United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Bank, NA (“TD Bank” or the “Bank”)
terminated Melissa Gran's employment, because it claims
that it believed she cashed checks for certain Bank clients
in a way that violated the Bank's policies. Ms. Gran
claims that the Bank terminated her because she was a woman
with young children and therefore, discriminated against her
on the basis of her gender in violation of the Connecticut
Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), Conn.
Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a)(1). Compl. at First Count, ECF
No. 1-1. She also brings a negligent infliction of emotional
distress claim against the Bank for its conduct surrounding
her termination. Id. at Second Count.
has moved for summary judgment on both claims. Mot. for Summ.
J., ECF No. 45. For the reasons that follow, TD Bank's
motion is GRANTED with respect to Ms.
Gran's negligent infliction of emotional distress claim
and DENIED with respect to her CFEPA claim.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Gran began working for TD Bank in April 1999. Def.'s Ex.
B, Gran Dep. 24:12-14, ECF No. 47-2. Most recently, and
during the time period relevant to this lawsuit, Ms. Gran
worked as a store manager of the Bank's downtown Hartford
location. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 16, ECF
No. 47. In this role, Ms. Gran had “overall
responsibility for the store, ” which included
overseeing the Bank's operations, implementing the
Bank's policies and procedures, and directing employees
about the same. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. While
employed there, she also had two children, one born in
January 2008, and the other in February 2013. Id.
Gran generally received positive reviews for her job
performance. Id. ¶ 21. But Ms. Gran and her
supervisors agree that “operations, ” or ensuring
that policies and procedures were followed consistently, was
a weak area of her performance. Id.; Def.'s Ex.
B, Gran Dep. 38:19-40:4, 52:16-24, ECF No.
has a number of written policies governing check cashing. One
of these policies, known as the TD Bank Check Cashing Policy,
provides that checks payable to a business entity must be
deposited into an account owned by that business and may not
be cashed. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 10, ECF
No. 47. Another, known as the Standard Funds Availability
Policy, provides that the first $100 of a customer's
non-cash deposits are available immediately and the remaining
funds are available no later than the next business day,
subject to certain exceptions. Id. ¶ 12. These
policies are intended to save the Bank money, in case of
bounced checks, and to ensure compliance with banking
regulations. Id. ¶¶ 7, 13.
April 2013, while Ms. Gran was out on maternity leave after
the birth of her second child, a Corporate Security Senior
Investigator at TD Bank named Mario Rosa discovered a small
business account “out of Ms. Gran's branch location
which was overdrawn by over $5, 000. Id.
¶¶ 23-24. The Bank's Corporate Security
Department is responsible for investigating any issues that
place the Bank at risk, including fraud and other types of
illicit account activities. Def.'s Ex. B, Gran Dep.
107:15-19, ECF No. 47-2. As a result of being overdrawn, the
account was placed on “No Check Activity status,
” which blocked all checks and other withdrawals from
posting to the account. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)1 Stmt.
¶ 23, ECF No. 47. This status also triggered an extended
wait time, past the next business day, before funds deposited
by check could be made available to the account holder.
Rosa followed up about this overdrawn account with Assistant
Store Manager Sabina Vegiard, who was filling in for Ms. Gran
as store manager while she was out on maternity leave.
Id. ¶ 24. Mr. Rosa testified that Ms. Vegiard
told him the branch often made funds available to this
particular client, known as PM Business in this lawsuit, even
though the account was overdrawn, because they knew that the
checks they cashed were “good.” Id.
¶ 26. He also testified that Ms. Vegiard
indicated that, as a result, this customer paid roughly $12,
000 in overdraft fees per year. Id.
Rosa referred the matter to a Regional Operations Officer,
Francine Smith, for investigation. Id. ¶
Ms. Smith, along with Human Resources Manager Tara Celani,
Ms. Gran's direct supervisor, Kristie Dammling, and Human
Resources Business Partner Cheryl Wegraff conducted the
investigation. Id. ¶¶ 16, 27, 32. All four
of these individuals are women, who have children.
