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PITAK v. BELL ATL. NETWORK SVCS.

May 8, 1996

BEVERLY PITAK, PHILIP POLCHINSKI, JERRY RODDA, NANCY SCHOLZ, GLORIA NOBLES, TERENCE JULIANO, ROMILDA VACCARELLA, Plaintiffs,
v.
BELL ATLANTIC NETWORK SVCS., INC., BELL ATLANTIC CORP., "JOHN DOE, INC.," RALPH SZYGENDA, individually and as an employee of the defendant, Bell Atlantic Network Svcs., Inc., and/or "John Doe, Inc.," RAYMOND SMITH, individually and as chief executive officer and chairman of the defendant, Bell Atlantic Corp., JOHN GAMBA, individually and as an employee of defendant, Bell Atlantic Corp., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LECHNER

 LECHNER, District Judge

 This is an action by Beverly Pitak ("Pitak"), Philip Polchinski ("Polchinski"), Jerry Rodda ("Rodda"), Nancy Scholz ("Scholz"), Gloria Nobles ("Nobles"), Terence Juliano ("Juliano") and Romilda Vaccarella ("Vaccarella") (collectively, the "Plaintiffs"), against Bell Atlantic Network Services, Inc. ("BANS"), Bell Atlantic Corporation ("BAC"), Raymond Smith ("Smith"), individually and as chief executive officer and chairman of BAC, Ralph Szygenda ("Szygenda"), individually and as an employee of BANS and John Gamba ("Gamba"), individually and as an employee of BAC (collectively, the "Defendants"). Federal question jurisdiction and supplemental jurisdiction are asserted. Diversity jurisdiction is not alleged.

 Currently before the court is a motion for partial summary judgment filed by the Defendants (the "Motion for Partial Summary Judgment"), pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, with respect to the first, second, fourth, fifth and eighth counts of the complaint ("Complaint") as to all Defendants, and for summary judgment as to all counts of the Complaint with respect to Szygenda, Gamba and Smith. *fn1" For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is granted.

 Facts

 A. Parties

 The Complaint alleges each of the Plaintiffs, who are between the ages of forty and fifty-four, reside in New Jersey. Complaint, PP 1-7. BANS employed each of the Plaintiffs in its Madison, New Jersey facility, for periods ranging from twelve to twenty-nine years. Id.; Plaintiffs' Rule 12G Statement at 1. Plaintiffs were data programmers or analysts assigned to work on a standardized billing system, known as the Customer Records Information System ("CRIS") (the "CRIS Standardization"). Defendants' Rule 12G Statement at 2. Each Plaintiff was terminated, by letter, dated 29 March 1994, as part of a reduction in force ("RIF"). Plaintiffs' Rule 12G Statement at 1.

 Plaintiffs do not allege the domicile of BAC or BANS; they allege each is licensed to do business in the State of New Jersey and also allege BAC is the corporate parent of BANS. Complaint, PP 8-9, 11. Szygenda was allegedly vice-president of information systems for BAC and BANS. Id., P 12. Smith was allegedly the chief executive officer and chairman of BAC during the time relevant to the Complaint. Id., P 13. During that time, Gamba was allegedly the vice-president of BAC for corporate and human resources. Id., P 14.

 The submissions refer to other individuals. James Cleary ("Cleary"), a member of management employed by BANS, worked in Madison, New Jersey through 31 January 1995. Cleary Dep. at 13. Cleary was then a member of the "third level of management [("Third Level Managers")];" Plaintiffs were then members of the "first level of management [("First Level Managers")]." Third Level Managers supervise First Level Managers. Id. at 16-17. Cleary reported directly to Paul MacGuire, then to Bryan Parish and, from late 1993 through late 1994, to David Swan ("Swan"). Swan then held the title of "assistant vice-president, standardization." Id. at 18-19. In March 1993, Swan appointed Eugene O'Mullan ("O'Mullan") to be Resource Redeployment Director. Plaintiffs' Rule 12G Statement at 9.

