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NEWTON v. CBS

January 3, 1994

MONICA NEWTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CBS, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES R. RICHEY

 Before the Court in the above-captioned Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) case is the Motion of Defendant CBS Inc. for Summary Judgment ("Defendant's Motion"), the Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Opposition"), and Defendant CBS's Reply on its Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defendant's Reply"). On November 22, 1993, the Court held a hearing on this matter, and, upon careful review of the arguments of counsel, the above-referenced submissions, the applicable law, and the record herein, the Court has determined that the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment must be denied.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Monica Newton worked as an employee of the Washington Bureau of CBS news, the CBS news Division ("CND"), from 1967 through 1991. See Defendant's Statement of Material Facts as to which There is No Genuine Issue ("SMF") at PP 2-3. *fn1" Ms. Newton began her tenure with CBS as a switchboard operator but by the time of her discharge she was functioning as a Production Manager with responsibilities that had at one time included handling the logistics of "pool coordination", *fn2" free-lance hiring, and a variety of miscellaneous tasks such as providing assistance with crew payroll. At the age of 47, Ms. Newton was discharged from her position with CBS. She subsequently filed a claim of discrimination with the EEOC in 1991, alleging that her termination constituted unlawful discrimination on the basis of age. The Plaintiff then initiated this lawsuit seeking reinstatement and full compensation.

 The circumstances surrounding Ms. Newton's termination and the motivation for CBS' decision are strongly contested by the parties. CBS alleges that the Plaintiff's discharge was part of a financially induced reduction-in-force that necessitated the elimination of her position. The Defendant thus argues that Plaintiff was not "replaced"; rather her tasks were merely reassigned to other more versatile employees, whose greater skill levels enable them to perform a variety of other tasks as well.

 The Plaintiff, however, claims that CBS' asserted justifications are really just pretexts and that her dismissal was motivated by unlawful discrimination on the basis of age. To support her position, the Plaintiff cites various inconsistencies in CBS' rationale and argues that her experience on the job renders her as qualified as younger employees with recent college degrees. At a minimum, Plaintiff urges the Court to recognize that there are at least genuine issues of material fact still in dispute and that the existence of these contested issues is sufficient to defeat the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. After reviewing the evidence presented thus far, the Court is inclined to agree.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Standards for Granting Summary Judgment

 The standards for ruling on a motion for summary judgment are well-settled and not in dispute by the parties. Summary judgment is appropriate in situations where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); Frito-Lay, Inc. v. Willoughby, 274 U.S. App. D.C. 340, 863 F.2d 1029 (D.C. Cir. 1988).

 In responding to the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, then, the Plaintiff recognizes that she must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." See Plaintiff's Opposition at 4; Defendant's Motion at 6. As the Defendant emphasizes, "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). *fn3"

 Essentially, "the inquiry performed is a threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for a trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson at 250.

 B. The Court finds that there are genuine issues of material fact still in dispute and that the Defendant is therefore not entitled to judgment as a matter of law under the governing legal standards set forth in the McDonnell Douglas-Burdine framework.

 There is also very little disagreement between the parties as to the relevant legal standard governing the resolution of an age discrimination claim. Indeed, "it is well established in this circuit that we will apply to ADEA cases the scheme for allocating evidentiary burdens that has evolved in the context of Title VII discrimination cases." Cuddy v. Carmen, 246 U.S. App. D.C. 25, 762 F.2d 119, 122 (D.C. Cir. 1985).

 Under this framework, the burden of presenting relevant evidence is allocated between the Plaintiff and the Defendant in the following manner: The Plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination after which the burden of production falls upon the Defendant to "articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection." Id., citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). *fn4" If the Defendant meets this burden of production, the plaintiff must then carry her overall burden of persuasion by showing that the proffered and allegedly nondiscriminatory reasons are really pretextual in order to prevail. "The plaintiff may carry this burden either indirectly by showing that the reason proffered by the defendant was in fact a pretext or directly by showing that it was more likely than not that the defendant was actually motivated by discrimination." Cuddy at 124. Ideally, this evidentiary scheme ...


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