Submitted: May 14, 2019
from United States District Court for the Southern District
of Iowa - Central Division
BENTON, WOLLMAN, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.
Heisler sued her employer, Nationwide Mutual Insurance
Company ("Nationwide"), alleging discrimination
against her on the basis of her sex and her age. The district
court granted summary judgment to Nationwide,
and Heisler appeals. We affirm.
is a Certified Public Accountant who has worked for
Nationwide through its subsidiary companies in Des Moines,
Iowa, since November 1985. She began in a subsidiary company
that was then called Farmland Insurance. From 1986 until
2002, she worked on an hourly contract basis. In the late
1990s, when Nationwide acquired Allied Insurance
("Allied"), Nationwide moved Wendell Crosser from
Allied to Farmland Insurance to become the Chief Financial
Officer and Heisler's new boss. Eventually, Crosser moved
back to a position at Allied and recruited Heisler to join
him. Heisler started working at Allied as a special projects
employee with varied hours and eventually converted to a
full-time salaried position in 2003.
Heisler joined Crosser at Nationwide's Allied division,
she was gradually promoted. In April 2003, she was a
"Director, Management Report Analysis" with an
annual salary of $93, 000. In March 2005, Nationwide promoted
her to Financial Business Director. In April 2005, Nationwide
promoted her to Finance Officer. In March 2008, Nationwide
changed all Finance Officer positions, either demoting them
to "H-band" titles or promoting them to Associate
Vice President ("AVP") depending on the position.
It determined that Heisler's position was an AVP position
and promoted her accordingly. Her job duties did not
significantly change from 2005 through 2012. Her salary, at
least as of 2011, was approximately $139, 700.
July 2011, Heisler applied to be a vice president
("VP") of multi channel finance. Her interviewers
included Crosser. At least two other individuals applied:
Angie Klett and Eric Ryan. Nationwide ultimately hired Klett.
fall of 2011, Crosser approached Heisler about a VP job that
would be open in Harleysville, Pennsylvania when Nationwide
completed an acquisition there. She told Crosser she would
want a significant increase in compensation in order to move
because the cost of living in Harleysville (a suburb of
Philadelphia) was 58% higher than the cost of living in Des
Moines. In particular, she indicated she wanted an increase
in her base salary from $139, 700 to $220, 000. Crosser
discussed salary options with human resources
("HR"), but before any concrete results came from
that discussion, the hiring manager hired another employee,
Mark Beres, for the position.
then attempted to obtain an AVP position for Heisler in
Harleysville. Nationwide eventually gave her an offer for the
AVP position with a base salary of $150, 879 and $15, 000 in
supplemental income. Heisler sent an e-mail to Crosser and
Beres indicating she was disappointed the offer was so far
below her request and that she would like at least $25, 000
more in base salary or supplemental income before she
accepted the offer. Her disappointment was motivated in part
by the fact her base income in Des Moines was already set to
increase to $146, 688 in the near future. Crosser was upset
by her response. He went to her office to angrily tell her,
"[i]f you're not going to take the job, don't
bother going to Harleysville," and then cancelled her
planned trip to Harleysville with him. He also apparently
told Beres not to respond to her e-mail and that Heisler was
no longer interested in the position. Neither he nor Beres
ever formally responded to her request. Crosser also
complained about Heisler's e-mail to several people at
Nationwide who were not involved in the hiring decisions for
eventually announced it hired Keith Graham, a younger male,
for the AVP position in Harleysville. Graham accepted an
offer of $132, 000 annual income with no supplemental income.
Beres and Graham discussed the option of Graham commuting
from Ohio instead of moving to Pennsylvania, but Graham had
to accept the offer without any commitment from Beres on the
Crosser's hostile reaction to Heisler's compensation
request, her relationship with him declined. She approached
him about future career opportunities. He offered to pay for
an executive coach to help improve her career, but Nationwide
ultimately refused to pay for Heisler's preferred coach
who was not on Nationwide HR's list of approved coaches.
Crosser also offered the feedback that Heisler was "too
direct" and "lacked political savvy." He
recounted an example of her asking the CFO about challenging
one of the CEO's decisions not to use comparisons to
competitors. Heisler believed (and argues here) that
this feedback about her communication was merely code for her
being a female who declined Crosser's offer.
early 2012, Heisler's attempts to obtain new positions
within the company also failed. She applied for a VP level
position and three AVP level positions, including an AVP
level position where Crosser was the hiring manager. She was
rejected from several of them and had to withdraw from the
remaining ones due to an intervening family issue.
2012, the company effectively demoted Heisler. It rearranged
the reporting structure in Allied to make several of
Crosser's subordinates, including Heisler, report to
Ryan. Then, Nationwide's HR department reassessed
Heisler's position and reclassified her as a Senior
Director, not an AVP. The new classification had an effective
date of July 1, 2013. Heisler complained to Connie McVey, an
HR employee, about what Heisler believed was inaccurate
information involved in the reclassification. HR retained the
classification of Heisler's position as Senior Director.
the next two years, Heisler's attempts to transfer to
another AVP role were unsuccessful. Between June 2012 and May
2013, Heisler inquired about several AVP roles but was
discouraged from applying for various job-specific reasons.
Then, she applied to four AVP positions and expressed
interest in the CFO position at Nationwide's Titan
division between May 2013 and fall of 2014. She was rejected
from the four positions, and the Titan CFO job posting was
removed shortly after she expressed interest. Crosser was the
hiring manager for the Titan CFO position.
fall of 2014, Nationwide reorganized its Property and
Casualty Finance Department and scheduled elimination of
seven positions, including Heisler's Senior Director
position. Nationwide encouraged displaced employees to apply
for positions created by the reorganization.
October of 2014, Heisler applied for three open AVP positions
under Klett: AVP, Finance, Agency Field; AVP, Finance,
Property Management & Accounting; and AVP, Product.
Several managers, including the relevant supervisor Klett and
two other managers who knew Heisler (Crosser and Butler)
interviewed candidates for all three positions at once. They
hired Peter Rothermel for the first role, Mark Dielman for
the second role, and Renae French for the third role. The
hired applicants were two younger males and one younger
female, respectively. Heisler believed Ryan was wrongly
rejected from the AVP, Finance, Agency Field role and should
have been hired for that position. Heisler believed she was
more qualified than Dielman and French for the second and
third roles. She claims all three of these rejections were
November 1, 2014, Heisler applied to be an AVP, Staff
Administration. She was rejected in favor of a younger
female, and she argues this, too, was discriminatory.
November 14, 2014, Heisler complained to HR that Nationwide
was discriminating against her because of her age and gender.
HR's director of the Office of Associate Relations
Compliance investigated the complaints. After interviewing
several people in the company, he concluded that age and
gender had not played a role in the adverse actions toward
subsequent applications fared no better. Between the time of
her complaint in November 2014 and March 5, 2015, Heisler
applied for ten different roles and was apparently rejected
from all ten of them. She contests three of those rejections
as discriminatory. For two jobs in particular, the hiring