WILDI v. ALLE-KISKI MEDICAL CENTER

Filing 40

MEMORANDUM OPINION granting in part and denying in part 22 Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. As set forth more fully within defendant's motion for summary judgment with respect to count I (violation of the Equal Pay Act) will be denied, and the motion with respect to count II (retaliation under 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3)) will be GRANTED. Signed by Judge Joy Flowers Conti on 9/19/09. (cal )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA LORRI SUE WILDI, Plaintiff, v. ALLE-KISKI MEDICAL CENTER part of The West Penn Allegheny Health System, Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) CIVIL ACTION NO. 08-284 MEMORANDUM OPINION CONTI, District Judge. Pending before the court is a motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 22) filed by defendant Alle-Kiski Medical Center ("defendant" or "Alle-Kiski") seeking judgment in defendant's favor with respect to all claims asserted by plaintiff Lorri Sue Wildi ("plaintiff" or "Wildi"), a former vice-president of operations of defendant. Plaintiff filed a complaint asserting two counts (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff asserts claims for (1) unequal pay in violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. 206(d) (the "Equal Pay Act") and (2) retaliation in violation of 29 U.S.C. 215(a)(3) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.A. 201 et seq. ("FLSA"), after Wildi was fired subsequent to complaints related to the Equal Pay Act. Factual Background Defendant Alle-Kiski is a medical facility that is part of the West Penn Allegheny Health System. Cindy Schamp ("Schamp") became the CEO of Alle-Kiski in the spring of 2003. 1 (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts not in Dispute ("DSMF") 21.) Plaintiff began working for Alle-Kiski in 1983 as director of operations. By the fall of 2003, plaintiff was promoted to the position of vice-president of operations. (DSMF 1.) Plaintiff had a masters degree in public management and her bachelor's degree in health planning and administration. (DSMF 26.) Schamp was president and CEO of Alle-Kiski during the duration of Wildi's employment as vice-president. (DSMF 4.) Schamp made recommendations for restructuring a new organizational team for the West Penn Allegheny System in 2003 after she was hired. (DSMF 5.) Schamp created four vice-president positions, one of which was filled by Wildi. The other three vice-presidents were Michael Harlovic ("Harlovic"), the vice-president of patient care services; George Sandora ("Sandora"), the vice-president of business operations and director of finance; and Bill Englert ("Englert"), the vice-president of operations and business development. All vice-presidents were members of defendant's senior management team. Other members of the senior management team were Arthur Jackson Davis ("Davis"), the director of human resources, and Radha Kambhampati, M.D. ("Kambhampati"), the vice-president of medical affairs. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. B ("Wildi Dep.") at 41; DSMF 2.) Plaintiff's Salary Concerns Vice-presidents were compensated with a combination of base salaries and executive bonuses. The bonuses were generated based upon an evolving compensation formula determined by the performance of the overall organization. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. C ("Schamp The Joint Concise Statement of Material Facts consists of defendant's statement of material facts not in dispute with plaintiff's answers in section I, containing paragraphs 1 through 46 on pages 1 through 13, and plaintiff's statement of material facts not in dispute with defendant's answers in section II, containing paragraphs 1 through 102 on pages 14 through 40. To avoid any confusion that could arise from the duplicative paragraph numbers, citations to the joint statement will be referenced as "DSMF" or "PSMF" followed by the appropriate paragraph number. 1 2 Dep.") at 38-39.) The health system generated a pool of funds for bonuses, which was later divided into individual bonuses. (Id.) Schamp would evaluate the goals set out by each vicepresident and determine which individual goals furthered the overall performance of Alle-Kiski the most. (Id.) Schamp recommended what percentage of the pool should be allocated to each vice-president. The bonuses were set as a percentage of the base salary. When the vice-presidents first assumed their positions, they all made the same base salary of $103,001.60. (DSMF 7.) Despite receiving an identical salary in 2004, the vice-presidents received different bonus compensation. In 2004, Harlovic and Sandora each received a bonus of $30,000.00, Englert received a bonus of $28,000.00, and Wildi received a bonus of $26,000.00. (PSMF 36; Schamp Dep. at 38-39.) In 2005, the bonuses increased for each individual. Harlovic and Sandora each received $35,000.00, Englert received $31,900.00, and Wildi received $28,800.00. (PSMF 40.) The next year, 2006, was a less robust financial year and the bonuses decreased slightly for each employee. Harlovic received $31,300.00, Sandora $31,100.00, Englert $29,500.00, and Wildi $23,000.00. (PSMF 45.) By 2007, the salaries of the four vice-presidents continued to diverge. The base salaries, which were the same from 2004 through 2006, were no longer identical. The base salaries were: (1) Harlovic $133,348.80, (2) Sandora $126,723.20, (3) Englert $114,192.00, and (4) Wildi $113,360.00. (PSMF 46.) In addition, all four received executive bonuses. (PSMF 51-52.) That year, Harlovic earned the largest bonus measured in either percentage of base salary or in total dollar amount; Wildi earn the smallest bonus measured either in terms of percentage or dollar amount. (Id.) 3 Schamp testified that even though Wildi and Englert had comparable jobs, Englert received a higher merit bonus because Wildi experienced some work setbacks. (Schamp Dep. at 55.) Wildi struggled with core laboratory transition in 2007, which was one, but not the sole, benchmark for why Wildi earned a lower merit bonus. Schamp factored in feedback from the system team members and meetings with other departments. (Id.) Defendant contends that Harlovic and Sandora consistently made more money because the pool of individuals qualified for a chief financial officer and chief nurse executive positions were particularly small. (Schamp Dep. at 59-61.) According to Schamp, the positions held by Harlovic and Sandora required more on-the-job experience and additional licenses such as CPA and nursing licenses. (Id.) Schamp testified that Englert's position was not like the other members of the team, and therefore, his salary was not comparable to the other vice-president positions. (Id. at 59.) Formal Complaints to CEO In 2004, plaintiff began to suspect that her salary was lower than her male counterparts and also lower than what other vice-presidents made in similar jobs. Through her contact with her colleagues, plaintiff felt there was a serious salary discrepancy. (Wildi Dep. at 50.) Plaintiff testified that, in discussing issues with Englert with respect to market compensation: We had discussed the fact that based on our relationships that we had with colleagues within the system and information that he had and, of course, I had through my travels, that Alle-Kiski Medical Center vice presidents were paid less than other vice presidents with similar or equal duties and responsibilities, skill sets, et cetera, at our sister facilities. (Wildi Dep. at 52.) When comparing her own salary to those of neighboring facilities such as West Penn Hospital, Allegheny General, and Forbes Regional, Wildi felt that she, along with her 4 colleagues, were not paid their market value and consequently were paid less than vicepresidents at those other facilities. (Wildi Dep. at 52.) Wildi became frustrated that she was making less money than her male counterparts, whose jobs she perceived were equal to her job. (See Id.) On April 26, 2007, Wildi made a direct complaint to Schamp. (Wildi Dep. at 61-62.) Wildi expressed three