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DAVIS v. TAMMAC CORP.

December 28, 2000

WILLIAM J. DAVIS, PLAINTIFF
V.
TAMMAC CORPORATION, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas I. Vanaskie, U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM

This action involves claims of age and disability discrimination in connection with plaintiff William Davis' termination from his employment at Tammac Corporation ("Tammac"). Davis alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. C.S.A. § 955, as well as a pendent state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Tammac has moved for summary judgment on all claims. Because Davis has failed to present competent evidence that he suffers from a "disability" or was regarded by Tammac as having a "disability" as defined in the ADA, Tammac will be granted summary judgment on Davis' disability discrimination claims. Davis has provided sufficient evidence, however, to withstand Tammac's summary judgment motion on his claim of age discrimination. Thus, summary judgment will be denied as to those claims. As a result of the parties' concurrence, the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim and Davis' request for punitive damages under the PHRA will be dismissed.

BACKGROUND

Tammac is a financial services company which markets automotive lease financing programs, manufactured housing industry financing, insurance services, credit reporting and resort industry financing. In 1991, Davis was hired by Tammac as Director of Tammac Career Services ("TCS"). TCS, which is part of Tammac's Automotive Leasing Division, was developed to offer sales programs to automobile dealerships, and supplemented the lease training programs which were being conducted by the lease division's marketing representatives.*fn1

As Director of TCS, Davis' responsibilities included developing training curriculum soliciting auto leasing dealers for the sales training; and conducting the sales training programs.*fn2 Davis also occasionally performed market surveys for the lease division, which enabled Tammac to determine the viability of expanding its services into new geographic territories. Besides Davis, the only other employees in TCS were clerical and administrative staff. Davis reported to William Smith, who oversaw the auto lease division and the manufactured housing division.*fn3

In the early 1990's, Tammac had a dealer base of approximately 1500 dealers. Davis provided training at approximately 29 dealerships, 11 to 12 of which were located in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area. Davis conducted approximately 20 training programs each year, and trained approximately 600 sales representatives. During his tenure, Davis also occasionally provided training programs for the manufactured housing division, and some "in-house" training for Tammac Credit Services.

Although revenues for the auto lease division as a whole grew from 1992-1995, TCS sustained losses of $30,251 in 1992; $48,561 in 1993; $25,957 in 1994 and $43,264 in 1995. Davis discussed the fees generated by TCS with Smith on a monthly basis. According to Davis, Smith never expressed concern to Davis about the income which the division was generating and did not provide any negative feedback to Davis.

In the fall of 1994, Davis asserts that Smith told him that one of the sales representatives, James Root, was going to be promoted, and that Davis would take over Root's territory in Allentown. In October 1994, Davis suffered a heart attack and had heart surgery. He returned to work in January 1995. Upon his return to work, Davis resumed his position as Director of TCS, and worked without restrictions. Davis contends, however, that management's attitude towards him changed after his heart attack, and that he was no longer involved in management's "inner circle." In June 1995, Smith informed Davis that Tammac was closing TCS because of its unprofitability, and that it was terminating Davis' position.*fn4

Shortly after deciding to close the TCS division, Tammac was approached by National Auto Funding to establish an indirect auto substandard credit lending program at Tammac. NAF provides loans to individuals with a poor credit history. NAF agreed to loan funds if Tammac could commit marketing and operations personnel to approach auto dealers to arrange for the financing. For any loan which Tammac initiated, Tammac would receive a fee from NAF.

Smith contacted Davis and offered him the opportunity to head the sub-par financing program at a salary of $30,000 plus commissions. Davis was informed that the project was risky, but he accepted the position because he had no other employment options. A clerical employee, Kim Alexander, was transferred from the manufactured housing unit to assist Davis with the sub-par financing program.

In the fall of 1995, while Davis was working in sub-par financing, Root, the Allentown sales representative, was promoted to Vice President of Marketing. Tammac offered Root's position to John Senick in November of 1995, and Senick assumed Root's position on January 2, 1996.*fn5 Although Davis contends that he was promised the position prior to his heart attack, Davis was not offered the position.

In December 1995, a few months after the sub-par program started, NAF withdraw its funding. Because Tammac did not have another funding source, Tammac closed the sub-par financing program in January of 1996, and terminated Davis' employment a second time. At the time of his second termination, Davis was not offered another position in the company; Kim Alexander, Davis' assistant, returned to her previous position in the manufactured housing unit. Davis was 49 years old at the time of his termination.

Davis filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"). The PHRC authorized commencement of a law suit on October 22, 1997. (Complaint, Dkt. 1, at ¶ 9.) Davis filed this action on September 4, 1998. In October of 1999, Tammac moved for summary judgment. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

I. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment should be granted when "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 . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Facts that could alter the outcome are material facts." Charlton v. Paramus Bd. of Educ., 25 F.3d 194, 197 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 115 S.Ct. 590 (1994). "Summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is `genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

Initially, the moving party must show the absence of a genuine issue concerning any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 329 (1986). All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988); Continental Ins. Co. v. Bodie, 682 F.2d 436, 438 (3d Cir. 1982). Once the moving party has satisfied its burden, the nonmoving party "must present affirmative evidence to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. Mere conclusory allegations or denials taken from the pleadings are insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment once the moving party has presented evidentiary materials. Schoch v. First Fidelity Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990). Rule 56 requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

B. Discrimination Claims

Discrimination claims can be established in two ways: by direct evidence that the employer's decision was motivated by discrimination; or by indirect evidence which creates an inference of discrimination under the burden-shifting framework set forth in McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).*fn6 Under the McDonnell-Douglas burden shifting analysis, the plaintiff bears the initial burden of offering evidence sufficient to "create an inference that an employment decision was based on a discriminatory criterion illegal under the act." Maxfield v. Sinclair International, 766 F.2d 788, 791 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1057 (1986). If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the defendant, who must then offer evidence that is sufficient, if believed, to support a finding that it had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the discharge. Showalter v. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 190 F.3d 231, 235 (3d Cir. 1999); Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 765 (3d Cir. 1994). If the defendant satisfies this requirement, then the burden of production shifts back to the plaintiff to point to some evidence that the reasons offered by the defendant were a pretext for discrimination. Shaner v. Synthes, 204 F.3d 494, 500-01 (3d Cir. 2000). To defeat summary judgment, the plaintiff must proffer evidence "from which a factfinder could reasonably either (1) disbelieve the employer's articulated legitimate reasons or (2) believe that an invidious discriminatory reason was more likely than not a motivating or determinative cause of the employer's action." Showalter, 190 F.3d at 235; Keller v. Orix Credit Alliance, Inc., 130 F.3d 1101, 1108 (3d Cir. 1997)(en banc); Torre v. Casio, Inc., 42 F.3d 825, 830 (3d Cir. 1994). "To discredit the employer's proffered reason, [1] the plaintiff cannot simply show that the employer's decisions were wrong or mistaken. . . . Rather the moving plaintiff must demonstrate such weaknesses or implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies, or contradictions in the employer's proffered legitimate reasons for ...


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