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Marie Maciejewski v. Community Bank & Trust

September 25, 2012

MARIE MACIEJEWSKI, PLAINTIFF
v.
COMMUNITY BANK & TRUST COMPANY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (mannion, M.J.)

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER*fn1

Presently before the court is the defendant's motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 29). The plaintiff alleges that she was improperly terminated in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §621(a). The defendant's motion contends that the plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie case; and, alternatively, that the defendant has presented sufficient evidence of its legitimate non-discriminatory reason for terminating the plaintiff which the plaintiff has failed to rebut. For the reasons set forth below, the defendant's motion will be GRANTED.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn2

The plaintiff was employed by the defendant, Community Bank & Trust

Company (hereinafter "Bank"), at its Clifford, Pennsylvania branch location from 1980 to 2008. (Doc. No. 1 at 3). From 1991 through 2008, the plaintiff held the at-will position of Head Teller. (Id.). Though the plaintiff asserts that she was never formally disciplined during her employment, she was eventually discharged without warring on January 9, 2008. (Doc. No. 57 at 6; Doc. No. 30 at 1). The plaintiff contends that she was fired because of her age, she was 57-years-old when she was terminated. (Doc. No. 1 at 1).

The defendant offers additional facts related to the circumstances leading up to the decision to terminate the plaintiff. In particular, the defendant states that in 2007, Bank management had became increasingly concerned with negative customer reviews at the Clifford branch. (Doc. No. 30 at 2; Doc. No. 57 at 1). The Bank's board installed Janice Bevacqua as the new Branch Manager in November 2007. (Doc. No. 30 at 2). Ms. Bevacqua was tasked with remedying the customer complaints and subsequent loss of earnings at the branch. (Doc. No. 30 at 3). In a memorandum dated the day of the plaintiff's termination and attached to Ms. Bevacqua's deposition transcript, Ms. Bevacqua stated that she observed the Clifford branch employees and contacted customers in her attempt to rectify the problems. (Id.; Doc. No. 30, Att. 8). Ms. Bevacqua stated that "the majority of complaints" were traced back to the plaintiff. (Id.). The plaintiff disputes the extent to which the she and other employees were put on notice that their performance was below Bank expectations. (Doc. No. 57 at 4-8). In addition, the plaintiff states that progressive discipline procedures outlined in the Employee Handbook were not followed. (Doc. No. 56 at 10).

After the plaintiff was discharged, Maria Alden, who was 40 years old at the time, assumed the role of Head Teller at the Clifford branch. (Doc. No. 30 at 7; Doc. No 57 at 9). Ms. Alden held the position for, at most, "maybe six months" before being replaced by Sheridan Ross, who was 58-years old when she took the position. (Doc. No. 57 at 9-10; Doc. No. 30 at 8).

The plaintiff does not assert any direct or indirect references to her age by any Bank employees or management. (Doc. No. 30 at 8). The plaintiff's complaint asserts a single count alleging a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. (Doc. No. 1)

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The plaintiff filed her initial complaint, (Doc. No. 1), on December 10, 2008. On May 6, 2011, the defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 29), statement of material facts, (Doc. No. 30), and brief in support, (Doc. No. 31). After three extensions of time to reply were granted, but no brief in opposition filed, the court entered an order on September 23, 2011, granting the motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 41). On October 18, 2011, plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration, (Doc. No. 43), and a brief in support, (Doc. No. 44). The motion and brief brought to the court's attention medical conditions that had prevented the plaintiff's counsel from filing a brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. On December 15, 2011, the court entered an order, (Doc. No. 48), granting the motion for reconsideration, directing the plaintiff to file a response, affording the defendant the opportunity to file a reply and directing the clerk of the court to restore the case to active status. On January 11, 2012, the plaintiff, through her original counsel, filed a brief in opposition to the May 6, 2011 motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 52),and an answer to the defendant's statement of facts, (Doc. No. 53), which contained several exhibits. Aware of the medical conditions that had previously incapacitated plaintiff's counsel and that plaintiff intended to seek the support of new co-counsel, the court entered an order, (Doc. No. 54), directing the new counsel to review the recently submitted brief and supporting documents. After review by new co- counsel, the plaintiff subsequently re-filed the same briefs. Specifically, on January 17, 2012, the plaintiff filed her brief in opposition, (Doc. No. 56), a statement of facts, (Doc. No. 57), and an exhibit (Doc. No. 58). On February 13, 2012, the defendant filed a reply brief, (Doc. No. 61).

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The defendant has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, the discovery [including, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file] and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir.1990); In re Cargill Meat Solutions Wage and Hour Litigation, 632 F.Supp.2d 368, 372 (M.D.Pa.2008). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, and is material if it will affect the outcome of the trial under governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Jiminez v. All American Rathskeller, Inc., 503 F.3d 247, 253 (3d Cir.2007). At the summary judgment stage, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; see also Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir.2004). Rather, the court must consider all evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir.2007).

To prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must affirmatively identify those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. The moving party can discharge the burden by showing that "on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." In re Bressman, 327 F.3d 229, 238 (3d Cir.2003); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party meets this initial burden, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts," but must show sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor. Boyle v. County of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir.1998) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, if the non-moving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to [the non-movant's] case, and on which [the ...


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