concerns. First, she requested a salary review. She sought a salary review because she "was being paid less than [her] counterparts on the senior team, all of whom were male, for positions of similar, if not the same, duties, responsibilities, qualifications, et cetera." (Id. (emphasis added).) Second, she raised her concerns that individuals in positions similar to hers in the West Allegheny Health System were paid a higher salary. Third, Wildi asserted that her salary was not comparable to what the market salary was for her skill set. (Id.) Schamp promised to undertake a salary review for Wildi, but did not take action with respect to the situation. (Id.) Plaintiff and Schamp specifically discussed gender pay inequities. (Wildi Aff. 25.) On July 2, 2007, Wildi again raised the salary issue with Schamp. (Wildi Dep. at 63.) Wildi had not heard back from Schamp concerning the matter and was following up on her complaint. (Id.) Schamp stated that she would follow up with John Lasky ("Lasky") about the matter. (Wildi Dep. at 63.) Lasky was the new vice-president of human resources at that time. (Id.) Wildi reiterated her concerns over gender inequity in pay among the members of the senior team. (Wildi Aff. 28.) On September 17, 2007, Wildi approached Schamp about the salary review. Schamp had not taken action with respect to the matter. Wildi expressed frustration and concern that she had waited five months for a response. (Id. at 70-72.) 5 On November 19, 2007, Schamp issued Wildi her yearly executive bonus check. (Wildi Dep. at 74.) Schamp told Wildi that Lasky was looking into her salary review, and Lasky had spoken to Keith Smith ("Smith"), who was the CEO for the West Penn Allegheny System. (Id.) Schamp alerted Wildi that she would receive a response within two to three weeks. (Id.) After the series of meetings with Schamp, Wildi alleges that her relationship with Schamp deteriorated. Wildi noted that, at a September 17, 2007 meeting, Schamp became angry with Wildi concerning the salary review and advised Wildi to not have a similar conversation with other CEOs. (Id. at 77.) Wildi attempted to maintain a strictly professional relationship with Schamp, rather than attempting to also forge a personal relationship. (Id. at 79.) Wildi felt that Schamp began to treat her differently and Wildi consistently felt left out of senior team meetings. (Id.) Wildi felt left out because Schamp would sometimes include Harlovic, Sandora, and Englert in meetings, without including Wildi. (Id.) For example, for financial review meetings, Schamp testified that Harlovic and Sandora regularly attended along with herself; Kambhampati would occasionally attend. (Schamp Dep. at 115.) Others from within defendant's organization were routinely invited. (Id. at 118.) Vice-President Positions In 2004, when the vice-president title was created, Harlovic, Sandora, Englert and Wildi started at the same base salary of $103,001.60. (DSMF 7.) According to Wildi, all four vicepresidents had similar duties and responsibilities at the hospital. All the vice-presidents were responsible for ancillary departments and cost centers. (Wildi Dep. at 42-43.) All the vicepresidents maintained physician relationships and sat on the senior management team of AlleKiski. (Id.) Within the organizational structure Alle-Kiski had adopted during the relevant time period, there were four "pillars of success." Wildi alleges that each vice-president was in charge 6 of one pillar; her pillar of success was service. (Id.) Finally, prior to the reorganization in 2003, the vice-presidents were previously directors of their respective operations. When they became vice-presidents, the scope of their responsibilities grew to encompass more duties. (Id.) Defendant, however, rejects plaintiff's assertion that the vice-president positions were similar. Defendant relied upon a number of job requirement sheets as evidence of the differences in the position requirements. (See Davis Aff. (Doc. No. 21).) Wildi, however, alleges that defendant created "job requirement sheets" after she was fired, since she never saw them during her tenure with defendant. (Wildi Dep. at 78.) The job requirement sheets are copyrighted 2008. (See, e.g., Davis Aff., Ex. A.) Harlovic's Position Davis stated that the role of vice-president of patient care services required a master's degree in nursing, healthcare administration, business administration, or a clinical/medical degree. (Davis Aff., Ex. A.) He further stated that the job required ten years experience in the administration of clinical support services in a hospital and a license as a professional nurse, and required knowledge of the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of HealthCare Organizations ("JCAHO") standards and Pennsylvania Department of Health regulations. (Id.) Harlovic was the vice-president of patient care services during the time period at issue, and made the most money of all the vice-presidents when considering both salary and executive bonuses. With respect to Harlovic's position, Schamp testified that: The skill set required for [the vice-president of patient care services] under the policies of the Department of Health, which govern the hospital, and Joint Commission, which sort of makes sure Medicare can pay us, hospitals are heavily regulated. We're required to have a head of nursing. In my case, I use [sic] patient care executive to reflect an individual who is broadly trained and has a master's degree in 7 nursing and is able to clinically oversee those departments, has the background and educational preparation in with a master's degree to be able to provide that and is a registered nurse and has to maintain their licensing and that type of thing. .... So the State, when they oversee our psychiatric units, require those units to report up to a master's prepared nurse, and so Michael [Harlovic] can provide that because we don't have directors that have that preparation. So he fits two pieces of the regulations that were required to have that skill set. .... Well, the other skill set is a it really comes with clinical preparation of oversight of our ability to affect core measures, things like surgical site infections, congestive heart failure, those types of initiatives as an institution, to manage those; as well as oversee our school of nursing. We have a school of nursing. I referenced earlier growing that school. Mr. Harlovic has a history with academic programs. He actually sits on the advisory board for the Butler School of Nursing, and then he provides the leadership direction up through the school of nursing and then on to me, but as the direct contact of the growth of the school. So those would be some inherent skill sets that he has. (Schamp Dep. at 168-69.) Schamp testified: Mr. Harlovic's role and his responsibility was also to be, if you will, second in command. Whenever I was on vacation or gone from the institution, with only one exception that I can think of in the five years that I was there, Michael Harlovic would step in to sign locum tenens agreements for doctors, interim privileges for the medical staff. Someone needs to sign off on those administratively. He would manage any of the regulatory issues, people who would show up, inspectors, complaints, formal issues. He was accountable in my absence. He would act as that individual. (Id. at 170.) The one exception Schamp mentioned was when both Harlovic and Schamp were on vacation at the same time; Sandora assumed those responsibilities on that occasion. (Id.) 8 In contrast to defendant's evidence, Wildi affirmed that "I performed all the duties listed under the `Job Responsibilities' section of the job description of Vice President Patient Care Services." (App'x to Pl.'s Br. in Opp. To Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 7 ("Wildi Aff.") 6.) "In addition, although the `Job Summary' section of the job description states that the Vice President Patient Care Services is responsible for outpatient services, respiratory therapy, and service excellence, I was actually responsible for those areas during my tenure at AKMC." (Id. 