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Staffieri v. Northwestern Human Services, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 22, 2013




Presently before this Court is Defendant’s, Northwestern Human Services, Inc. (“Defendant”), Motion for Summary Judgment against Plaintiff, Ronald Staffieri (“Plaintiff”), Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition and Defendant’s Reply. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant’s Motion is denied.


Plaintiff is a sixty-five (65) year old male. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Defendant is a Pennsylvania not-for-profit entity which employs over 10, 000 individuals and provides mental health services throughout Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a Director of Security for a period of approximately two-and-a-half years beginning in or around September 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) Plaintiff was terminated by Defendant on or about January 10, 2011. (Id. ¶ 15.)

Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant on March 30, 2012, alleging discrimination based upon his age and because he took qualifying medical leave. (See Doc. 1; see also Compl. ¶¶ 26- 37.)

Age Discrimination

Plaintiff contends that throughout the term of his employment, he perceived disparate treatment from Defendant towards himself as compared with other younger employees of Defendant. (Id. ¶ 13.) In the two months prior to Plaintiff’s termination, Plaintiff made multiple complaints of age bias and discriminatory treatment based upon his age to the management of Defendant. (Id. ¶ 14.) At the time of Plaintiff’s termination, he was told by representatives of Defendant that the position was being eliminated. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff contests this statement in alleging that he was “functionally replaced” by Byron White (“White”), an employee of Defendant, who is at least thirty years younger than Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 19.) In support of this contention, Plaintiff asserts that, though White did not work as a director of security as Plaintiff had worked, Plaintiff’s former staff reported to White and White performed Plaintiff’s general job functions. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff’s age discrimination claims are brought pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Stat. § 951 et seq. (Id. ¶¶ 26-33.) In these claims, Plaintiff alleges that he was wrongfully terminated due to his age, and in retaliation for his complaints to management regarding this alleged unlawful discrimination. (Id.)

Discrimination for Taking Qualifying Medical Leave of Absence

Sometime in mid-2010, Plaintiff took a medical leave to have knee surgery. (Id. ¶ 35.) Upon his return to work, Plaintiff asserts that he was treated in a hostile manner as a result of his absence. (Id. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff’s discrimination claim relating to his medical leave falls under the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and alleges that Plaintiff was wrongfully terminated by Defendant in retaliation for his use of qualifying medical leave. (Id. ¶¶ 34-37.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) states that summary judgment is proper “if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See Hines v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court asks “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether . . . one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit after applying the substantive law. Further, a dispute over a material fact must be ‘genuine, ’ i.e., the evidence must be such ‘that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party.’” Compton v. Nat’l League of Prof’l Baseball Clubs, 995 F.Supp. 554, 561 n.14 (E.D. Pa. 1998).

Summary judgment must 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.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party has produced evidence in support of summary judgment, the non-moving party must go beyond the allegations set forth in its pleadings and counter with evidence that presents “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Fed. R. Civ. Plaintiff. 56(e); see Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am. Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1362-63 (3d Cir. 1992). “More than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor” must be presented by the non-moving party in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Tziatzios v. United States, 164 F.R.D. 410, 411-12 (E.D. Pa. 1996). If the court determines that there are no genuine issues of material fact, then summary judgment will be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.


A. Counts I & II: Violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act

Plaintiff brings suit pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (“ADEA”), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 951 et seq. (“PHRA”). Since the PHRA and the ADEA utilize the same analytical framework, we will discuss Plaintiff’s federal and state claims together. Brethwaite v. Cincinnati Milacron Mktg., Co., No. 94-3621, 1995 WL 710578, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 1995) (citing Pennsylvania StatePolice v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Comm’n, 542 A.2d 595, 599 ...

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