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Potts v. ADP, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

September 16, 2014

ERIN POTTS, Plaintiff,
ADP, INC., Defendant

Page 362

For Erin Potts, Plaintiff: Eric Albert Montgomery, The Montgomery Law Firm, PLLC, Charlotte, NC.

For ADP, Inc., Defendant: Matthew David Duncan, Ted N. Kazaglis, Jackson Lewis P.C., Cary, NC.

Page 363


THIS MATTER is before the court on defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Having considered defendant's motion, plaintiff's response, and defendant's reply, and having heard oral arguments, the court will grant defendant's motion and dismiss this action.


I. Background

In this action, Erin Potts (" plaintiff" ) asserts claims against her former employer ADP, Inc. (" defendant" ) for disparate discipline and failure to promote based on gender, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Specifically, plaintiff contends that defendant violated Title VII by " failing to promote plaintiff to a position for which she was qualified; " " interfering with plaintiff's promotional opportunities; " and " imposing upon plaintiff unjust disciplinary action" when it issued her a performance improvement plan and verbal and written counseling. Defendant contends that it is entitled to summary judgment because plaintiff cannot make out a prima facie case as to either claim.

II. Summary Facts Relevant to Plaintiff's Claims

Defendant is in the business of providing payroll and HR services to businesses nationwide. Plaintiff was hired in June 2005 as a sales trainee in defendant's sales department, understanding that she could serve as a trainee for as long as a year; however, defendant promoted her to the position of " Up-Market Client District Manager" in less than five months. It is undisputed that defendant selected plaintiff for this position over two male candidates. In that position, plaintiff was responsible for selling defendant's services to existing clients, but was not responsible for developing new clients.

At the beginning of every fiscal year, defendant establishes a sales plan setting a sales quota for each district manager. As the year progresses, each manager's sales are measured against the plan on a monthly basis. In addition to monthly review, defendant sets weekly goals for each district manager to remain on target to meet their annual sales goal. Plaintiff understood that her success with defendant depended on meeting her plan each year. It is undisputed that plaintiff met and exceeded her plan in 2006 and 2007, but only achieved 72% of her plan in 2008. Plaintiff testified that throughout this period, she frequently met with her male supervisors, Ken Schmidt and David Trott, but never perceived that she was being treated differently than her male counterparts because of her gender

Despite not meeting her plan in 2008, Trott offered plaintiff a promotion at the beginning of FY 2009 to " Up Market Hunter District Manager." Unlike the previous position, the promotion required plaintiff to develop her own clients rather than service pre-existing accounts. Plaintiff accepted the promotion and Trott became plaintiff's direct supervisor. Trott evaluated each manager's performance based on " lagging" indicators, or past sales performance, and " leading" indicators, or the prospecting activity for new business. " Leading" indicators include a manager's activities in increasing the sales funnel, presence in the office, and participation in group meetings.

Up to the fourth quarter of FY 2010, plaintiff performed satisfactorily, meeting

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her plan in 2009 and 2010. In Q4 2010, Trott began having concerns for plaintiff's sales efforts. While plaintiff finished 2010 above plan, trot determined that the majority of the work that led to that result was done earlier in 2010. Viewed quarterly, Trott determined that plaintiff realized only 37% of her fourth quarter expectations. As a result of that determination, Trott began to verbally coach plaintiff, warning her that a slow end to fiscal year 2010 could translate into a slow start to the beginning of fiscal year 2011. Despite coaching, plaintiff missed expectations in FY 2011. In September FY 2011, plaintiff achieved 22% of plan and in October 2010 plaintiff was -4% of plan. Trott determined that plaintiff was not performing the sales activity necessary to stock her business pipeline

Despite below plan performance in September and October FY 2011, plaintiff applied in October FY 2011 plaintiff applied for a " Sales Competitive Manager" position. It is undisputed that Trott helped plaintiff prepare for the interview and provided her with the necessary endorsement for the role. Ken Powell (" Powell" ), then Sales Effectiveness Director, interviewed plaintiff for the position. At the time of the interview, Powell supervised six manager employees, half of whom were women. Powell averred that in interviewing the candidates for the position, he considered the candidates' performance in the interview, their ability to articulate a 30-60-90 day plan for the position, their work performance to date, and history and feedback from their current manager if they were a current ADP employee.

Powell interviewed three ADP employees for the position, two males and plaintiff. In November 2010, Powell offered the positions to the male candidates, who Powell avers were both better qualified and performing their current roles well when compared with plaintiff. It is undisputed that Powell was the ultimate decision maker and that he avers that he did not base his decision on gender, but on qualifications and the interview process. Powell informed plaintiff of his decision not to promote her to the position on November 29, 2010. Plaintiff testified that at the time she was told she would not receive the promotion she did not feel that anyone had treated her differently in any respect due to her gender.

After unsuccessfully applying for the promotion, plaintiff's performance continued to lag behind. In November of FY 2011, plaintiff achieved 10% of plan and as of December FY 2011, despite being halfway through FY 2011, plaintiff was at 0% of her annual plan. Plaintiff made no new sales in December FY 2011. Trott discussed with plaintiff his concern of an inadequate sales pipeline and set forth in the warning a number of goals and expectations plaintiff would be required to meet over the following months. Further, the PIP summarized Trott's concerns, goals, and expectations for plaintiff in the months that were to follow

It is undisputed that plaintiff's performance lagged behind her peers. In December FY 2011, the other two female members on Trott's team outpaced plaintiff's sales efforts. The male members of his team, while also under plan, they were not close to plaintiff's lagging indicator of 0% of sales for the year. It ...

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