11.) Wildi also stated that "Harlovic did not engage directly in patient care. In fact, the employees who reported to him did not perform patient care either. It was only the employees two levels down in the chain of command that actually performed patient care duties that would require a nursing degree." (Id. 12 (emphasis added).) With respect to the chain of command, Wildi stated: Harlovic did not act as "second in command" until about 2 and years into Cindy Schamp's tenure as CEO. Then, he acted as second in command only when Schamp was on vacation. However, if one of the other Vice-Presidents was scheduled to be "Administrator on Call" that week, we acted as the person in charge of the hospital in Schamp's absence. (Id. 13.) Sandora's Position Davis testified that the role of vice-president of business operations or chief financial officer required a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science in accounting and a certified public accountant ("CPA") license. (Davis Aff. Ex. B.) Sandora held this position, and consistently made the most money behind Harlovic. Schamp testified that, with respect to the skills and responsibilities for the position of vice-president of business operations and director of finance, the position: 9 requires an individual broadly trained and educated in finance and accounting with preparation and understanding of cost accounting; of Medicare payment systems; of reimbursement methodology; of the complex rules and regulations that govern how hospitals bill and receive payments; how we created charge masters, the systems that we use to create what the whole universe hates as how hospitals charge; and is responsible to manage transfer of funds; oversight of our all of our accounts; the issues related to benefits and pension; and prepare hospital accounting statements, such as we looked at earlier related to our monthly reviews; and is very skilled in accrual-based accounting, which in unique to hospitals. (Schamp Dep. at 172.) Schamp stated that Wildi could not assume the responsibilities of Sandora, because: She had no preparation, that financial skill set; was unfamiliar with cost accounting; Medicare methodologies. That individual would have been assigned from corporate finance to try to cover that gap, because you were accountable to manage those funds from a stewardship of those resources and legally protect the asset of the institution with individuals trained to do that. That was not [Wildi]'s preparation and/or training. (Id. at 173.) Schamp testified: So George [Sandora] prepares the P&L statements, the activities, the balance sheet, the statement of account, all of those kinds of things for the board from a finance perspective. He is responsible to do it, not someone in a department that reports to him. It's very different than food service, which has a manager that's accountable for all that that just meets with him on a monthly basis to give him updates. (Id. at 201.) Schamp testified that Sandora's position had two functions: business operations, and directing finance. (Id. at 204.) On Sandora's resume, it says that, as vice-president of business operations/director of finance, he: Reports in matrix environment to the Chief Executive Officer of the Alle Kiski Medical Center and the Vice President of Finance of the West Penn Allegheny Health System. Responsibilities include oversight of financial statement preparation and reporting, 10 budgeting, strategic financial planning, contract and program evaluations, and revenue cycle management. Direct responsibility areas also include medical records, patient access and scheduling, nutrition services, environmental services, and patient transport services with dotted line responsibility in information systems and patient accounting areas. Accomplishments include bottom line improvement from negative total margins exceeding four percent in each of the past three years, implementation of the clinical documentation management program, formation of the AKMC Trust for perpetual fundraising capabilities, and implementation of several revenue cycle improvement initiatives. (Davis Aff., Ex. D.) Although Schamp believed Wildi did not have the ability to perform the duties that Sandora performed, Wildi presented evidence claiming that she had the background to do so, and did indeed perform duties very similar to those of Sandora. Wildi stated that: "I also performed many of the duties listed under the job description for Chief Financial Officer, a title which George Sandora never held while I was employed by AKMC. I also have a background in finance in that I took healthcare finance courses in my graduate program." (Wildi Aff. 15.) Wildi additionally stated that "[i]n collaboration with George Sandora, I was responsible for preparing business plans for all capital projects within my assigned departments. Because I had responsibility for many capital intensive departments, I prepared many financial business plans." (Id. 16.) Englert's Position Davis declared that Englert's position as vice-president of business operations and business development included principal responsibilities "in the area of business development with respect to the hospital's comprehensive market and service line strategies, physician recruitment, relations and employment practices, and collaborative market relations with community services such as nursing homes." (Davis Aff., 8.) Schamp testified: 11 The vice president for business operations and business development . . . [required] solid preparation in business and an ability to create strategy, work closely with physicians, work very closely with the community on creation of strategic development opportunities, to grow business for the institution. There was an oversight of internal departments, and then there was a very large focus of that job external to the organization to grow, nurture relationships, understand physician practices. In particular, we grew a number of primary care practices and/or employed primary care physicians through our health system arm called AMPN, Allegheny Medical Practice Network. And Bill [Englert] was very involved in the negotiations, nurturing those relationships with those physicians to get them to contract with the institution and/or stabilize and maintain their relationship, because we were pretty far from the city relative to AMPN. So he really acted as sort of the conduit to manage that dynamic. (Schamp Dep. at 174.) Schamp testified that skills between the vice-president positions held by Wildi and Englert were different in several ways: There was a substantial amount of knowledge-base and awareness of physician practice management and how physician offices run and are operated organizationally, which was very different than the position [Wildi] held in operations within the hospital. Physician practices are a very different beast. .... [Wildi] had no background of effectively running physician practices or understanding the nature of those, most recently seen in Joslin, which is our diabetic center, which has a physician component, a struggling part of the institution. It runs more like a physician practice than a department. Bill [Englert] has an understanding and awareness of those. And to be able to grow our volumes, which was why our financials were where they were, we needed someone who could grow those physician components and keep those on track and maintain those relationships, as opposed to start from scratch learning that piece effectively. (Id. at 175-76.) Schamp testified that Englert's position had two functions: operations, and business development. (Id. at 204.) 