 B. Background

 1. CRIS Standardization2

 "At the time of the AT&T divestiture in 1984, New Jersey Bell, Bell of Pennsylvania and the C & P Companies each had different systems for billing customers." Defendants' Rule 12G Statement at 3. "The purpose of CRIS Standardization was to convert New Jersey and C & P to the Pennsylvania System, a multi-phase system which started in approximately 1988." Id. At the time CRIS Standardization began, Bell of Pennsylvania, which had the most modern of the systems in use at the time of the AT&T divestiture, was "selected as the base line system." Swan Dep. at 49. CRIS Standardization was scheduled for completion in January 1994, and between 16 January and 29 March 1994, [sixty percent] of the New Jersey billing system became standardized." Plaintiff's Rule 12G Statement at 6 (citing Cleary Dep. at 45-46; Swan Dep. at 51). "The New Jersey phase of the project was known as CRIS-New Jersey." Defendants' Rule 12G Statement at 3 (citing Swan Dep. at 48-50). Upon completion of CRIS Standardization, a new billing system, first named "BACUS" and later renamed "Express Track," would be implemented. Swan Dep. at 50.

 2. Promises and Assurances of Continued Employment

 "Plaintiffs all claim that they were made promises and assurances of continued employment." Plaintiffs' Rule 12G Statement at 2. Plaintiffs allege Defendants "intentionally and knowingly made false representations, assurances, promises and commitments to the Plaintiffs ... with the encouragement and instigation" of Smith, Gamba and Szygenda, "in spite of the knowledge that these assurances were untrue and calculated to induce Plaintiffs to remain in their positions until [CRIS Standardization] was completed and they could be terminated." Complaint, P 33. "While it was understood that [CRIS Standardization] ... would, once successfully implemented, lead to the reduction of some CRIS job positions in Madison, New Jersey, the Plaintiffs were promised that they would be given new assignments within [BANS] or [BAC]." Id.; P 22; see Plaintiffs' Rule 12G Statement at 3 ("It is undisputed that the five Plaintiffs working on CRIS in Madison, New Jersey knew that upon standardization, their positions would likely be eliminated."). A summary of facts that form the basis for the Plaintiffs' claims follows.

 a. Alleged Statements of Cleary

 "At one point or another everyone in Madison reported to [Cleary]." Cleary Dep. at 14. Cleary states that, beginning in late 1992 or early 1993, while at Madison, First Level Managers, which included Plaintiffs, expressed concerns regarding job security. Id. at 20-22. "They were concerned because most of the work seemed to be going to Philadelphia, and they were concerned what would happen to them." Id. at 20. Cleary suggests these concerns, "a constant topic of conversation," approached the level of a morale problem. Id. at 22-23. Cleary conveyed his observations to Swan, id. at 23, and also responded to these concerns. Id. at 26-27 ("My favorite term at the time was this is not a pink slip company."); id. at 27 ("This was not the kind of company who would let people go for helping accomplish a major mission of the company."); id. at 31-32 ("I basically told them that they really needed to work very closely with their managers to make sure that they had their skills inventory, data base updated, to let people know what their desires were. I always reminded them that they were responsible for their own career."); id. at 133-34 ("This company is not at a loss for work.").

 Cleary indicated he did not believe layoffs would follow from CRIS Standardization, and so indicated to First Level Managers. Cleary Dep. at 31-34. Cleary drew such conclusions based upon his opinion of "our culture.... In the 24 years I worked for the Bell System, except for the last year, we did not let people go for lack of work. We would retrain people. We would find suitable work. We would try to match skill sets. We did not have layoffs." Id. at 35; id. at 38 ("It was my assumption that all of us would stay with the company forever."); id. (Q: "And when you say 'forever,' you mean up until retirement?" A: "Yes."). Cleary states that, at a staff meeting, he

 
told folks through [his] experiences with the company ... we all had or could have had, had the option to have stock in Bell Atlantic, that if they would avail themselves of the option and would follow some simple financial principles, they could leave the company with a million dollars.

 Id. at 37-38. Cleary "assumed" surplus staff members following CRIS Standardization would be redeployed. Id. at 48. He had lists of people whose jobs were expected to be eliminated, along with information about their skills, and he reviewed this information with other members of management. Id. at 49-51. Managers who expected to have surplus employees following CRIS Standardization exchanged names with other members of management, a process Cleary characterized as "a round table...." Id. at 49. Some displaced employees were relocated. Plaintiffs were among the listed individuals who were not relocated. Id. at 51-52.

