The case on which this summary is based may no longer be current law.
Also, if the case was decided on summary judgment, the court recited the
"facts" in the light most favorable to the non-movant, which may not be
the true facts.
Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp.,
217 F.3d 46 (1st Cir. July 6, 2000)
Keywords: Title VII (sex
discrimination, wrongful termination; retaliation)
Introduction: Nilsa Santiago-Ramos sued Centennial P.R. Wireless
Corporation under Title VII for sex discrimination alleging wrongful termination and
retaliation. The district court granted summary judgment for Centennial. The First Circuit
affirms in part and vacates in part.
Facts: Centennial, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Centennial
Cellular Corporation is a telecommunications business that began operations in Puerto Rico
in early 1996. Amaury Rivera, Centennial's vice president and general manager, hired
Santiago-Ramos in June of 1996. She was the only female among Centennial's four high-level
executives. She was responsible for Centennial's finance, certain personnel matters and
some inventory assignments.
At the time, Santiago-Ramos had one child and hoped to have another child within
several years. During her employment, comments were made to her about her ability (in
particular) and about a woman's ability (in general) to perform her job while juggling
family responsibilities. These comments were made by Rivera, by Phil Mayberry (the parent
company's senior vice president for Puerto Rico operations) and by other Centennial
In fact, while assisting Rivera in planning a major job fair at which many Centennial
employees would be hired, Rivera discussed a hiring profile with Santiago-Ramos that
purportedly excluded from consideration married women and women with children.
Santiago-Ramos also claims that Rivera called Mayberry, read the profile to him, and he
On September 27, 1996, Santiago-Ramos was terminated. The decision was allegedly made
by Mayberry -- although there is evidence that Rivera also had input. Santiago-Ramos was
not given a reason for her termination.
Centennial proffered five reasons for her termination
When a shipment of 500 telephones crucial to Centennial's
telecommunications operations arrived, five telephones were missing. Santiago-Ramos had
inventory responsibility over this shipment and the fact that phones were missing was not
discovered until several days after the shipment had arrived.
Centennial incurred demurrage charges on a shipment containing
communications towers because they were picked up at the San Juan docks late.
Electrical service was cut off at several Centennial locations because
utility bills were unpaid. Santiago-Ramos was responsible to pay these bills, and
Centennial bore reconnect charges to restore power.
The Centennial employee manual, over which Santiago-Ramos had ultimate
oversight responsibility, was not completed during her employment.
Her general attitude and lack of commitment.
Evidence of pretext
Pretext can be established by showing that key decisionmakers or persons
in a position to influence key decisionmakers made discriminatory comments. In this case,
Mayberry, a key decisionmaker, and Rivera, a person in a position to influence a key
decisionmaker, made discriminatory comments. For example, two weeks before her
termination, Mayberry was quizzing Santiago-Ramos about her ability to balance work and
parental responsibilities. Santiago-Ramos told him of her desire for another child and he
questioned her ability to fulfill her work responsibilities should she have a second
Evidence of a general atmosphere of discrimination may be considered
with other evidence to establish pretext. Santiago-Ramos presented evidence that
discriminatory comments were made by others at Centennial and the parent company.
Another method of establishing pretext is to show that Centennial's
nondiscriminatory reasons were after-the-fact justifications. According to Rivera's
secretary, his memo dated the day of Santiago-Ramos's termination (which gives the reasons
for her termination) was not actually prepared until after the termination when it became
apparent that Santiago-Ramos would pursue a legal remedy.
Finally, a plaintiff can establish pretext by showing "weaknesses,
implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies, or contradictions in the employer's
proffered reasons." With respect to the five missing phones, Rivera told her it was a
minor matter. With respect to the late pick up of the communications towers,
Santiago-Ramos claims this was not her responsibility. The fact that the employee manual
was not completed was because an outside law firm was tardy in providing the first draft
of the manual.
Mayberry's comments two weeks prior to the termination are sufficient
evidence of discriminatory animus.
Her protected activity was opposing the hiring profile Rivera allegedly
discussed with her prior to the job fair.
There is a question as to whether Mayberry was aware of the protected
activity, but even if he was, there is no evidence of a causal connection between the
protected activity and the termination.
Therefore, the Court vacates and remands on the discrimination claim,
but affirms the dismissal of the retaliation claim.
here to see