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DIBIASE v. SMITHKLINE BEECHAM CORP.

March 15, 1994

JOHN DIBIASE
v.
SMITHKLINE BEECHAM CORP.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN R. PADOVA

 Padova, J.

 I. BACKGROUND

 SmithKline is a corporation that manufactures and markets pharmaceutical and consumer products, and was formed in 1989 as a result of a merger between SmithKline Beckman Corporation and Beecham Pharmaceuticals. Following the merger, SmithKline operated computer data centers at King of Prussia, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and at Bristol, Tennessee.

 During 1990, SmithKline consolidated the four separate data centers into a single center located at King of Prussia. Before consolidation, Plaintiff was employed as the first shift supervisor at the Philadelphia data center. *fn2" After consolidation, six shift supervisors worked at the King of Prussia data center, two supervisors per shift, with each pair of supervisors overseeing the work of only 3-5 computer operators. Michael Oleksiuk, who had been manager of the Philadelphia data center, was transferred to the consolidated facility and became Manager of Data Center Operations, and the immediate superior of the six shift supervisors. In August 1991, after Geraghty transferred to an operations analyst position, five shift supervisors remained at the King of Prussia facility.

 In December 1991, Katherine Holland, formerly the Director of Business Systems and Operations, assumed overall responsibility for the consolidated data center. Holland determined that only one shift supervisor was needed per shift, and decided in January 1992 to terminate two of the five remaining shift supervisors. Holland met with Oleksiuk and Tyrone Barber, the data center's personnel manager, to determine who should be laid off. Barber prepared an "adverse impact analysis" examining the gender, race, and age of the shift supervisors to determine if any adverse impact would result from the planned reduction in staff. On February 1, 1992, Holland met with Oleksiuk, Barber, and William Mossett, SmithKline's Vice President and Director of Corporate Personnel, and determined that Plaintiff and Fleming should be laid off. On February 2, 1992, Oleksiuk informed Plaintiff that his employment was terminated. At that time, Plaintiff was fifty-one years old.

 As a terminated employee, Plaintiff was eligible for SmithKline's separation benefit plan ("the Plan"). The Plan included a lump sum payment based on length of service and three months continued health and dental benefits. The Plan also offered enhanced benefits to terminated employees who signed a general release of all claims against SmithKline. The enhanced benefits included a larger lump sum payment and six months continued health and dental coverage. Under the Plan, Plaintiff was entitled to a lump sum payment equal to fifteen months salary if he signed the release, or twelve months salary if he declined to sign the release. Plaintiff did not sign the general release.

 Count I of Plaintiff's amended complaint asserts that SmithKline's decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment was part of a corporate plan to eliminate older workers from the corporation's payroll. Count II asserts that SmithKline's separation benefit plan violates ADEA because older workers must release more claims than younger workers to receive the same enhanced benefits. *fn3"

 II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

 Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith 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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

 An issue is "genuine" only if there is sufficient evidence with which a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). Furthermore, bearing in mind that all uncertainties are to be resolved in favor of the nonmoving party, a factual dispute is only "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case. See id. at 248, 106 S. Ct. at 2510.

 A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the movant's initial Celotex burden can be met simply by "pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325, 106 S. Ct. at 2554. After the moving party has met its initial burden, summary judgment is appropriate if the non-moving party fails to rebut by making a factual showing "sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322, 106 S. Ct. at 2552.

 III. DISCUSSION

 SmithKline seeks summary judgment on both counts of Plaintiff's amended complaint. I shall ...


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