Travelers Justified in|Firing Christian Exec | Courthouse News Service
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Travelers Justified in|Firing Christian Exec

(CN) - An insurance manager who was fired after hitting up her staff to fund her Christian missionary work does not have a discrimination case, the 8th Circuit affirmed.

The Travlers Cos. fired managing director Karen Chambers in January 2008 after her supervisors learned that she had taken family members on business trips. Without seeking permission, Chambers had sent expense reports that included meals eaten by her daughter and grandson.

Those infractions followed a written behavioral warning Chambers received in October 2007 after the underwriters she supervised complained about her controlling management style.

In an Oct. 10 meeting about Chambers' performance, two vice presidents and a human resources manager discussed answers to a "climate survey" given to six underwriters.

Chambers denied the negative characterizations, which included reports "that Chambers spoke frequently about religion ... and sold items in the office to raise funds for missionary work, which [employees] felt obligated to purchase to avoid getting on her 'bad side.'"

In a subsequent lawsuit that was removed to the District of Minnesota, Chambers said the October meeting and warning were defamatory, and that Travelers discriminated against her on the basis of age.

A federal judge dismissed various claims in summary judgment, and the federal appeals court affirmed Thursdsay.

Travelers was entitled to investigate the morale of Chambers' business unit after complaints about her behavior, and Chambers failed to document any malice or ill will from her supervisors, the 11-page decision states.

The three-judge panel also rejected Chambers' claim that Travelers owed her a $30,000 bonus for her 2007 work.

"Travelers' written Performance Based Compensation Policy expressly provided that bonuses 'are discretionary awards used to reward superior performance,'" Judge James Loken wrote. "Chambers fails to identify any document in the record mandating the payment of performance bonuses," he added.

Travelers replaced the 52-year-old Chambers with a 51-year-old managing director and eventually hired a 44-year-old to work beneath Chambers' replacement.

This narrow age gap does not suggest age discrimination, the panel found.

"The grant of summary judgment was appropriate because Chambers failed to show that either of her replacements was 'significantly younger,'" Loken wrote.

"There is no evidence that these decision-makers contemplated terminating Chambers prior to the negative comments made by her subordinates," he added.

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