Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

WALTERS v. COUNTY OF SCHUYLKILL

January 16, 2001

ANTOINETTE O. WALTERS, PLAINTIFF,
V.
COUNTY OF SCHUYLKILL, AND GARY L. HORNBERGER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conaboy, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 15). Plaintiff filed the above-captioned matter*fn1 asserting claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa.S.A. § 951 et seq. Plaintiff further claims that she was politically discriminated against pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons set forth infra, we shall grant the Defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Antoinette Walters, began working for Schuylkill County in 1985, where she held the position of Payroll/Benefits Clerk. (Doc. 23, Walters Deposition, N.T., 19). Plaintiff is a politically active Democrat who serves as an elected Democratic Committee person. (Doc. 23, Walters Deposition, N.T. 117). At the time of the challenged employment decision, Plaintiff was responsible for handling the manual payroll and benefits functions for the County.

On January 2, 1996, Defendant Gary Hornberger, a Republican, assumed office to serve as the County Controller of Schuylkill County. (Doc. 23, Hornberger Deposition, N.T. 6-7). From January 2, 1996, until July of 1998, the Plaintiff worked under the supervision of Defendant Hornberger. (Id., N.T. 21)

Upon his entry into office, Defendant Hornberger determined that certain changes needed to be implemented within the office. Specifically, Defendant Hornberger decided the manual payroll system should be replaced with a new computerized payroll system, and that any payroll/benefits functions should be transferred from the Controller's Office to Human Resources. (Doc. 23, Hornberger Deposition, N.T. 27-28, 44-45). As a result, Plaintiff was made aware that her position as Payroll/Benefits Clerk in the Controller's Office would be eliminated in 1998. (Doc. 23, Walters Deposition, N.T. 65-67). Plaintiffs understanding that her position would no longer be part of the Controller's Office was confirmed by the 1998 budget submissions. Id.

Plaintiff alleges in late 1997, or early 1998, the new computerized payroll system in Human Resources was being installed. Due to the necessity of keeping up the manual payroll, Plaintiff continued to perform her job duties, while simultaneously another county employee, Carol Leashefski, worked on setting up the new computerized system. Plaintiff testified at her deposition that it was necessary to continue doing the manual system during the transition period because there was no other way to maintain the payroll system. (Doc. 23, Walters Deposition, N.T. 63-65).

Carol Leashefski was bumped from her previous position in the Office of the Treasurer, and on January 5, 1998, she was hired as a temporary employee to help implement the new computer system that would handle the new payroll system.*fn2 (Doc. 23, Hornberger Deposition, N.T. 59-62). Leashefski, like the Plaintiff, is also a politically active Democrat. She is an elected committeewoman and an elected member of the Executive Board of the Schuylkill County Democratic Party. (Doc. 18, Leashefski Deposition, N.T. 39-40). Leashefski began implementing the new computer system in January of 1998 (Doc. 23, Walters Deposition, N.T. 63). Leashefski was later hired in October of 1998 to fill a new permanent position as Payroll Analyst in Human Resources, and another county employee was placed in charge of benefits. (Doc. 18, Leashefski Deposition, N.T. 43-44, 47, 53).

Plaintiff alleges that Leashefski was given Plaintiffs full time position even though Leashefski had no payroll or benefit experience. (Doc. 21). Plaintiff also claims that she herself "had most of the skills" necessary to fulfill the new full-time payroll analyst position. Id. However, Plaintiff admits that prior to July of 1998, she had "very little" experience with computers, and that she was basically unfamiliar with word processing, and spreadsheets, etc. (Doc. 23, Walters Deposition, N.T. 13-18).

In July of 1998, the Plaintiff was discharged following the elimination of her Payroll/Benefits Clerk position. Plaintiff was considered to have satisfactorily performed her duties as Payroll/Benefits Clerk. (Doc. 23, Hornberger Deposition, N.T. 23-24). At the time of Plaintiffs discharge, the full-time payroll analyst position did not exist.

In July of 1998, Plaintiff was sixty (60) years of age, Carol Leashefski was fifty-five (55) years of age, and Charles. Daubert*fn3 was sixty-three (63) years of age.

DISCUSSION

Summary Judgment is a method of final disposition of a case where there are no factual disputes. We follow considerable guidance in determining whether summary judgment should be granted. Summary judgment is proper "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 judgment as a matter of law." See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n. 4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (emphasis in original).

