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Neishel v. Citadel Broadcasting Corp.

February 22, 2008

STANLEY J. NEISHEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITADEL BROADCASTING CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MAGISTRATE JUDGE MANNION

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are Magistrate Judge Malachy E. Mannion's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 25) and Plaintiff Stanley J. Neishel's Objections thereto. (Doc. 26). The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant Defendant Citadel Broadcasting Corporation's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 15.) Because no questions of material fact exist regarding Plaintiff's claims of disability- and age-based discrimination under the ADA, the ADEA, and the PHRA, the Court will adopt the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and grant Defendant's motion. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Citadel Broadcasting Corporation ("Citadel") employed Plaintiff Neishel, born April 29, 1953, as a production director beginning July 1, 1997, when Citadel purchased Plaintiff's former employer, another broadcasting company at which Plaintiff had been a production director since 1985. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [hereinafter "Def.'s Statement"], Doc. 17 ¶¶ 1-2; Pl.'s Counterstatement of Undisputed Material Facts [hereinafter "Pl.'s Counterstatement"], Doc. 23-4 ¶¶ 1-2; Neishel Dep. 24:8-19, Sept. 6, 2006, Doc. 16-2.) During his employment, Plaintiff reported to the general manager. At the time he was hired, this was William Betts; later, Stu Stanek served as interim general manager and Regina Todd took over the position on September 1, 1999. (Def.'s Statement ¶ 4-5; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶ 4-5.)

Plaintiff's job required him to "multitask" and his duties included managing the production department and its employees, creating a production schedule, producing commercials and voice work, maintaining production equipment, billing clients for certain production services, and working with the traffic and sales departments to coordinate efforts and make sure all production work was accomplished. (Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 6-7; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶¶ 6-7.) At one point, Citadel assigned another employee, Christopher Norton, to certain handle matters that Neishel, in his words, "can't handle more or less," particularly talking to certain of the less experienced salespeople who were having trouble; Plaintiff, however, states that Norton, an on air personality with no experience in radio production, helped him only in handling two (2) to three (3) out of fifteen (15) salespeople. (Def.'s Statement ¶ 8; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶ 8.) Prior to January 1998, Plaintiff had job-related stress and put in long hours, but experienced no medical problems. (Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 9, 11; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶¶ 9, 11.)

On January 22, 1998, Plaintiff called in to work and Carole Marchwat, sales manager for one of the Citadel stations, answered the phone. He told her "I don't feel good. Just tell [Citadel] I am not coming in." The next day, he again called and told Marchwat he could not come to work because "I don't feel right." When she asked him what was wrong, he told her that he had passed out the previous day. (Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 12-13; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶¶ 12-13.) Marchwat advised him to call his doctor immediately, which he did, and was subsequently hospitalized for eight (8) days with what doctors initially diagnosed as a stroke but was eventually revealed to be a tumor. (Neishel Dep., at 106:1-108:9.) He took sick leave from January 22 through January 28, 1998. (Def.'s Statement ¶ 14; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶ 14.)

After his hospitalization, Plaintiff returned to work. After September 1999, when Todd became general manager, additional duties were assigned to Plaintiff, some which he thought were "nonsensical" and others which he stated were normally the responsibility of a department other than his. (Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 29-31, 35, 41-42; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶¶ 29-31, 35, 41-42.) Plaintiff did not complete all of these assignments, but contends that the reasons he did not were lack of appropriate help for his increased workload and lack of cooperation from other personnel not under his control. (Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 35-45; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶¶ 35-45.)

On January 20, 1999, Plaintiff was called into a meeting with Todd and two (2) other managers, at which he was fired. (Def.'s Statement ¶ 46; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶ 46.) Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission in June 1999, and after receiving his right to sue letter, brought the present suit on December 21, 2005. (Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 48-49, 58; Pl.'s Counterstatement ¶¶ 48-49, 58.) In this action, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant terminated his employment (1) because he was regarded as disabled, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 P.S. § 955(a) and (2) because of his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the PHRA.

Magistrate Judge Mannion recommended that Citadel's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted as to all claims because Plaintiff had failed to make out a prima facie case of discrimination based on either disability or age. (Report and Recommendation, Doc. 25.) Plaintiff objects to the recommendation, arguing that the Magistrate Judge erred because he "failed to draw reasonable inferences in favor of the Plaintiff, but rather drew all inferences from the evidence in favor of the Defendant [and] [i]n doing so, he made factual credibility determinations that should be left to the purview of the jury, especially as it pertains to areas of conflicting evidence." (Objection, Doc. 26, at 1-2.)

STANDARDS OF REVIEW

I. Review of Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

Where objections to the magistrate judge's report are filed, the Court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report, Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C)), provided the objections are both timely and specific, Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In making its de novo review, the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo, the statute permits the Court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. United States Parole Comm'n, 849 F. Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the Court should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).

II. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate 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 a 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 substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (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. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute ...


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