12 On Englert's resume, it states "Coordination of all activities related to marketing and outreach services including PriorityCare (Affinity Program for senior citizens), Communications and Marketing, Community Outreach, Speakers' Bureau, Destination Wellness (Health Resource and Education Center in the Pittsburgh Mills Mall), Physician Liaison and Business Development Team." (Davis Aff., Ex. G.) Englert's resume states he was a "Liaison with System-wide services related to:" "Physician Recruitment," "Growing Initiatives," and "Strategic Planning." (Id.) The resume also states Englert "Served as AKMC representative for various system-wide initiatives such as:" "Project BEST in 1999 an initiative that identified and implemented cost reduction strategies totaling $52 million," and "SMART Project 2003 - the development and implementation of system-wide revenue cycle enhancement initiatives." (Id.) Wildi disputes Schamp's testimony that Englert was responsible for physician practices: Englert was not responsible for managing physician practices. AKMC and West Penn Allegheny Health Systems have staff assigned to the management of physician office practices. This is handled through the Allegheny Medical Practice Network and Allegheny Specialty Practice Network. Moreover, I am qualified to and would be comfortable with managing physician practices. (Wildi Aff. 23.) Wildi also stated that "In my role as Vice President of Operations, I was directly involved in physician recruitment, physician relations, identifying opportunities for service line development, and collaborating with community services, such as Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, American society." (Id. 21.) Wildi's Position According to Wildi, her responsibilities as vice-president of operations included administrative responsibility of several ancillary departments, physician liaison work, medical directorship contracts, and service excellence champion for Alle-Kiski and the West Penn Allegheny Health System. (Wildi Dep. at 33-35.) Wildi testified: 13 I had administrative responsibility for various departments, ancillary departments, within the organization. I had responsibility for some physician relations work, physician liaison work, things like that. I managed medical directorship contracts for the organization. I served as the service excellence champion not only for Alle-Kiski Medical Center, but also for the West Penn Allegheny Health System. I represented the organization at that level, and, as it evolved, throughout the four years, the scope, obviously, grew as the programs continued to grow, as new technology was introduced into the organization. I assumed more responsibility there for upgrading technology, upgrading facilities, programs, et cetera. I took additional ancillary departments that I, initially, was not responsible for, so the scope continued to grow throughout that period of time. (Wildi Dep. at 34-35.) Wildi's ancillary departments included: laboratory, medical imaging, cardiovascular services, special services, oncology, Citizens Ambulatory Care Center, rehabilitation services, and service excellence. (App'x to Pl.'s Br. in Opp. To Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 6.) She testified that she had off-site responsibilities: I managed the Citizens Ambulatory Care Center which was the former Citizens General Hospital. I was responsible for that campus. I managed our off-site rehabilitation service providing OT and PT. I managed our outpatient lab draw stations that were located throughout the community, and I managed our outreach, and that was entitled Pro Lab Laboratory Service. (Id.) Wildi stated her job required business development, including "[c]reation of new programs and services to generate revenue for the organization and physician recruitment." (Id. at 60.) On Wildi's resume, it lists under "Duties and Responsibilities": Primary focus was to ensure that the highest quality service was obtained by the organization; developed a combined approach that successfully defined clear operational goals and objectives, introduced and maintained efficient processes as well ensured ontime deliverables and exceptional customer service. Directed the organization's major revenue-producing departments, including Medical Imaging, Cardiology and Vascular Services, Laboratory, Neurodiagnostics, Respiratory Medicine and Pulmonary Medicine. 14 Oversaw operations for the Joslin Diabetes Center serving over 300 patients annually as well as the Citizens Ambulatory Care Center, which introduced MRI services in the immediate area. Responsible for regulatory and accreditation departmental compliance, including JCAHO, Department of Health, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Environmental Protection. Negotiated hospital-based physician employment contracts in Radiology, Laboratory and Physiatry. Served as committee member for Medical and Quality Affairs, Strategic Planning, Cancer Care, Organizational Performance Improvement and Radiation Safety. Introduced shadowing, bottom-up recommendations and process improvement to ensure achievement of organizational goals. (Def's Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. A.) Under the heading "Accomplishments: Expansion," plaintiff's resume states: Introduced the Joslin Diabetes Center in response to the increasing need in the demographic area; negotiated contract to become a Joslin sub-affiliate; directed building and planning logistics prior to launch; actively recruited an endocrinology group to staff the facility. Expanded outpatient Medical and Radiation Oncology services by partnering with specialty physicians within the hospital system; generated increasing volume and revenue, with a 12-15% first year increase. Provided operational data to successfully negotiate a contract extension for the Citizens Ambulatory Care Center facility to ensure the continuation of healthcare services to Westmoreland County residents. Redesigned the Joint Replacement Program to include presurgical consultation and education on exercise and adaptability training to achieve better clinical outcomes. Introduced new location for MRI services, increasing hospital market penetration from 16% to 30%; served as project manager and oversaw all aspects of this $1.8 million expansion project. (Id.) Under the heading "Accomplishments: Cost Savings," plaintiff's resume states: 15 Achieved $1 million in annual savings by upgrading the Medical Imaging department from a traditional film-based model to a PACS environment; served as project manager for this $2.2 million upgrade. Realized annual cost savings of $500,000 and system-wide equipment standardization by successfully reinstrumenting clinical within the Laboratory to include Chemistry, Hematology, Immunology and Microbiology. Restructured Laboratory and Medical Imaging departments to improve operational efficiency, expand capabilities and reduce turnover by providing opportunities for staff growth. Initiatives reduced no-show rate in Rehabilitation department by 20% as well as reduced patient wait times and significantly increased patient satisfaction scores. (Id.) Under the heading "Accomplishments: Patent Satisfaction," plaintiff's resume states: Launched a cultural transformation that led to the first "Excellence Makeover" to optimize orthopedic patient care; success required extensive staff training and education. Created and oversaw organizational and departmental goals through the development of a "Four-Pillar Model" based on the balanced scorecard; this cascading goal concept equally coordinated financial, service, quality and growth goals through a visual model to drive organizational outcomes and success. Implemented elements of the Toyota Production Model allowing frontline workers to `pull the cord' to stop any observed problems and to identify the necessary resources to change the course immediately. As Senior Service Excellence Champion, directed all activities relating to in- and outpatient satisfaction by analyzing data and developing and implementing corrective recommendations arising from the Press Ganey monitoring tool; also served as liaison for training of staff. (Id.) Schamp admitted Wildi and Englert had very similar positions. (Schamp Dep. at 149.) The responsibilities, however, were not identical in Schamp's opinion: Much of the work that Mr. Englert does and Bill did at that particular time for me, in particular, was around strategic 16 development and physician services, the growth of that; the development of our retail strategy, which was Destination Wellness; and the work