Woman, fired for arguing about bringing dog to work at hotel's banquet room, loses lawsuit

By John O'Brien | Apr 6, 2015

PHILADELPHIA – A former Bucks County banquet manager who was fired partly over an argument over whether she could bring her dog to work has lost her age discrimination lawsuit.

Judge Jan. E. DuBois on March 31 granted summary judgment for the Washington Crossing Inn in Bucks County, which was sued by Lisa Mercantanti in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Philadelphia in 2013.

Mercantanti was 54 years old when WCI Operations purchased the Washington Crossing Inn in 2009, and the company decided to retain her in the banquet manager position.

She was fired six months later when her position was eliminated.

“The same two people who made the decision to hire the Plaintiff at age 54 made the decision to discharge her at the same age,” WCI’s attorneys argued.

After she was fired, the position changed from banquet manager to banquet coordinator. The new position had less pay than Mercantanti’s $57,500 salary and no benefits.

WCI said she was fired for constantly “locking horns” with management.

DuBois ruled that Mercantanti did not present sufficient evidence that would lead a judge or jury to side with her.

“In fact, Plaintiff admits that she clashed with Defendant over the new system for recording phone calls, the directive that she not bring her dog to work and the possibility of a new dress code,” DuBois wrote.

Previous management had allowed Mercantanti to bring her dog to work, a stance that the new owner’s attorneys called incredible.

“Plaintiff admitted in her deposition that she knew her dog could make customers uncomfortable and that the dog was not permitted under health laws to be around food,” they wrote.

“Yet, when Plaintiff was informed that she was no longer permitted to bring her dog to work, she wrote an email to Mark Lieberman, general counsel to (the new owner), challenging his opinion that health regulations barred her dog from accompanying her to work at the Inn.”

WCI promoted a 22-year-old woman to perform the banquet coordinator’s duties after Mercantati was fired.

Mercantanti filed a written charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010.

The EEOC issued a notice of right to sue in 2013, but a search of federal court records does not show any lawsuit subsequently filed.

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach editor John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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