The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, District Judge.
Pro se plaintiff, Mildred Johnson (plaintiff), brought this
employment discrimination action against the Women's Christian
Alliance (defendant or WCA), alleging that defendant
discriminated against her because of her age by demoting her from
a supervising position to a non-supervising job. Defendant
contends that plaintiff was reassigned to another position as
part of a company-wide reorganization, and not because of her
age. The case is before the court on defendant's motion for
summary judgment. The issue in this case is the seldom explored
question of the adequacy of the defendant's asserted legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason for an adverse employment action under
the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting mode of analysis. Because
the court finds that the reason stated by WCA is not sufficiently
clear and reasonably specific to afford plaintiff a full and fair
opportunity to demonstrate pretext, the motion will be denied.
The following facts are uncontested or viewed in the light most
favorable to plaintiff. Defendant hired plaintiff as a social
worker in its foster care unit in 1988. (Def.'s Mem., Ex. A, pp.
13-14). Plaintiff's duties included visiting clients in foster
homes supervised by WCA. (Def.'s Mem., Ex. A, p. 15). In
approximately 1992 or 1993, plaintiff became the supervisor of
the foster care unit at WCA. (Def.'s Mem., Ex. A, pp. 17-19).
In January of 1994, plaintiff was demoted from her supervisor
position and reassigned to the position of senior social worker,
but her salary was not affected by this demotion. (Def.'s Mem.,
Ex. A, p. 20). WCA informed plaintiff that her demotion was the
result of a reorganization of its personnel structure. (Def.'s
Mem., Ex. A, p. 24). In fact, plaintiff admits that other WCA
employees were also reassigned. (Def.'s Mem., Ex. A, p. 25).
When plaintiff was demoted, Ann Thorpe, who is younger than
plaintiff, was the supervisor of the respite unit at WCA. (Def.'s
Mem., Ex. A, p. 30; Pl.'s Compl.). Ms. Thorpe was not demoted,
but instead was permitted to remain in a supervisory capacity,
and in fact, assumed the supervisor position vacated by
plaintiff. (Def.'s Mem., p. 2). In turn, plaintiff unsuccessfully
requested that she be assigned to the position made available by
Ms. Thorpe's reassignment. (Def.'s Mem., Ex. A, p. 30). Plaintiff
continued to work at WCA as a senior social worker until she
resigned on March 20, 1996. (Def.'s Mem., Ex. A, p. 9).
Defendant responds that plaintiff was reassigned to the
position of senior social worker as part of a universally applied
personnel reorganization, and not because of her age. This
reorganization, WCA contends, forms the legitimate,
non-discriminatory basis for its decision to demote plaintiff.
Defendant further contends that plaintiff has offered no evidence
to show that this reason is pretextual.
Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party can "show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment,
the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-movant. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538
(1986). The court must accept the non-movant's version of the
facts as true, and resolve conflicts in the non-movant's favor.
See Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Amer., Inc.,
974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912, 113
S.Ct. 1262, 122 L.Ed.2d 659 (1993).
The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of genuine issues of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265
(1986). Once the movant has done so, however, the non-moving
party cannot rest on its pleadings. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).
Rather, the non-movant must then "make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of every element essential to his case,
based on the affidavits or by depositions and admissions on
file." Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 852 (3d Cir. 1992);
see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
A. ADEA Age Discrimination Claim
Defendant argues that it is entitled to judgment on plaintiff's
age discrimination claim brought under the ADEA because no
genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether its
legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for ...