 Some of the Plaintiffs state Cleary provided them with assurances. See, e.g., Vaccarella Dep. at 34-35 ("Cleary ... assured us that there would be jobs for us, not to worry. Trust him. Trust Bell Atlantic. We would always have jobs."); Polchinski Dep. at 49-50 ("[Cleary] expressed satisfaction in the job that I was doing and said that there would always be a place for people who were willing to work for Bell Atlantic").

 b. June 1992 Letter to Pitak and Scholz

 Pitak and Scholz each received a letter from their manager at BANS, dated 24 June 1992, providing in pertinent part:

 
As you know with the advent of CRIS Standardization the requirement for Bell Atlantic to maintain a CRIS work force here in Madison will be eliminated. At the end of 1991 I informed you that due to the needs of the business I could not release you to seek a new assignment outside the CRIS organization. However, I also committed to you at the time that [Cleary], then Director, Revenue Reports, and I would do all we could to assist you in seeking a new assignment, within Bell Atlantic, at the conclusion of the CRIS Standardization Project. The position regarding releasibility and the commitment we have made to you have been reviewed with Al Stackpole and he is in full support of both. This letter will serve as your written confirmation of our commitment.

 c. March 1993 Swan Meeting

 Swan states he appointed O'Mullan in early 1993 to supervise a transition planning effort. Swan Dep. at 122, 137. Polchinski states Swan held a meeting in March 1993 (the "Swan Meeting") after learning job security concerns had lowered morale in the CRIS Standardization group. Polchinski Dep. at 82-83. Polchinski states Swan "promised to create something and get back to us in the very near future so that we would feel confident that he was actually working on a gripe of ours." Id. at 83. Vaccarella states Swan then indicated "there would be reemployment by the company of anyone whose job was eliminated. The people were not being eliminated, merely the jobs." Vaccarella Dep. at 30. "People whose jobs were eliminated would be referred to [O'Mullan] for reemployment within Bell Atlantic Company. So there [was] no need for anyone to worry." Id. at 31-32.

 d. Redeployment

 Plaintiffs allege Defendants mislead them "as late as 16 February 16, 1993" into believing they would be "'redeployed to new development activities'" if they remained with BANS and aided in the CRIS-New Jersey transition. Complaint, PP 26-27. Plaintiffs also indicate they relied upon Swan's previous redeployment of other employees related to CRIS, known as the TOLLS group ("TOLLS"). Plaintiffs' Rule 12G Statement at 14. Plaintiffs represent that, although many of the TOLLS positions were eliminated, all TOLLS employees were redeployed and none was terminated. Id.; see Cleary Dep. at 47 (observing Swan had successfully redeployed all TOLLS employees).

 e. Questionnaires

 Following the Swan Meeting, Plaintiffs received questionnaires inquiring of short and long term career goals and a description of what each employee would be doing to reach such goals. Reilly Aff., Ex. N. "While it is undisputed that none of the Plaintiffs deemed the questionnaires in and of themselves as promises for employment, they were aware of the redeployment team's efforts and it's (sic) purpose to match them to new jobs within the company." Plaintiffs' Rule 12G Statement at 15. "Juliano assumed from the questionnaires that 'they were matching skills and jobs and where those jobs would be available.'" Id. (quoting Juliano Dep. at 63).

 f. The 14 June 1993 Meeting

 The Complaint alleges Defendants required Plaintiffs to attend a meeting in Philadelphia on 14 June 1993 (the "14 June 1993 Meeting"). Complaint, P 28. Plaintiffs allege that, at the 14 June 1993 Meeting, "they were again reassured ... that they would all be redeployed within the corporations after their current task was finished and their current positions were eliminated." Id. Four of the Plaintiffs, Scholz, Polchinski, Pitak and Rodda, attended the 14 June 1993 Meeting, during which O'Mullan, "Swan's Redeployment Director, made a presentation on Redeployment." Plaintiffs' Rule 12G Statement at 15; Defendants' Rule 12G Statement at 8. Plaintiffs allege they relied on O'Mullan's representations at the 14 June 1993 Meeting by declining to seek or accept other employment. Complaint, PP 29-30.

