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TAYLOR v. WEST PENN ALLEGHENY GENERAL HOSPITAL

November 21, 2005.

BERNICE TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
WEST PENN ALLEGHENY GENERAL HOSPITAL, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DONETTA AMBROSE, District Judge

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

SYNOPSIS

Pending is Defendant's, Allegheny General Hospital's ("AGH"),*fn1 Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket No. 8). Plaintiff has filed a Response thereto. (Docket No. 11). AGH then filed a Reply Brief. (Docket No. 12). Based on my opinion set forth below, said Motion is granted.

  I. BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff, Bernice Taylor, was born on March 6, 1953. See, Plaintiff's Depo., p. 7. Plaintiff was hired by AGH on November 8, 1971. Prior to her termination, Plaintiff had returned to work following a back injury resulting in a herniated disc. She was working under a 10 pound lifting restriction. AGH terminated Plaintiff's employment on June 19, 2003. At the time of her discharge, Plaintiff was fifty (50) years old and working as a unit secretary in AGH's Medical Ambulatory Care Clinic.

  Plaintiff commenced this suit against Defendant asserting that she was fired by Defendant in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. See, Complaint. Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket No. 14). Plaintiff has responded thereto. (Docket No. 11). The issues are now ripe for review.

  II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

  A. LEGAL STANDARD OF REVIEW

  Summary judgment may only be granted 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against the party who 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 Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

  In considering a motion for summary judgment, this Court must examine the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence creates no genuine issue of material fact. Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d Cir. 1987). The dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Summary judgment must therefore be granted "against a party who 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." White v. Westinghouse Electric Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988), quoting, Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

  B. COUNT I: ADEA

  Plaintiff alleges that she was fired by AGH because of her age, in violation of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. See, Complaint, Count I. The ADEA provides, in relevant part that: "It shall be unlawful for an employer . . . to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual . . . because of such individual's age." 29 U.S.C.A. § 623(a)(1). The ADEA applies only to "individuals who are at least 40 years of age." 29 U.S.C.A. § 631(a). There are two avenues for proving Plaintiff's ADEA claim: (1) direct evidence under a "mixed motives" theory of liability, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989), or (2) circumstantial evidence of discrimination under a burden shifting theory of liability. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).*fn2 Both parties agree that this case is proceeding under the latter burden shifting theory of liability.

  To prevail under the burden shifting analysis, Plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. To establish a prima facie case for age discrimination, a plaintiff must prove: (1) that she is a member of a protected class (i.e. over 40), (2) that she was qualified for her position, (3) that she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) that the position was ultimately filled by someone substantially younger than the plaintiff to permit an inference of age discrimination. O'Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp., 517 U.S. 308, 312-13 (1996); Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 763 (3d Cir. 1994), citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973); Pivirotto v. Innovative Systems, Inc., 191 F.3d 344, 353 (3d Cir. 1999). If the Plaintiff is successful in establishing a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to Defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for failing to hire him. If Defendants meet this minimal burden, then Plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the articulated reason was mere pretext for discrimination. Keller v. Orix Credit Alliance, Inc., 130 F.3d 1101, 1108 (3d Cir. 1997). Throughout this analysis, however, the burden of proving intentional discrimination rests with Plaintiff. Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 763 (3d Cir. 1994). In other words, the burden of persuasion does not shift. St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 509 (1993).

  Defendant argues that summary judgment is appropriate because Plaintiff cannot establish the fourth element of a prima facie case for age discrimination. See, Defendant's Brief in Support, p. 6. In opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff, without citation to any case law, merely states "Plaintiff specifically identifies similarly situated employees, under the age of 40 that continually breached confidentiality out in the open of the waiting area under Joan Crawford's direct supervision who did not receive discipline from Crawford."*fn3 Docket No. 11, p. 4. The treatment of "similarly situated employees," however, applies in the context of a reduction in force ADEA case, which is not the case here. See, Anderson v. Consol. Rail Corp., 297 F.3d 242, 249-50 (3d Cir. 2002). The element that Plaintiff must establish in a termination case is that the position was ultimately filled by someone substantially younger than the plaintiff to permit an inference of age discrimination. O'Connor, 517 U.S. at 312-13. In this case, Plaintiff did not engage in any discovery. As a result, there ...


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