associated with many programmatic and project types of work that were in Bill's head. He had a lot more of things that he he had the intellectual capital in his brain, if you will, to lift those projects. Lorri had a large number of directors that she oversaw that were solid directors in each of those jobs that could functionally report to other people. Bill's position there were a number of initiatives with nursing homes, with physician practices, with congruent housing projects. Many of those initiatives that were part of the work that Bill was attempting to lift through his direct work with those individuals were critical to filling our beds and growing volume . . . . (Id. at 150.) Schamp testified: "I believe I referenced that as part of the things that Bill had the did not have departmental directors; he had a lot of things that he was personally charged with doing, including the work with the nursing homes, the work with the doctors and the emergency department lift." (Id. at 156.) Although Schamp testified that Englert had different responsibilities with respect to physicians than Wildi, Wildi, as already noted, refuted that Englert managed physician practices. (Wildi Aff. 23.) Schamp testified that each of the four vice-presidents maintained physician relationships and were responsible for administrative oversight within the defined cost centers that they were assigned. (Schamp Dep. at 192-94.) Each of the four attended monthly board of trustees meetings and senior team leadership meetings. (Id. at 194.) Wildi testified at her deposition that her job responsibilities were similar to those of Harlovic and Sandora. Plaintiff stated that her additional tasks included ensuring compliance with hospital policies, hospital procedures, and state and federal regulations. Wildi was also required to meet the JCAHO standards. (Wildi Dep. at 41-44.) Plaintiff asserted she had a 17 background in finance because she had taken healthcare finance courses at the graduate level, and she performed certain financial tasks for defendant. (Wildi Aff. 15.) Wildi stated: My job was similar to Harlovic, Englert, and Sandora in that all four of us: were members of the Senior Executive Team; carried the title of Vice President; had departments and services for which we were responsible; managed finances within our respective areas; shared in the organization's success and failures equally; attended Board of Director Meetings; participated in system-wide (WPAHS) initiatives; had responsibility for medical staff relations; participated in assigned committees of the Board of Directors; were required to serve as AKMC ambassadors to the community; and served as "Administrators on Call" on a rotating basis 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. (Id. 4.) Wildi's Termination from Alle-Kiski In 2007, there were concerns over the financial condition of Alle-Kiski. (DSMF 10.) Wildi recalled that defendant's financial condition was poor during the 2007 calendar year: "we were behind budget in volume and in revenues, total revenue, was behind budget as was volume." (Wildi Dep. at 80.) At the end of 2007, there was speculation that several positions would be eliminated. (Id. at 81.) In December 2007, the senior team met to establish initiatives for cutting costs hoping to generate larger revenue; the executives passed around a draft listing of various positions to be eliminated. (Id.) In a January 2, 2008 meeting, Schamp presented to the senior team a final list of positions that would be eliminated; it included the same positions as those on the draft list. (Id. at 81-82). The listed employees were to be eliminated on January 9, 2008; the four people were fired on that day. (Id.) Wildi was surprised that four employees were fired, believing that the elimination of these positions was not drastic enough to alleviate defendant's financial concerns and other measures would have had a more significant impact. (Id. at 83-85.) For this reason, she thought that the four employees were not eliminated for 18 financial reasons. (Id. at 83-84.) Later that day, Wildi herself was fired from Alle-Kiski. Schamp notified Wildi that her termination was solely based upon financial considerations and was not performance-based. (DSMF 10-11). Plaintiff testified that "probably hundreds" of defendant's employees told her that she was terminated for reasons other than financial reasons. (Wildi Dep. at 101-07.) No official member of the senior management team, however, told plaintiff that she was eliminated for reasons besides financial reasons. Plaintiff stated that Nancy Giulioth ("Giulioth"), executive director of a trust and an "ad hoc member" of the team, said the termination "was terrible . . . , it made no sense, and it didn't need to happen." (Id. at 101-02.) There is no evidence, however, that Giulioth played any role in the decision to terminate plaintiff's position. Schamp determined in mid-November 2007 that Wildi's position was to be eliminated; notes from a November 21, 2007 financial review meeting indicate that this decision had earlier been made. (Schamp Dep. at 106, 116.) The decision was likely made sometime between November 10 and November 21, 2007. (Id. at 211.) The decision to eliminate a vice-president position came down to either Wildi's position or Englert's position; Wildi testified that Schamp told her: well, it came down to you or Bill Englert, and I chose to keep Bill Englert. And I said, well, why Bill? And she said because we've got a big capital ED project to lift, and Bill is the one to lift that. I then proceeded to tell her that I did not agree with this decision. That, I had more seniority on the senior team than anybody. I had as much responsibility and scope and span of control as anybody there. That, I had far more experience in the capital project environment because probably I recited ten or 12 capital projects that I administratively was responsible for over the five years that Cindy had been there. And I asked her to give me an example of a capital project that Bill had lifted and she couldn't. 19 (Wildi Dep. at 88.) Capital ED was a capital expansion project of the emergency department at Alle-Kiski. (Id. at 119.) The hospital broke ground on the emergency department program in November 2007. Schamp testified "We had a capital campaign going on. We broke ground on [the emergency department] project in 2007." (Schamp Dep. at 46.) Although the project officially began in 2007, little progress was made. (Wildi Dep. at 119.) Defendant eventually hired a new employee to manage the capital ED project; that man was not Englert. (Id.) After Wildi's vice-president position was eliminated, her responsibilities were allocated among the other vice-presidents and Khambhampati. (Schamp Dep. at 142.) Englert assumed responsibility for Citizens Ambulatory Care Center, medical imaging, and special services. (Id.) Harlovic assumed responsibility for cardiovascular services and rehabilitation services. (Id.) Davis assumed responsibility for service excellence. (Id. at 142-43.) Khambhampati assumed responsibility for laboratory and oncology. (Id. at 143.) Sandora assumed responsibility for food services and environmental services. (Id.) Schamp gave Wildi a severance of six months, in exchange for Wildi signing a covenant not to compete. (Wildi Dep. at 120-24.) Standard of Review Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary judgment may be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, "the pleadings, the discovery, and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by the mere existence of some disputed facts, but will be defeated when there is a genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.242, 247-48 (1986). In determining whether the dispute is genuine, 20 the court's function is not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 249. The court is to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. El v. Se. Pa. Transp. Auth., 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007)("In considering the evidence, the court shall draw all reasonable inferences against the nonmoving