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Siegel v. Alpha Wire Corp.

argued: January 8, 1990.

PEARL SIEGEL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
ALPHA WIRE CORPORATION, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION AND PHILIP R. COWEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF ALPHA WIRE CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; D.C. Civil No. 88-0397.

Gibbons, Chief Judge, Scirica, Circuit Judge, and Waldman,*fn* District Judge.

Author: Gibbons

GIBBONS, Chief Judge:

Pearl Siegel appeals from a summary judgment in favor of her former employer, Alpha Wire Corporation ("Alpha") and Philip R. Cowen, Alpha's President and Chief Executive Officer, in her action alleging that the defendants terminated her employment with Alpha in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 621-34 (West 1985 and Supp. 1989). Siegel also alleged pendent causes of action under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. § 10.5-1, as well as ten state common law grounds. In an amended answer, the defendants asserted state-law counterclaims based on information they learned during discovery.

The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and, because there is no diversity of citizenship in this case, dismissed Siegel's pendent state-law claims and the counterclaims. We will reverse.

I.

Siegel is a citizen and resident of New Jersey. Alpha is a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Philip Cowen is a citizen and resident of New York.

Siegel was employed by Alpha from August 30, 1966 until she was fired on February 18, 1987. At the time of her termination, she was 63 years old. Siegel's first position with Alpha was as a clerk. She worked her way to the position of Senior Buyer, which she held for three and a half years before she was fired. At the time she was discharged, her job included purchasing requisitioned supplies, and assisting in the selection of appropriate vendors. She also administered a program under which the company leased automobiles, and maintained a list of employees who would thereafter purchase the automobiles from Alpha.

Siegel alleges that she was replaced by Jay Surujnath, a twenty-nine year old maintenance clerk with no experience in the purchasing area. In their answer to interrogatories, the defendants state that her duties were spread between Surujnath and another employee, Phillip Hanna, who was forty years old and had a college degree in marketing. (App. 212).

In July 1986, defendant Philip R. Cowen became Alpha's president and chief executive officer. Cowen stated that, during 1985 and 1986, Alpha's "sales, earnings, market share and employee morale had deteriorated significantly." He also stated that "Alpha sustained losses in each of those years and, by mid-1986 was in default under its bank loan agreements." (App. 181).

On February 18, 1987, Siegel was terminated at the direction of Cowen by her immediate supervisor, then Director of Purchasing for Alpha, Edward Czerniawski. Czerniawski allegedly told Siegel that "Cowen wants you out now. He wants to upgrade the position." (App. 163-64).

Siegel relies on the deposition testimony of Czerniawski, who stated that she received good evaluations during her employment, that she was "better than average" in ability, and that she was a "highly motivated individual." (App. 184). Czerniawski also testified that at no time did he find that Siegel's job skills were waning. (App. 185).

Siegel testified about Cowen that, although he never said so to her, "it was a noted fact throughout the company that he -- like he said, that being older is no percentage for the company, that he wanted younger people, that they were swifter." (App. 162A).

Siegel contends that Cowen used the phrase "old dogs don't know how to hunt" and that this indicates age bias. Czerniawski also testified that Cowen used the expression, in connection with "[some] of the senior people at Alpha Wire who were associated with the previous management". (App. 189). Cowen responded by stating that he uses the phrase "that dog won't hunt", which is a Texan expression ...


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