Blank Rome has asked a federal judge to dismiss several claims brought against the firm by a former staff member, arguing that many of her allegations are “stale” and time-barred.
Marion Letterie, Blank Rome’s former director of telecommunications, brought her complaint against the firm and its former chief information officer, Laurence Liss, in November. She alleged that she was fired because of her complaints of gender bias in the firm’s technology department and because of her age.
In its motion to dismiss filed Jan. 11 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Blank Rome said Letterie’s complaint is “grounded in a series of never-before alleged acts dating back nearly 20 years” and that she used “everything but the kitchen sink to support her claims.” The firm argued that those allegations are untimely.
“What is worse, many of these acts occurred during times when plaintiff received a promotion to a director-level position, accolades, and monetary rewards for her work for the firm, and are subject to two to three-year gaps of time,” the firm’s motion said.
Letterie worked in the firm’s Philadelphia office for more than three decades, starting out as a secretary’s assistant in December 1983, her complaint said. She worked her way up to the director position, but she was dismissed from the firm in September 2017.
During her employment, Letterie alleged, she was paid a lower salary and bonus than men in similar positions. She alleged that in 2008, when her pay dipped by at least $10,000 due to market conditions, male staff at the director level did not suffer similar reductions in pay.
Letterie alleged that Blank Rome and Liss gave her performance feedback colored by gender biases, assigned her clerical duties that were outside the scope of her job as a technology department employee, and expected her to do the paperwork of other technology employees.
In April 2017, Letterie filed an external complaint for the first time, with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. In August 2017, Letterie was notified that her employment would be terminated the following month “as part of a purported ‘reduction of force’ within the technology department,” the complaint said.
At the time, she noted, she was the oldest non-administrative employee in the technology department, at 63 years old.
Blank Rome, in its motion, argued that Letterie cannot rely on the continuing violation doctrine to support her complaint with events that took place years ago. “The continuing violation doctrine does not apply because plaintiff has not alleged a hostile work environment,” the motion said. And she cannot bring a hostile work environment claim, the firm argued, because she can only assert claims she filed with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.
Blank Rome asked the court to dismiss all of Letterie’s claims on that basis. Alternatively, the firm argued, the court should strike any time-barred allegations.
Anthony Haller and Rosemary McKenna of Blank Rome are representing the firm.
Julie Uebler of Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt & Flores, who is representing Letterie, said in an emailed statement, “We view defendants’ partial motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to strike certain allegations as nothing more than a delay tactic and we look forward to litigating the case on the merits.”