party.") The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated: [I]f there is a chance that a reasonable fact finder would not accept a moving party's necessary propositions of fact, pre-trial judgment cannot be granted. Specious objections will not, of course, defeat a motion for summary judgment, but real questions about credibility, gaps in the evidence, and doubts as to the sufficiency of the movant's proof, will. Id. The court may consider any material or evidence that would be admissible or usable at trial in deciding the merits of a motion for summary judgment. Horta v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 2, 8 (1st Cir. 1993)(citing 10A CHARLES ALLAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER & MARY KAY KANE, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE 2721, at 40 (2d ed. 1983)); Pollack v. City of Newark, 147 F.Supp.35, 39 (D.N.J. 1956), aff'd, 248 F.2d 543 (3d Cir. 1957) ("in considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is entitled to consider exhibits and other papers that have been identified by affidavit or otherwise made admissible in evidence"). Discussion Wildi's complaint contains two counts. In count I, plaintiff alleges that defendant violated the Equal Pay Act. Plaintiff asserts that she was paid less than all her male counterparts, who served in vice-president roles similar to hers. In count II, plaintiff alleges that defendant retaliated against her in violation of 29 U.S.C. 215(a)(3), when defendant discharged plaintiff 21 after she made several complaints regarding her salary to former CEO Schamp. Alle-Kiski moved for summary judgment with respect to both counts contained in the complaint. (A) Equal Pay Act (1) Burden-Shifting Framework In count I, plaintiff claims that defendant violated the Equal Pay Act because it paid plaintiff a lower salary than all of her male counterparts. The Equal Pay Act states, in relevant part: No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex: Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate differential in violation of this subsection shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection, reduce the wage rate of any employee. 29 U.S.C. 206(d)(1). Plaintiff alleges that she was paid less than male vice-presidents, even though she was a vice-president. An Equal Pay Act case requires shifting burdens. EEOC v. Del. Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs., 865 F.2d 1408, 1413 (3d Cir. 1989). To establish a prima facie case under the Equal Pay Act, a plaintiff must show that defendant paid different wages to employees of the opposite sex for equal work on jobs which required equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and all of which are performed under similar working conditions. Dubowsky v. Stern, 922 F. Supp. 985, 990 (D.N.J. 22 1996.) Wildi must show that she was paid unequally for "substantially equal" work. Del.Dep't of Health, 865 F.2d at 1413. If a plaintiff is able to make a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant. The defendant can raise one of the four affirmative defenses stated in the Equal Pay Act. The four affirmative defenses include three that are "specific and one general catchall." Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 196-97 (1974). A difference in payment between opposite sexes is permissible if it is made pursuant to: (1) a seniority system, (2) a merit system, (3) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or (4) a system based upon any other factor other than sex (the "catchall defense"). Id. at 196-97. An employer cannot prevail at the summary judgment stage based upon an affirmative defense unless it can prove the existence of the affirmative defense "so clearly that no rational jury could have found to the contrary." Del. Dep't of Health, 865 F.2d at 1414. Under the Equal Pay Act, plaintiff does not need to prove that an employer intended to discriminate. A showing of intent, however, may be used to establish that an employer's affirmative defense is a pretext for discrimination. Del. Dep't of Health, 865 F.2d at 1414. (2) Prima Facie Case In order to establish a prima facie case, Wildi must show that she was paid less than males for performing work of substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility, under similar working conditions. Dubowsky, 922 F. Supp. at 990. It is well settled that the jobs do not need to be identical in every respect. See Corning Glass Works, 417 U.S. at 204. Equal means substantially equal and "[a]ny other interpretation would destroy the remedial purposes of the Act." Shultz v. Wheaton Glass Co., 421 F.2d 259, 265 (3d Cir. 1970). This standard does not provide an employer with a justification for paying employees of one sex less than employees of 23 the opposite sex because of inconsequential or trivial differences in their respective duties. Usery v. Allegheny County Inst. Dist., 544 F.2d 148, 152-53 (3d Cir. 1976). The critical question with respect to the issue of "equal work" is whether the jobs being compared have a "common core" of identical (or substantially similar) tasks. Brobst v. Columbus Servs. Int'l, 761 F.2d 148, 156 (3d Cir. 1985). If this question yields a positive answer, the inquiry turns to whether "additional tasks" required by either of the jobs make the work performed by the different employees filling those jobs "substantially different." Id. In determining whether jobs require equal skill, equal effort, or equal responsibility, the court must conduct separate analyses. 29 C.F.R. 1620.14(a). This inquiry is informed by the [Equal Pay Act]'s implementing regulations, which provide that "[s]kill includes consideration of such factors as experience, training, education, and ability," 29 C.F.R. 1620.15(a); "[e]ffort is concerned with the measurement of the physical or mental exertion needed for the performance of a job," 29 C.F.R. 1620.16(a); and "[r]esponsibility is concerned with the degree of accountability required in the performance of the job, with emphasis on the importance of the job obligation," 29 C.F.R. 1620.17(a). Drury v. Waterfront Media, Inc., No. 05 Civ. 10646, 2007 WL 737486, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 8, 2007). In considering whether the positions require equal skill: It must be measured in terms of the performance requirements of the job. If an employee must have essentially the same skill in order to perform either of two jobs, the jobs will qualify under the [Equal Pay Act] as jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, even though the employee in one of the jobs may not exercise the required skill as frequently or during as much of his or her working time as the employee in the other job. Possession of a skill not needed to meet the requirements of the job cannot be considered in making a determination regarding equality of skill. 29 C.F.R. 1620.15(a). 24 Wildi argues that all four of the vice-presidents' positions were substantially equal, because each shared the same title of vice-president. The common title, however, is not determinative evidence that the positions were substantially equal. See 29 C.F.R. 1620.13(e); Fayson v. Kaleida Health, Inc., No. 00-CV-0860E(SR), 2002 WL 31194559, at *9 (W.