Id. ¶¶ 18, 30, 35, 37.
investigate the matter, TD Bank interviewed several employees
and reviewed relevant account records. Id. ¶
The investigation revealed that Ms. Gran and other employees
at her store regularly cashed checks made payable to PM
Business and deposited these funds into the account as cash,
making the funds immediately available. Id. ¶
39. It also revealed that employees at the store cashed
checks payable to PM Business's owner personally from the
PM Business account, even if the account was overdrawn, and
made those funds available immediately. Id. ¶
42. The investigation showed that the Hartford branch
employees followed a similar practice for at least one other
customer, referred to as “DO Business” in the
context of this case. Id. ¶ 47.
instance, TD Bank's teller computer system rejected a
transaction because PM Business's account had
insufficient funds, which caused a stop to be automatically
placed on its account. Id. ¶ 45. Ms. Gran
manually overrode the system, cashed the check in its
entirety, and provided the customer with the amount of the
check in cash. Id. ¶ 46. In another instance,
she manually overrode the system to make funds available more
quickly to DO Business, after the computer system had placed
a seven-day hold on the account because of several returned
deposit items. Id. ¶ 48.
findings of the Bank's investigation were elevated to the
Senior Vice President of Retail Banking, Mauro Decarolis.
Id. ¶ 56. Upon the recommendation of Ms. Celani
and Ms. Weagraff, as well as Senior Vice President of Human
Resources Shirley Haggarty, and Assistant Vice President of
Employee Relations Kimberly Lovett, Mr. Decarolis decided to
terminate Ms. Gran for violating TD Bank's check cashing
policies. Id. ¶¶ 59, 62-63. He also decided
to terminate the rest of Ms. Gran's all-female management
team for engaging in the same policy violations, which
included Ms. Vegiard, Anh Dao Nguyen, and LaTasha Edwards.
Id. ¶ 64. He did not terminate two other
employees, Joseph Delcegno and Denisa Murtich, who engaged in
similar conduct. See Pl.'s Ex. 20, Delcegno Aff.
¶¶ 7-9, 11-12, ECF No. 52-20; Def.'s Ex. A-15,
E-mail dated June 24, 2013, ECF No. 47-1; see also
Def.'s Ex. A-20, E-mail dated July 5, 2013 and Attached
Spreadsheet, ECF No. 47-1.
Gran does not deny that the events revealed by the
investigation occurred. Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)1 Stmt.
¶55, ECF No. 52-24. But she contends that her conduct
did not violate the Bank's policies, because she had
discretion to make exceptions under those policies.
Id. ¶¶ 10, 12, 13-14, 39, 42; see
also Pl.'s Ex. 1, Gran Aff. ¶ 12, ECF No. 52-1
(“As Store Manager, I always had authority and
discretion with regard to the[ ] policies, especially if it
meant we could Wow! [t]he customer. TD Bank had a Wow!
Philosophy which was very important to TD Bank.”);
Def.'s Ex. B, Gran Dep. 117:9-11, ECF No. 47-2
(“There's a lot more information that's not
included in this [written policy]. There are also policies on
example, she contends that it was common practice for
managers, like herself, to e-mail a request to the Deposit
Operations Department to make the funds deposited by check
into an account available immediately and in full. Pl.'s
Ex. 1, Gran Aff. ¶ 20, ECF No. 52-1; Def.'s Ex. B,
Gran. Dep. 128:13-25, 130:12-131:6, ECF No. 47-2; see
also Pl.'s Ex. 17, Overdraft Policy 1, ECF No. 52-17
(“On a rare occasion, Store Team Members with the
appropriate approval level can request Deposit Operations to
pay an item on an overdrawn account by emailing” a
certain e-mail address).
argues that a number of TD Bank managers operated in a
similar way, applying various exceptions to the check cashing
and funds availability policies at their discretion. She
identifies a number of these other managers by name but could
not recall any specific factual details about how or when
they applied exceptions or discretion to TD Bank's
policies. Def.'s Ex. B, Gran. Dep. 134:24-136:22,
139:3-140:1, 140:12-22, 141:2-14, ECF No. 47-2. The record
contains no direct testimony from any other store manager
corroborating Ms. Gran's view of TD Bank's policies.
Gran's direct supervisor, Ms. Dammling, told Ms. Gran
that she was terminated at a meeting, with Ms. Weagraff
present, on July 16, 2013. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)1 Stmt.
¶¶ 67-70, ECF No. 47; Pl.'s Ex. 1, Gran Aff.
¶ 2, ECF No. 52-1. During the meeting, Ms. Dammling read
from a script received from Ms. ...