The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, District Judge.
On June 25, 1979, plaintiff Larry Bickings was hired as a
Maintenance Mechanic by defendant Bethlehem Lukens Plate
("Lukens"). Bickings was employed by Lukens until March 7, 1985,
when he voluntarily quit his employment. On September 28, 1987,
Bickings was rehired by Lukens as a Machinist.
On April 28, 1996, Bickings suffered a heart attack and took a
leave of absence from his job at Lukens until June 3, 1996.
During Bickings's leave of absence, Lukens implemented a planned
reduction in its workforce and eliminated certain jobs.
Bickings's job was one of those eliminated under the planned
employment reduction. Bickings was notified of the layoff on June
3, 1996. The effective date of his termination was June 17, 1996.
At the time of his termination, Bickings had a salaried position
as a Lead Order Planner in the Maintenance Planning Department at
Lukens's facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.
When Bickings was notified of the termination on June 3, 1996,
Lukens offered him a severance package that included a severance
payment. One requirement of receiving the severance package was
that Bickings sign a General Release Agreement ("Release"). The
Release provided in pertinent part:
I, Larry R. Bickings, . . . for and in consideration
of the severance benefits described in the foregoing
Lukens 1996 Severance Pay Offer for Selected
Employees ("the Severance Pay Offer") and other good
and valuable consideration, do hereby state that:
1. I agree to and accept the terms of the Severance
2. I hereby elect one of the following four
irrevocable payment options below . . .
a. Payment in a lump sum on the next regularly
scheduled payday after the effective date of this
General Release Agreement;. . . .
3. I waive, release and forever discharge Lukens
Inc., . . . of and from any and all claims, causes
of action, suits, damages, wages, debts,
obligations, attorneys' fees, costs and all other
liabilities of any kind or description whatsoever,
either at law or in equity, whether known or
unknown, whether suspected or unsuspected,
including without limitation, any and all claims
for breach of contract, discrimination based on
race, religion, sex, age, color, sexual harassment,
handicap and/or disability, national origin,
retaliation, or otherwise (including any claim
under the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment
Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the
Americans with Disabilities Act, the National Labor
relations Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations
Act), or any other claim based on my employment or
the termination thereof that I ever had, now have
or may have or claim to have in the future against
[Lukens] for or by reason or any cause, matter or
event whatsoever, from the beginning of time to the
date of this General Release Agreement and I
covenant not to file a lawsuit to assert any such
claims . . .
Lukens gave Bickings 45 days to review the severance package
and the Release. In addition, Lukens permitted its
newly-terminated employees, including Bickings, to apply for new
positions within Lukens for six months after termination. Only
current Lukens employees and the newly-terminated employees were
allowed to apply for these positions.
On June 4, 1996, Bickings applied for the position of Machine
Shop Planner. In applying for this position, Bickings used the
internal application form used by Lukens employees. See
Def.Br., Ex. 4. At the interview for this position, agents of
Lukens asked Bickings about his health and disability and whether
he would suffer any future medical impairments as a result of his
disability. See Compl., ¶ 15. After the interview, Bickings was
told that he interviewed "well" for the position. See Pl.Br.,
Ex. A, Bickings Aff. ¶ 4.
On July 11, 1996, Bickings was notified by Lukens in writing
that he was not selected for the Machine Shop Planner position.
The letter stated that interviewers had rated him "acceptable" or
"more than acceptable" in some competencies. See Pl.Br., Ex. B.
When Bickings inquired about who had been selected for the
position, a Lukens representative told him that it was "someone
more qualified than you." See Tr. of Telephone Conference,
January 28, 2000. On July 22, 1996, Bickings accepted the
severance package offered by Lukens and selected to receive
payment in a lump sum. As required by the severance agreement,
Bickings also executed the Release on ...