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Christine Mengel v. Reading Eagle Company

March 28, 2013

CHRISTINE MENGEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
READING EAGLE COMPANY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.

MEMORANDUM

This is an employment action filed by Plaintiff, Christine Mengel against Reading Eagle Co. alleging discrimination based on her gender and disability. For the following reasons, I will grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Ms. Mengel was employed as a copy editor, then as a page designer at Reading Eagle Company since 1999. Mengel Dep. 14:16--15:3. Grant Mahon, a design editor at Reading Eagle, was Ms. Mengel's immediate supervisor. Mahon Dep. 6:7--8; 11:1--16. Mr. Mahon reported to David Mowery, Reading Eagle's managing editor. Mowery Dep. 6:21--7--17. Mr. Mowery reported to Harry Dietz, Reading Eagle's editor. Mahon Dep. 8:21--9--4.

Mr. Mahon gave Ms. Mengel her annual performance evaluations. Mahon Dep. 11:11--16. Mr. Mahon gave Ms. Mengel satisfactory evaluations from 2001 to 2008. Doc. No. 20-8.

Starting in November, 2007 Ms. Mengel became totally deaf in one ear and had balance problems due to surgery removing a brain tumor. Mengel Dep. 41:13--18; 43:22--44:1. Ms. Mengel was able to continue performing her job functions without accommodation, but had difficulty concentrating. Mengel Dep. 45:8--20. Ms. Mengel received a satisfactory evaluation in 2008, very soon after her deafness and balance problems arose. Mengel Dep. 14:14--17; Doc. 20-8 at 9. Ms. Mengel's supervisors at Reading Eagle, including Mr. Mahon and Mr. Mowery, were aware that Ms. Mengel had problems with her hearing and balance. Mengel Dep. 70:14--21; Mowery Dep. 31:3--9.

In September 2008, Ms. Mengel had a meeting with Mr. Mahon, Mr. Mowery, and Bill Reber, one of her co-workers. Mengel Dep. 25:5--14. At this meeting, Mr. Reber complained that Ms. Mengel did not "follow his instructions" and called her a "tar baby." Mengel Dep. 26:1--5. Ms. Mengel felt by using the term "tar baby," Mr. Reber was "trying to demean [her], make [her] feel small." Mengel Dep. 39:9--24.

In January 2009, Reading Eagle decided to perform a reduction in force layoff. The exact number of employees that would be laid off was determined in March. Mowery Dep. 23:3--13. Reading Eagle performed the reduction in force by rating its employees on a matrix and eliminating the lowest scoring employees. Mowery Dep. 28:7--14.

The categories for the reduction in force matrix were (1) work quality out of 6, (2) versatility out of 10, (3) inter-personal/teamwork skills out of 6, (4)productivity out of 6, (5) disciplinary record out of 6, (6) performance evaluations out of 6, and (7) tenure with the company out of 6. Doc. No. 20-14.

Mr. Deitz, Mr. Mowery, and Mr. Mahon completed Ms. Mengel's reduction in force matrix. Id. The reduction in force matrix for Ms. Mengel was filled in on March 18, 2009. Mowery Dep. 28:15--18. Ms. Mengel received the lowest matrix score in her department. Doc. No. 20-16. She received a score of 13, while the next lowest score was a 24. Id. Her score in performance evaluations was 2 out of 6. Doc. No. 20-14.

Ms. Mengel complained about the "tar baby" comment in her undated, annual self-evaluation. Doc. No. 20-11. On April 10, 2009, Ms. Mengel notified Mr. Deitz that she thought "that an arbiter outside and independent of the company, such as the human relations council, might be better suited for conducting an unbiased and truly fair investigation" of the "tar baby" incident. Doc. No. 20-12. On April 20, 2009, Ms. Mengel filed a complaint with the EEOC for gender discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliation. Doc. No. 16-2 at 31--34.

On April 30, 2009, Reading Eagle executed its reduction in force. Ms. Mengel was among the terminated employees. Mowery Dep. 28:20--22. Out of the three employees in Ms. Mengel's department who were terminated in the reduction in force, the other two were male. Doc. No. 20-17.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). For an issue to be ...


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