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Keziah v. Brown

decided: August 28, 1989.

LINDA H. KEZIAH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
W.M. BROWN & SON, INCORPORATED, A VIRGINIA CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, at Charlotte. Robert D. Potter, Chief District Judge. CA-87-255. Previously Reported as Unpublished Opinion at,.

Ervin, Chief Judge, Wilkins, Circuit Judge, and Williams, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

Author: Ervin

CORRECTED OPINION

ERVIN, Chief Judge

Linda Keziah appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment against her on the Equal Pay Act,*fn1 intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision claims she brought against her former employer, W. M. Brown & Son. We find that appellant established a prima facie case under the Equal Pay Act, and that the appellee failed to rebut that case. We, therefore, reverse the grant of summary judgment in favor of Brown on that issue, and remand this part of the case for trial. We affirm, however, the grant of summary judgment on the pendent state law claims, as the conduct giving rise to these claims does not meet the level of outrageousness required by North Carolina law.

I.

Defendant-Appellee, W. M. Brown & Son, offers color lithographic printing services throughout the southeastern United States. Its printing facility is in Richmond, Virginia, where the majority of its approximately 200 employees are located. Appellee has a small sales office in Charlotte, North Carolina, staffed by "outside" sales representatives.

Brown hired the appellant, Linda Keziah, in August, 1984 as a sales representative for the Charlotte office. At that time the Charlotte office had two other employees: Michael Dohn, who was hired in June, 1983 as an outside sales representative, and Edward Jones, the Regional Sales Manager, who supervised the Charlotte office and performed some sales duties as well.

Prior to working for W.M. Brown, Ms. Keziah had worked as a sales representative for another printing company, Graphic South. She had worked there approximately one and a half years, during which she earned $25,000 per year. She left Graphic South for Brown because she felt it was a "more quality" company which would be easier to sell. Ms. Keziah testified that she initially had been concerned that she would be unable to persuade Graphic South customers to buy the more expensive product offered by Brown.

W.M. Brown compensated its sales representatives with a nine percent commission on "regular" accounts and a ten percent commission on "new" accounts. Ostensibly because Brown anticipated that the first two years of a salesperson's tenure would be difficult, the company paid each salesperson a "draw," allegedly based on the salesperson's experience and projected sales. Dohn's yearly draw was $32,500; Keziah's was $22,000. Although Brown claimed that each salesperson was expected to earn sales commissions at least equaling his or her draw, the evidence demonstrated that from 1984 to 1987 neither Keziah nor Dohn achieved this goal. Keziah testified that Brown told her that she would be expected to earn commissions to cover her draw, but she was never given a deadline for doing so.

Keziah further testified that there was tension in the Charlotte office throughout the time she worked there. She believed that Dohn was stealing her accounts and that her supervisor, although aware of Dohn's conduct, did nothing to stop it. She claims that when she complained of Dohn's tactics, several of her accounts were given to him. The evidence demonstrates that many accounts were "switched" between Dohn and Keziah.

Brown fired Ms. Keziah on April 1, 1987, allegedly as a result of her poor job performance. Keziah claims that her termination resulted from, and is evidence of, gender-based discrimination.

Following her termination, Ms. Keziah filed the current action in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. She seeks damages under the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, and state law tort theories. The district court granted summary judgment against Ms. Keziah on her Equal Pay Act, Title VII sexual harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress/negligent supervision claims, while allowing her action for Title VII disparate treatment. Ms. Keziah then voluntarily dismissed, with prejudice, her ...


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