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Spangler v. Moderne Glass Co.

April 3, 2008

JOANN J. SPANGLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MODERNE GLASS CO., INC., ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

SYNOPSIS

In this civil action, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, her former employer, discharged her 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. Defendant has moved for summary judgment, on grounds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to her ADA claim, and that she has adduced insufficient evidence to support her ADEA claim.

For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be granted.

OPINION

I. FACTS

Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are undisputed. By way of background, I include several facts that are not material to summary judgment.

Defendant is a custom decorator of beverage ware and award and recognition products for the ad specialty industry. Defendant has eight production departments, including Lehr (a curing oven that bakes designs onto glassware), Decal, and Etch. It employes approximately 350 employees, and conducts operations in two buildings in Hopewell, PA. Thomas McKnight is Defendant's owner, president, and CEO. John Bailey, Defendant's Plant Manager, has been in that position since May, 2003; Deborah Bara, Defendant's Human Resource Manager, has been in that position since May of 2003. Jim Devine was the supervisor of Defendant's Etch department from 1999 through 2006.

Plaintiff began working for Defendant in the Decal department, in 1999. Sometime prior to 2000, Plaintiff was moved out of that department, and transferred to a Lehr loader position. In that position, Plaintiff was required to take glassware off of one conveyer belt, inspect the glassware, and place it on another conveyor belt that took it through the Lehr. In April 2003, Plaintiff suffered an aneurysm, and she was unable to work until September 22, 2003. Plaintiff returned to work in the Lehr loader position. Plaintiff remained in the Lehr Loader position until April 20, 2004, at which time she was transferred to a Wipe-offs position as a result of her inability to keep up with the Lehr. Employees who hold the Wipe-offs position are required to stand while performing their job duties.

At some point, Plaintiff requested a transfer out of the Wipe-offs position. At the time, the only openings available were in the Etch department, and Plaintiff was transferred -- over her objection, she states -- to that department on or about June 1, 2004. Prior to the transfer, Bara contacted Devine, head of the Etch department, and asked whether Devine could use an employee from the Industrial Boulevard Facility. At the time, the Etch department needed more Tapers in order to keep up with production. A Taper, who is permitted to sit down while performing his duties, applies tape to certain portions of glass products so that when the products are sandblasted, the taped portions are not damaged.

Plaintiff alleges that a female management employee informed her that she was being transferred because Defendant wanted her to have a sit-down job; she cannot recall the person who made the statement. She believes that it was the woman in human resources at the time of the transfer. At the time, Bara was in that position. Bara avers that she did not tell Plaintiff any such thing; Plaintiff believes that it could have been Bara.

Subsequently, Plaintiff was laid off as part of a ten-person layoff on June 3, 2005.*fn1 Prior to that date, McKnight told Bailey to conduct a layoff, and that employees were to be selected for layoff based on poor performance. Bailey then told the supervisors of six of Defendant's eight departments to give Bailey a list of his or her respective department's poorer performers, who the supervisor would like to be laid off. Two shorthanded departments were excluded from the layoff. Three employees from the Etch department, and the only three Tapers in the department at the time, were ultimately laid off: Plaintiff, Charity Jackson (age 24), and Amanda Fike (age 21). Devine made the decision to terminate their employment by submitting a list with only those three employees in response to Bailey's request. Devine picked the three Tapers, because they have the least amount of skill in the department and their positions could be covered by the more skilled employees in the department; he did not know whether they were the worst performers. Devine was 63 years old at the time of the layoff, and he did not know Plaintiff prior to her transfer into his department in 2004. Devine did not know that Plaintiff had previously worked as a Lehr Loader.

Bailey then compiled the final list of ten employees who would be laid off, and included the three Tapers on the list. Bailey did not perform any analysis of the employees' performance, but instead relied on Devine's decision to select those three for layoff.

Plaintiff contends that the layoff constituted age discrimination because "there was people that were older than me and younger than me and some people didn't do as much as me and I'm the one that was let go, but other people got to stay there." Defendant had a recall procedure whereby laid off employees may be called back to work usually by department. None of the employees laid off at the same time as Plaintiff were eligible for recall, and none were recalled. Fike and Jackson, however, reapplied for work with Defendant and were later rehired. Plaintiff believes that Tom Evans, a Sandblaster in the Etch department who Defendant retained, was approximately thirty years old at the time of her layoff. Defendant had an attendance point system, under which, apparently, a certain number of points qualified a person for termination or other disciplinary action. It appears that Evans had accumulated more points under this system than had Plaintiff.

After Plaintiff's termination, she filed various documents with the EEOC. Defendant has submitted, and Plaintiff does not dispute the veracity of, the contents of her EEOC file. On an EEOC General Information Questionnaire, Plaintiff checked "Disability" and "Age" as her protected classes. In addition, she described her aneurysm, and surrounding circumstances, in an ADA Intake Questionnaire submitted to the EEOC. The questionnaires are stamped as received by the EEOC on March 23, 2006. A subsequent letter to Plaintiff from the EEOC dated April 28, 2006 asks Plaintiff to review charge forms and make any corrections, and states that the matter may be investigated under Title VII and the ADEA. Plaintiff's formal charge is signed and dated April 29, 2006; it was stamped received by the EEOC on May 2, 2006. In the formal charge, boxes indicating that "sex" and "age" were the bases for discrimination are checked; the box for "disability" is not checked. Additionally, the narrative in the formal charge describes only Plaintiff's allegations regarding gender and age discrimination, and names only Title VII and the ADEA. There is no mention of disability. The Notice of Charge of Discrimination issued to Defendant enclosed a copy of the charge, and indicates that the charge was under Title VII and the ADEA; a box provided for the ADA was not checked. Finally, the EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Suit Rights, the so-called "right-to-sue letter," dated July 20, 2006, which refers to time limitations applicable to Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, and the Equal Pay Act ("EPA").

II. Applicable Standards

Summary judgment shall 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 of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must examine the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. V. Stauffer Chem . Co., 898 F. 2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. United States v. Onmicare, Inc., 382 F. 3d 432 (3d Cir. 2004). Rule 56, however, mandates the entry of judgment against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to ...


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