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2002). In addition, plaintiff argues that the roles of the vice-presidents were equal, because in 2004, when the vice-president positions were created, all four employees started at the same base salary of $103,001.60. Wildi alleges that all four vice-presidents had similar core duties and responsibilities at the hospital. Each vice-president oversaw an ancillary department. Each maintained physician relationships and sat on the senior management team of Alle-Kiski. Within the organizational structure Alle-Kiski adopted, there were four "pillars of success." Each vice-president was in charge of one pillar, and Wildi's pillar was service. Prior to the reorganization in 2003, each vice-president was previously a director of his or her respective operations. Defendant counters by arguing that plaintiff cannot establish her prima facie case. Defendant contends that even though all four vice-presidents shared the same title, the core duties and skill levels needed for each position were different. Defendant argues the role of vicepresident of patient care services required a master's degree in nursing, healthcare administration, business administration, or a clinical or medical degree. The position required ten years experience in the administration of clinical support services in a hospital and a license as a professional nurse. The job also required knowledge of the JCAHO accreditation standards and Pennsylvania Department of Health regulations. The role of vice-president of business operations or chief financial officer required a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science in 25 accounting and a CPA license. Defendant argues that position required an accounting background and substantial experience in healthcare finance. Defendant argues the responsibilities of the positions were different. Defendant argues the vice-president of patient care services had clinical responsibilities that plaintiff did not perform, and the vice-president of business operations had financial and accounting duties for defendant's entire facility. With respect to the vice-president of business operations and business development, defendant argues that this position was responsible for strategic development, physician services, retail strategy, and initiatives with nursing homes, physician practices, and housing projects, in addition to responsibilities related to operational duties. For the same reasons that job titles are not determinative, job descriptions are not determinative. The relevant inquiry focuses upon the content of the position. "[W]hen a court assesses the substantial equality between jobs, it should rely on actual job performance and content rather than job descriptions." Heller v. Elizabeth Forward Sch. Dist., 182 F. App'x 91, 95 (3d Cir. 2006). The court therefore must analyze the evidence of the actual job duties performed. The court notes that Wildi argues that the job requirement sheets are post hoc fabrications, created by defendant after her position was already eliminated in an effort to invent differences between the positions that did not really exist when the positions were formed. As evidence to support this, Wildi notes that the sheets are dated 2008, and this action was brought in 2008. Wildi questions the validity of the job requirement sheets that delineate the differences among the vice-president positions. Focusing on actual job performance, plaintiff created a genuine issue of material fact that at least two of the other vice-presidents performed many duties like she performed. In her affidavit, she avowed that each vice-president was a member of the senior executive team, each 26 managed finances within their assigned areas, each attended board of directors meetings, each participated in forming system-wide initiatives for the West-Penn Allegheny Health System, each was required to serve as an ambassador to the community, and each was required to serve as "Administrator on Call" on a rotating basis. The shared title of vice-president and the same initial base salary, although neither is a persuasive piece of evidence if viewed in isolation, support the conclusion that the positions were of equal skill and equal responsibility. With respect to the additional duties assigned to the other vice-presidents that go beyond the core duties, Wildi argues that, along with her job responsibilities listed on the organizational chart, she performed other duties akin to those of the other vice-presidents. The court agrees that, when viewing the evidence in her favor, her position had similar requirements and responsibilities to Englert's position. Schamp admitted that the positions held by plaintiff and Englert had similar job qualifications. Schamp stated that the key difference between those two positions was Englert's responsibility for physician services; Wildi presented contradictory evidence that Englert was not responsible for managing physician practices. Although a close call, the court finds that Wildi adduced sufficient evidence that a reasonable finder of fact could conclude that the similarities between her position and Englert's position were substantial enough to establish a prima facie claim under the Equal Pay Act. Even if the other vice-president positions could be viewed as different for purposes of the Equal Pay Act, plaintiff only needs one comparator to establish her claim, and the similarities of her position and Englert's position would suffice. See EEOC v. White & Son Enters., 881 F.2d 1006, 1009 (11th Cir. 1989) ("[The EEOC] need only show discrimination in pay against an employee vis-a-vis one employee of the opposite sex [to establish a violation of the Equal Pay Act]."); Ames v. Verizon Data Services, Inc., No. 8:07-cv-00698-T-24-TGW, 2008 WL 3927262, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 21, 2008) ("To 27 establish a violation of the Equal Pay Act, Plaintiff must show pay discrimination between herself and at least one comparator of the opposite sex."). Whether the similarities between Wildi's position and Harlovic's position were substantial enough to establish a prima facie case under the Equal Pay Act is an even closer call. Wildi adduced evidence of additional tasks that she performed, including ensuring compliance with hospital policies, procedures, JCAHO accreditation standards, and state and federal regulations. These additional tasks are comparable to those required of Harlovic's position that defendant argues plaintiff was not responsible for performing. Wildi also adduced evidence that the nursing license was not necessary to perform the job duties. As mentioned, the regulations explain that the possession of a skill that is not needed to accomplish the position's duties is not relevant in determining whether the positions were of equal skill. See 29 C.F.R. 1620.15. With respect to Sandora's position, plaintiff asserts she had a background in finance, having taken healthcare finance courses at the graduate level. She adduced evidence that she handled accounting responsibilities for certain projects and departments. Sandora, however, had financial and accounting responsibilities for defendant's entire medical facility. Plaintiff presented no evidence to refute this claim. The evidence offered by plaintiff only establishes that she had financial responsibilities for her assigned areas. Her financial responsibilities were much less substantial in terms of scope and complexity. For this reason, plaintiff has not adduced sufficient evidence to establish that her position was substantially similar to Sandora's position. In Stopka v. Alliance of American Insurers, 141 F.3d 681, 683 (7th Cir. 1998), a female employee, who held the position of vice-president of an administrative division, learned that male vice-presidents were paid more than she was. She brought claims under the Equal Pay Act 28 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq. Id. at 684. With respect to her Equal Pay Act claim, the employee alleged: that she was a management-level officer of [the employer] a division vice president and an executive. Indeed, she continues, although her substantive responsibilities were different from the other division vice presidents, she shared with them a common core of substantially similar tasks requiring substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility: [the employee], like the other division heads, was responsible for managing a division; she had the responsibility and authority to hire, fire, evaluate and supervise her employees; she was charged with managing the division budget. Indeed, [the employee] had the largest division in terms of the number of employees. Moreover, all division vice president positions were ranked equally under [the employer]'s Salary Administration Program. [The employee] further points out that, despite these core similarities between her responsibilities and those of the other vice presidents, and even though she was among the most senior employees in terms of tenure, she was paid significantly less than male vice presidents. Id. at 685. