hammel should be separated. See PL's Resp. Stmt. ¶97, Brew Emails, Def'sEx. 34, ECF No. [37-5]. In an email from Mr. Brew to Mr. Denny, Mr. Denny commented, "[i]t is Ms. Lieberman's] one real weakness - Marnie. I have coached her, I have tried lecturing to her and nothing gets through. I know it's ridiculous but Andrea and Marnie should be kept apart as nothing good comes from them interacting with each other." Brew Emails, Def'sEx. 34, ECF No. [37-5].

         In late February 2012, Ms. Hammel returned from maternity leave. Mr. Brew informed her that she had not received a promotion, and that she would not receive a raise or a bonus. Hammel DecL, PL's Ex. 2, ECF No. [42-2], at ¶ 14. Later that spring, Mr. Brew and another executive, Ms. Layton, denied a request by Ms. Hammel to relocate to Tampa, Florida, stating that she would be "out of the loop" if she insisted on moving to Tampa because there was no FINPRO practice in Tampa. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 104. In June 2012, Ms. Hammel announced that she was going to resign, and on July 11, 2012, Ms. Hammel worked her last day for Marsh. Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 104-11; PL's Stmt. ¶¶ 104-11.

         During Ms. Hammel's three years in Marsh's Washington, D.C. office, Ms. Hammel did not receive a promotion, a raise, or a bonus. See Hammel Compensation History Report, PL's Ex. 33, ECF No. [44-12]; see also Hammel Decl., PL's Ex. 2, ECF No. [42-2], at ¶¶ 11-14; PL's Stmt. ¶¶ 106.

         B. Procedural History

         Six days after her resignation, on July 17, 2012, Ms. Hammel filed Charges of Discrimination with both the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights ("DCOHR"), alleging that she was constructively discharged on June 26, 2012, and asserting discrimination on the basis of her sex, age, [8] sexual orientation, maternity, and retaliation. Defi's Stmt. ¶ 112. Ms. Hammel filed suit on April 25, 2014, in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, alleging twenty claims: 13 claims under the DCHRA, 5 claims under Title VII, and 2 claims under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. See generally CompL, ECF No. [1-1]. Defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on June 6, 2014.

         On February 10, 2015, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order dismissing Plaintiffs Title VII claims against Defendant MMC for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and dismissing Plaintiffs constructive discharge claims to the extent that they are asserted as independent bases for liability. See Mem. Opinion and Order (Feb. 10, 2015), ECF Nos. [13], [14]. Accordingly, the following 18 claims are currently before the Court:

(1) Sex Discrimination - Hostile Working Environment and Harassment - DCHRA;
(2) Sex Discrimination - Disparate Treatment in Pay and Promotions - DCHRA;
(3) Sexual Orientation Discrimination - Hostile Working Environment and Harassment - DCHRA;
(4) Sexual Orientation - Disparate Treatment in Pay and Promotions - DCHRA;
(5) Retaliation - Hostile Working Environment and Harassment - DCHRA;
(6) Retaliation - Disparate Treatment in Pay and Promotions - DCHRA;
(7) Pregnancy Discrimination - Hostile Working Environment and Harassment -DCHRA;
(8) Pregnancy Discrimination - Disparate Treatment in Pay and Promotions -DCHRA;
(9) Parental Status - Hostile Working Environment and Harassment - DCHRA;
(10) Parental Status - Disparate Treatment in Pay and Promotions - DCHRA;
(11) Marital Status - Hostile Working Environment and ...

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