she was physically unable to go to work that day.
57. After consulting with his managers, Ms. Jennings and Ms. Eleanore Arena, defendant's medical department and its personnel department, Mr. Ferrara made the decision to discharge Ms. Cuff. Ms. Cuff was discharged because IBM's medical department had determined that she was capable of returning to work immediately, and when directed to report to work, Ms. Cuff did not.
58. Mr. Ferrara telephoned Ms. Cuff to inform her of this and sent a letter confirming the decision to her the same day.
59. Mr. Ferrara testified that there was no intent on the part of management to deprive Ms. Cuff of her benefits. Plaintiff's managers testified that whether plaintiff received benefits under defendant's disability plans had no impact on their budgets or on how their performance was evaluated.
60. Ms. Cuff testified that she was never told that her discharge was a result of anything other than her failure to report to work, or that IBM did not want to pay her disability benefits.
61. On February 18, 1990, Dr. Bellesorte sent a letter reviewing Ms. Cuff's medical history to Dr. Tomasi. The letter repeated Dr. Bellesorte's diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome as the underlying illness affecting Ms. Cuff. Dr. Bellesorte included his office notes and provided laboratory test results with his letter. He testified that his letter was based on Ms. Cuff's subjective account of how she felt, with the exception of the report of swollen glands.
62. Dr. Tomasi testified that the letter and the test results did not convince him that Ms. Cuff was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. In his view, the test results were within normal limits. Dr. Tomasi stated that "the letter and the medical information that Dr. Bellesorte provided does not offer us any new information and does not add to our understanding of the disease process or her symptoms, and it also provided no documentation for her needing to be out on disability or being absent."
E. Plaintiff's Appeals of her Discharge
63. Ms. Cuff appealed her discharge by using IBM's "Open Door" procedure. The Open Door gives employees the opportunity to appeal management decisions to higher management.
64. Ms. Cuff wrote a letter to Mr. John Akers, the chairman and chief executive officer of IBM. She believed that he could reverse the decision to discharge her.
65. Mr. Larry Deaton was assigned as investigator and as Ms. Cuff's advocate in the appeal of her discharge. As part of his investigation, he met with Ms. Cuff, her managers and members of IBM's medical department.
66. Mr. Deaton requested that Ms. Cuff submit a "definitive report" showing that she had chronic fatigue syndrome. Ms. Cuff testified that such a report was impossible to produce because a "definitive test" to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome does not exist.
67. Mr. Deaton concluded that Ms. Cuff had been treated fairly and told her so.
68. After her Open Door review, Ms. Cuff filed a state law handicap discrimination claim with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). She claimed that she was discharged because of her handicap, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
69. The PHRC held a hearing that included a fact-finding session. As a result of the session, the PHRC determined that Ms. Cuff's complaint should be dismissed "because the facts of the case do not establish that probable cause exists to credit the allegations of unlawful discrimination." In its findings, the PHRC found that the reasons for Ms. Cuff's discharge were based on her failure to report to work and to provide a medically justified reason for her absence.
III. Conclusions of Law
1. Section 510 of ERISA provides:
It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge . . . or discriminate against a participant or beneficiary for exercising any right to which he is entitled under the provisions of an employee benefit plan, . . . of for the purpose of interfering with the attainment of any right to which such participant may become entitled under the plan, . . .