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, however, rejected the employee's arguments, because she did not adduce sufficient evidence that the vice-president positions required equal skill. Id. at 686. The court of appeals held: The record makes clear that [the employee]'s job was substantially different from the jobs performed by the other vice presidents. Most importantly, the other vice presidents primarily had responsibility for key aspects of [the employer]'s core substantive insurance policymaking. This was a responsibility that [the employee] admittedly did not have the skills to perform and had never performed. Therefore, despite her vice presidential rank, her role in the direction of the company was understandably more circumscribed. Id. This case is distinguishable from Stopka, at least with respect to the positions of Englert and Harlovic. Here, there is evidence that Wildi's role in defendant's organization was similar to that of two other vice-presidents. Most importantly, there is evidence that all the core 29 responsibilities performed by the vice-presidents were substantially equal, and, with respect to the additional duties of the two other vice-presidents, there are issues of fact whether Wildi had similar supplementary responsibilities. Wildi adduced evidence that at least two other male vicepresidents were tasked with individual goals in their departments, and also oversaw ancillary departments. In Stopka, by contrast, there was no evidence that the plaintiff was responsible for tasks similar to those performed by the other vice-presidents. In conclusion, the court determines that plaintiff adduced sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact with respect to her prima facie case under the Equal Pay Act. Under the burden-shifting framework of the Equal Pay Act, the next step is to analyze whether defendant adduced sufficient evidence to prove an affirmative defense as a matter of law. (3) Affirmative Defenses After a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant to raise one of four affirmative defenses. The defendant must prove one of the four affirmative defenses "so clearly that no rational jury could have found to the contrary." Del. Dep't of Health, 865 F.2d at 1414. Here, defendant raised two affirmative defenses for the pay differential. Defendant asserts that the pay difference in bonuses was based upon merit and the salary differential was based upon market forces. Plaintiff alleges that defendant violated the Equal Pay Act, because the vice-presidents' salaries diverged after their positions were established in 2004. Even though the initial base salaries were identical, the salaries diverged in subsequent years. (a) Market-Based Defense Defendant relies upon a market-based defense, a catchall defense, to establish that the salary disparity was not based upon Wildi's gender. A market-based defense is applicable where unequal wages reflect market conditions of supply and demand. Salary differentials based upon 30 such market conditions are not prohibited by the Equal Pay Act. Stanley v. Univ. of S. Cal., 13 F.3d 1313, 1322 (9th Cir. 2004). To determine whether the market-based defense applies, an employer "may consider the marketplace value of the skills of a particular individual when determining his or her salary." Dubowsky, 922 F. Supp. at 993. An employer must also rationally explain the use of market information. Id. In this case, defendant strongly argues that all employees were paid the market value of their skills. In particular, defendant argues Harlovic and Sandora received higher compensation because of the small number of individuals who had the necessary skills and qualified for the positions they held. For these reasons, defendant argues that it rationally explains the use of the market defense. Defendant must produce "sufficient evidence such that no rational jury could conclude but that the proffered reasons actually motivated the wage disparity of which the plaintiff complains." Stanziale v. Jargowsky, 200 F.3d 101, 108 (3d Cir. 2000). Plaintiff offered evidence raising factual issues with respect to the market-based defense, and thus a rational jury could find against defendant. Plaintiff argues that her job responsibilities were nearly identical to the other vice-presidents and her skill set was just as valuable as that of the other vice-presidents. In support of her contention, there is evidence Alle-Kiski paid an identical base salary to the vicepresidents for several years after the positions were first established. This is evidence that the market value of the skills of the individuals holding the positions were equal. One of the concerns plaintiff raised in her initial complaint to Schamp was her concern that she and other employees were not paid the market value of their skills. Plaintiff testified at her deposition that she discussed with Englert that they were not paid to market and were paid less than other vicepresidents in sister facilities, such as West Penn Hospital and Allegheny General Hospital. 31 Plaintiff raises enough facts so that a rational jury could find in her favor and reject defendant's market-based affirmative defense. (b) Merit-Based Defense With respect to the executive bonuses, which also factored into overall salaries of the vice-presidents, defendant asserts a merit-based defense the second affirmative defense in the Equal Pay Act. According to defendant, the bonuses were based upon the overall performance of the team in three separate areas: finance, quality, and patient care. Each individual vicepresident was responsible for a series of goals throughout the fiscal year; Schamp would evaluate which team members contributed most to the overall performance of the organization. Schamp would recommend a percentage of the salary to be distributed as bonuses. The bonuses changed based upon the fiscal strength of the hospital during that particular year. The bonuses were a percentage of the base salary. Since 2007, the base salaries for the vice-presidents were different and, therefore, the subsequent bonuses reflected the salary disparity. Each employee was awarded a merit bonus based upon their individual work. Looking at the merit bonus, Englert had the highest merit percentage in 2007 followed by, in descending order, Sandora, Harlovic, and Wildi. The "merit" portion of the bonuses changed to reflect those individuals who had most closely performed in accordance with their goals. Schamp testified Englert received a higher merit bonus than Wildi because his job performance was better. Wildi struggled with core laboratory transition in 2007; yet, that one factor was not the sole benchmark for why Wildi earned a lower merit bonus. Schamp additionally considered feedback from other key employees and meetings with other departments. Since Schamp believed Wildi only experienced a slight setback, Wildi only suffered a slight merit decrease. 32 In Wildi's filings with the court, she did not separately address the salaries and the bonuses. In this instance, the merit-based defense may be a valid affirmative defense for the defendants with respect to the bonuses because plaintiff did not specifically argue that the bonuses were not based upon merit. The bonuses, however, were in part tied to the vicepresidents' underlying salaries because the bonuses were awarded as a percentage of the base salaries. As already explained, there are factual issues whether at least two of the other vicepresidents were paid the market value of their work. Factual issues exist with respect to the bonuses, at least to this limited extent. Assuming that plaintiff can establish a prima facie case, the burden on an employer is a strict one. To succeed on a summary judgment motion, a moving-party defendant must prove the existence of an affirmative defense so that there are no issues of fact related to the defense. In this instance, plaintiff adduced evidence su

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