 g. Alleged Statements of Szygenda

 Szygenda held a "town meeting" in September 1993, in Madison, New Jersey, attended by all of the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' Rule 12G Statement at 17; Defendants Rule 12G Statement at 9. Rodda states Szygenda then indicated he had "no plans to eliminate us, terminate us." Rodda Dep. at 150. Four of the Plaintiffs state Szygenda indicated "at the immediate time [he, Szygenda] had no plans for downsizing." Defendants' Rule 12G Statement at 9 (citing Polchinski Dep. at 98; Nobles Dep. at 51; Rodda Dep. at 150; Vaccarella Dep. at 51). Szygenda also stated he previously closed or consolidated other data centers when employed by other firms. Id. (citing Nobles Dep. at 52).

 h. 25 January 1994 Newspaper Advertisement

 On 25 January 1994, shortly before Swan announced positions would be eliminated, BAC placed an advertisement in the Newark Star-Ledger (the "Star-Ledger Announcement"), announcing:

 
New Jersey Bell is Changing its Name to Bell Atlantic.
 
(Some things, however, will remain the same.)

 Reilly Aff., Ex. O. The remainder of the page below the header contained, in small print, the names of hundreds of BAC employees, including Vaccarella and Juliano. Id. Vaccarella states the advertisement prompted her to assume she would continue to hold her position. The following day, however, Swan announced, at a meeting (the "26 January 1994 Meeting"), that positions would be eliminated. Vaccarella Dep. at 38-40; id. at 40 ("We were told that a redeployment team was being set up, and those people whose jobs were being eliminated would be referred to the redeployment team to be retrained by the company in other positions"). Vaccarella stated Swan indicated at the 26 January 1994 Meeting, that although positions were to be eliminated, jobs would be nonetheless available, possibly in departments or locations other than in Madison, New Jersey. Id. at 40. Approximately eighty people attended the 26 January 1994 Meeting. Id. at 39.

 i. Alleged Statements of Other BANS Managers3

 Nobles states Barbara Helmich ("Helmich"), her director, indicated several times in meetings held prior to 1993 that "'there would be plenty of jobs for everyone and there was no need to worry about security, job security, that there was more than enough work for all of us.'" Defendants' Rule 12G Statement at 10 (quoting Nobles Dep. at 36-37). Nobles states Helmich indicated "there would 'possibly be transfers, but as far as relocation money, she wasn't really sure of how much or if there would be any; that kind of thing.'" Id. at 10-11 (quoting Nobles Dep. at 43). As well, Helmich "'didn't know exactly what [work] was going to be brought back in [to Madison] .... There was never a definitive yes, you will work here....'" Id. at 11 (quoting Nobles Dep. at 43, 46).

 Polchinski states several managers told him that BANS would "'take care' of its employees after CRIS Standardization." Defendants' Rule 12G Statement at 11 (quoting Polchinski Dep. at 61). Scholz states she was assured prior to the end of 1991 that Cleary and Randy Pelton, another member of management, committed "to helping her out if it was necessary." Id. (citing Scholz Dep. at 65, 67). Scholz also states Carolyn Pelton, another member of management, stated in 1993 "that work was going to be brought back to New Jersey from Pennsylvania [and] asked us for any ideas as to what [work] could be brought back." Id. (citing Scholz Dep. at 77). Rodda states Wilson Parrin, a BANS assistant vice-president, was asked in the spring of 1993 "what the plan was for Madison," to which he responded "'the plan, there is no plan.'" Id. at 12 (quoting Rodda Dep. at 122). Pitak states "Freem," a member of management, told her during a meeting in March or April 1992 that she was "not 'releasable'" and that she would "'[make] sure we were taken care of after the project was completed.'" Id. (quoting Pitak Dep. at 46). Vaccarella states Mary Lonero, a manager, stated to her that "'there was nothing [she] should worry about'" with respect to the 26 January 1994 Meeting. Id. (quoting Vaccarella ...


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