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MORRIS v. COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITE CORP.

September 30, 1991

Betty Ann Morris, Plaintiff,
v.
Communications Satellite Corporation, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 CHARLES R. RICHEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Before the Court is the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, plaintiff's opposition thereto, and defendant's reply in the above-captioned action. In her amended complaint, plaintiff challenges the action of defendant Communications Satellite Corporation ("COMSAT") in filling the position of Assembler Specialist/Group Leader in its Assembly Department effective June 15, 1987. The plaintiff, Betty Ann Morris, is a black female who was 54 years old at the time the position was filled. The person chosen for the position is a white male who was 30 years old when selected. The plaintiff claims that the decision not to hire her was unlawful discrimination based on race and age in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 623 (a).

 The Court has carefully considered the submissions of the parties and the entire record herein. Because it appears that there are disputes as to genuine issues of material fact in this action, the Court shall deny the Motion for Summary Judgment.

 I. Background

 In October 1978, the plaintiff was hired as an Assembler Specialist in COMSAT's Assembly Department. She worked with several different managers while an assembler at COMSAT, all of whom gave her generally positive work ratings. See Morris Dep. Ex. 3, Ex. 6. In 1985, her supervisor, Mark Wilson, gave her an "Exceptional" rating (the highest rating possible), but expressed reservations regarding her communications skills. See Morris Dep. Ex. 15.

 In December 1985, plaintiff transferred to COMSAT Technology Products, a separate division of COMSAT; this position was eliminated in a reduction-of-force in December of 1986 and she was terminated as a COMSAT employee. In March 1987, plaintiff accepted temporary work in COMSAT's Assembly Department.

 In April, 1987, COMSAT posted a notice of a permanent vacancy in Assembly Department in the position of Assembler Specialist/Group Leader. Plaintiff applied for this position. Mark Wilson, who was filling the position, chose between only two candidates, the plaintiff and Randall Fowler, another temporary employee, who was a white male about thirty years old. Fowler was selected instead of the plaintiff.

 There are numerous disputes between the parties about the underlying facts. One major area of disagreement is the extent of the plaintiff's communication skills. The defendant cites passages from the plaintiff's various work evaluations during her tenure as an Assembler Specialist to support the contention that throughout her employment, the plaintiff's performance had one significant weakness: that she failed to communicate with her supervisors regarding critical aspects of her job. *fn1" The plaintiff vigorously contests this assertion, stating that the defendant cites her evaluations out of context, and that in fact the evaluations praise her performance in leadership and training, functions involving communication. *fn2" Plaintiff also argues that Mark Wilson offered no examples of instances in which he requested Ms. Morris' input and she was reluctant to respond, and notes that any lack of communication could derive from Wilson's failure to request information rather than the plaintiff's reluctance to communicate. See Morris Decl. para. 10.

 Plaintiff further contends that the assertions regarding her alleged lack of communication skills are belied by the fact that in 1979 she successfully performed additional functions in COMSAT's Assembly Department as a Group Leader, following a one-week COMSAT training course in leadership skills. See Morris Dep. 24; Morris Decl. para. 2. *fn3" The defendant counters that the plaintiff never was a Group Leader -- the position was not even created until 1987 -- and neither did she perform the functions of a Group Leader.

 The defendant states that Fowler's performance was "exemplary" in all areas. Wilson Dep. Ex. 6. Plaintiff disputes this, offering evidence that Fowler was frequently tardy. Plaintiff's Opposition Attach. 9. Plaintiff claims that Fowler had no significant experience or training in supervision or as a group leader. Plaintiff also offers evidence that, based on Fowler's reviews two years after being hired for the Group Leader position, he was not familiar with all Assembly Department equipment, and was criticized for failing to keep his supervisor informed. See Fowler Dep. Ex. 6.

 Other disputes surround Wilson's reaction to and handling of the plaintiff's application for the position of Assembler Specialist/Group Leader. First, plaintiff alleges that there were procedural irregularities regarding the processing of her application, constituting disparate treatment. She claims that she was not interviewed for the position, while Randall Fowler was interviewed both by Wilson and the personnel office. See Morris Decl. para. 3, Fowler Dep. 24-25, 28-29. Defendants have been unable to locate records of interviews with the plaintiff. Def.'s Suppl. Resp. to Request for Prod. of Docs. Defendant responds that whether or not she was interviewed is irrelevant because Wilson did speak with her about the position.

 Plaintiff also claims that Wilson discouraged her from seeking the position, and stated that he wanted her to wait until he had some "light, easy work." Morris Dep. 105-06. The plaintiff asserts that because she successfully handled the physical aspects of the work, such a statement reflected age stereotyping and discriminatory intent. The defendant counters that even if this statement was proved, it would merely reflect ...


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