These rules make it clear then, that in order for a moving party to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the party-must show two things: (a) that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and (b) that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). This instructs us that a fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would effect the outcome of the lawsuit under the law applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Levendos v. Stern Entertainment Inc., 860 F.2d 1227, 1233 (3d Cir. 1988). We are further instructed that an issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Hankins v. Temple University, 829 F.2d 437, 440 (3d Cir. 1987); Equimark Commercial Finance Co. v. C.I.T. Financial Services Corp., 812 F.2d 141, 144 (3d Cir. 1987).

Under this regime that we follow, the Court is required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. However, the non-moving party may not rest on the bare allegations contained in his or her pleadings. Once the moving party has satisfied its burden of identifying evidence which demonstrates an absence of a genuine issue of material fact, see Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 694 (3d Cir. 1988), the nonmoving party is required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e)*fn4 to go beyond the pleadings by way of affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). When Rule 56(e) shifts the burden of proof to the nonmoving party, that party must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case which it bears the burden of proving at trial. Equimark, supra at 144.

A. LIABILITY UNDER THE ADEA

The parties' burdens in establishing and defending ADEA*fn5 claims has been set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). Stanziale v. Jargowsky, 200 F.3d 101, 105 (3d Cir. 2000); see also St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 506-507, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 125 L.Ed.2d 407 (1993). In a pretext case,*fn6 the plaintiff must first produce evidence sufficient to convince a reasonable factfinder as to all of the elements of a prima facie case of discrimination. In order to establish a prima facie case under the ADEA, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) she belongs to a protected class — over age 40; (2) she was qualified for the position in question; (3) she suffered an adverse employment decision; and (4) the position was filled by someone sufficiently younger to permit an inference of age discrimination. See Narin v. Lower Merion School Dist., 206 F.3d 323, 331 (3d Cir. 2000); Sempier v. Johnson & Higgins, 45 F.3d 724, 728 (3d Cir. 1995).

If a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, "the burden of production (but not the burden of persuasion) shifts to the defendant, who must then offer evidence that is sufficient, if believed, to support a finding that the defendant had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment decision." Stanziale, 200 F.3d at 105 (internal citations omitted). The plaintiff then has "the opportunity to demonstrate that the employer's stated reasons were not its true reasons but were a pretext for discrimination." Sempier, 45 F.3d at 728. At all times, the ultimate burden of proving intentional discrimination remains with the Plaintiff. Hicks, 509 U.S. at 507, 113 S.Ct. 2742; Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, Div. of Sterling, Inc., 142 F.3d 639, 644 n. 6 (3d Cir. 1998).

1. DEFENDANT HORNBERGER

The Defendants argue that Defendant Hornberger is not subject to the ADEA because he is not an "employer" as defined by the statute. Moreover, the Defendants note that the Plaintiff concedes that the weight of the caselaw favors the Defendants' position.

The ADEA defines "employer" as: "a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has twenty or more employees . . . and (1) any agent of such a person, and (2) a State or political subdivision of a State and any agency or instrumentality of a State or political subdivision of a State." 29 U.S.C. § 630(b). Many Courts have found that individual agents of state agencies do not fall under the ADEA's definition of employer. See Pierce v. Philadelphia Housing Auth., 1995 WL 447614, *2 (E.D.Pa. 1995) (individual agents of the Pennsylvania Housing Authority, a state agency, are not considered "employers" and are not subject to the ADEA); Ditch v. Bd. Of County Comm'rs of County of Shawnee, 650 F. Supp. 1245, 1251 (Kan. 1986) (as Congress made no provision for agents of states and political subdivisions, the court reasoned that Congress could have easily added the phrase "and their agents" in 29 U.S.C. § 630 to express Congress' intent to hold individuals liable for age discrimination); Tranello v. Frey, 758 F. Supp. 841, 851-52 (W.D.N.Y. 1991); Wanner v. State of Kan., 766 F. Supp. 1005, 1007 (Kan. 1991).

In the instant case, we do not find the Plaintiffs limited argument or reliance on two district cases to be persuasive. Furthermore, we find that Defendant Hornberger as County Controller, clearly works as an individual agent for a political subdivision of the state, thus, he is not subject to the Plaintiffs ADEA claim. In reality, the Plaintiff was an employee of the other Defendant, the County of Schuylkill. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.