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NAAS v. WESTINGHOUSE ELEC. CORP.

January 29, 1993

PAUL L. NAAS, Plaintiff,
v.
WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORPORATION, Defendant.


D. Brooks Smith, United States District Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: D. BROOKS SMITH

SMITH, District J.

 I. INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff Paul L. Naas (Naas) was an employee of defendant Westinghouse Electric Corporation (Westinghouse) for thirty-three (33) years until he was discharged as part of a plant-wide reduction in force (RIF), effective October 1, 1991. At the time of his termination, *fn1" Naas, then age sixty (60), was employed as a "Senior Systems Consulting Analyst." On October 29, 1991, Naas timely filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that his termination violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court against Westinghouse, alleging violation of the ADEA. *fn2"

 Currently before the Court is the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Westinghouse asserts that: (1) Naas cannot establish a prima facie case of age discrimination; (2) if Naas has established a prima facie case, it has articulated legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating him; and (3) Naas cannot show that the reasons articulated by it are pretextual.

 II. DISCUSSION OF LAW

 A. SUMMARY JUDGMENT

 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) requires the entry of summary judgment ". . . if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law." "The requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986) (emphasis in original). An issue of fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Equimark Commercial Finance Co. v. C.I.T. Financial Services Corp., 812 F.2d 141, 144 (3d Cir. 1987). The presence or absence of any plausible motive to engage in conduct is relevant to whether a genuine issue of fact exists within the meaning of Rule 56(e). Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 597, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986).

 Once the moving party has satisfied its burden of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party is required to go beyond the pleadings by way of affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). When Rule 56(e) shifts the burden of proof to the non-moving party, that party must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case which it bears the burden of proving at trial. Equimark, supra at 144.

 B. AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT ACT

 The ADEA proscribes employers from failing to hire, discharging, or "otherwise discriminating against any individual . . . because of such individual's age," 29 U.S.C. § 623(1), so long as he or she is within the statutorily protected class of individuals who are at least 40 years of age. 29 U.S.C. § 631(a). To prevail in a disparate treatment action, an ADEA "plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that age was a determinative factor in the employer's decision." Billet v. Cigna Corp., 940 F.2d 812, 816 (3d Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). In theory, this ultimate burden of proving intentional age discrimination remains with the plaintiff at all times. Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207, 101 S. Ct. 1089 (1981); Duffy v. Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corp., 738 F.2d 1393, 1395 (3d Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1087, 83 L. Ed. 2d 702, 105 S. Ct. 592 (1984).

  Under the familiar burden-shifting rules of proof established by courts "to ease the evidentiary burdens on employment discrimination plaintiffs," Thornbrough v. Columbus and Greenville R. Co., 760 F.2d 633, 638 (5th Cir. 1985), the plaintiff must first demonstrate what has been termed a "prima facie case." *fn3" This means that in a reduction in force case, such as the instant action, the plaintiff must show that he (1) is a member of the protected class, (2) was discharged from a job (3) for which he was qualified, and (4) was replaced by or treated less favorably than another employee not in the protected class. Maxfield v. Sinclair Int'l, 766 F.2d 788, 793 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1057, 88 L. Ed. 2d 773, 106 S. Ct. 796 (1986); Massarsky v. General Motors Corp., 706 F.2d 111, 118 (3d Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 937, 78 L. Ed. 2d 314, 104 S. Ct. 348 (1983). Once established, the plaintiff's prima facie case raises an inference of intentional discrimination by the defendant. Furnco v. Construction Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 576, 57 L. Ed. 2d 957, 98 S. Ct. 2943 (1978). However, if the plaintiff fails "to limn a prima facie case, the inference of discrimination neyer arises, and the employer's motion for summary judgment will be granted." Dodge v. Susquehanna Univ., 785 F. Supp. 502, 505 (M.D. Pa. 1991)(quoting Mesnick v. Gen. Elec. Co., 950 F.2d 816, 824 (1st Cir. 1991), cert. denied 119 L. Ed. 2d 586, 112 S. Ct. 2965 (1992)).

 If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of age discrimination, the defendant then has the burden of producing evidence tending to prove that its action was motivated by some "legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253. If the defendant can articulate a nondiscriminatory reason, "the presumption raised by the prima facie case is rebutted, and the factual inquiry proceeds to a new level of specificity." Id. at 255.

 In order to avoid summary judgment, the plaintiff must establish "by competent evidence," Ezold v. Wolff, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, 1992 WL 385463 (3d Cir. 1992), "that the employer's proffered explanation is subject to factual dispute." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256. The plaintiff may do so "by means of indirect proof that the employer's reasons are pretextual without presenting evidence specifically relating to age." Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 898 (3d Cir. 1987)(emphasis added), cert. dismissed 483 U.S. 1052 (1987). In this circuit, *fn4" the plaintiff does not have to show that the employer's purported reason for its action was "illegitimate" in the sense that it was motivated by illegal discriminatory animus; rather, he has only to criticize it effectively enough to raise a doubt as to whether it was the true ...


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