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Connors v. Chrysler Financial Corp.

November 17, 1998

LEO G. CONNORS, APPELLANT,
v.
CHRYSLER FINANCIAL CORPORATION; CHRYSLER FIRST, INC.; NATIONSBANK CORPORATION; NATIONSCREDIT CORPORATION; JOHN P. TIERNEY; ROBERT A. MAJOR



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. No. 96-cv-02231)

Before: Becker, Chief Judge, Nygaard, and Noonan,* Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nygaard, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED OCTOBER 7, 1998

*Honorable John T. Noonan, Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting by designation.

OPINION OF THE COURT

Leo Connors brought claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Stat. #8E8E # 951 et seq., against NationsBank and Chrysler Financial Corporation. Connors claims he was constructively discharged by a forced retirement when NationsBank took over Chrysler First Inc. ("CFI"), a subsidiary of Chrysler Financial Corporation, in early 1993. He appeals from the district court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants. We will affirm.

I.

There is no need to differentiate between Connors's ADEA and PHRA claims because, for our purposes, the same analysis is used for both. See, e.g., Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, 142 F.3d 639, 643-44 & n.4 (3d Cir. 1998); Fairfield Township Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 v. Commonwealth, 609 A.2d 804, 805 (Pa. 1992). As we have said, "each ADEA case must be Judged on its own facts." Healy v. New York Life Ins. Co., 860 F.2d 1209, 1219 (3d Cir. 1988).

The ADEA prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual in hiring, discharge, compensation, term, conditions, or privileges of employment on the basis of age. See 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). Age discrimination may be established by direct or indirect evidence. See Torre v. Casio, Inc., 42 F.3d 825, 829 (3d Cir. 1994).

II.

The facts of this case are, for the most part, undisputed. Any disputed facts will be set out in a light most favorably to Connors. Leo Connors was an executive with CFI and its predecessors since 1961. From 1977 until 1992, Connors served as Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of CFI. In late 1991, because his working relationship with the Chief Executive Officer of CFI, Robert Major, had deteriorated, Connors spoke with Robert "Terry" Ray, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Administration at CFI, about Connors's future at CFI. These conversations eventually focused on Connors stepping down as Chief Financial Officer and either accepting another position or taking a retirement package.

Connors told Ray that Major subjected Connors and his staff to verbal abuse and unprofessional treatment. In addition, Connors revealed that Major had expressed unhappiness with the number of hours that Connors was working and the amount of vacation he was taking.

The Discussions concerning Connors's future continued in early 1992 and culminated in Connors stepping down as CFO in March 1992 and becoming Senior Vice President,

Director of Special Operations. Connors retained his job grade and salary and was assigned a list of tasks to complete in his new position.

Although Connors had previously projected a July 1993 retirement date, the district court noted that it appeared that his intentions changed when he transferred to the new job. During the Discussions regarding his new position, Connors sought an arrangement whereby upon completion of the assigned tasks, he could stop working full-time, but continue to receive a full salary until his expected retirement date. He wanted a severance package that had been given to several other executives at the end of their careers. These other executives were also placed in positions that were to be eliminated, enabling them to take advantage of the extra ...


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