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Owen v. Computer Sciences Corp.

February 2, 1999

MARY D. OWEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMPUTER SCIENCES CORP., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, District Court

HONORABLE JOSEPH E. IRENAS

OPINION

Presently before this Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment of plaintiff Mary D. Owen's claim that the termination of her employment violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). *fn1 For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.

I.

A.

Pro se plaintiff, Mary D. Owen ("Owen") was employed by Computer Sciences Corporation ("CSC"), on a sporadic basis from March 3, 1986, until January 19, 1996. On March 3, 1986, Owen was hired by CSC's Defense Systems Design Division as a Principal Engineer to work at CSC's Middletown, Rhode Island facility. Effective April 30, 1986, Owen was laid off as a result of the loss of the defense contract. On March 28, 1988, Owen was rehired by CSC's Defense Systems Division as a Principal Engineer and relocated to work in the Moorestown, New Jersey facility. On August 30, 1993, Owen was laid off because the project was nearing completion and all staff were slated for lay off. She was assigned to a temporary position on October 4, 1993, which was intended to last until December 31, 1993. On November 5, 1993, Owen was placed in a regular, full-time position as a Principal Engineer in the Joint Computer Aided Logistics Support System ("JCALS") of CSC. Owen performed various functions within different groups of JCALS from November 5, 1993, through January 19, 1995. *fn2

On or about January 15, 1995, Owen was notified by her doctor, Dr. Ben Oteyza ("Oteyza") that she had severe anemia. Owen provided CSC with the necessary documentation to substantiate her medical condition and four days later, Owen commenced a medical leave of absence At the time that plaintiff's leave commenced, CSC's policy provided employees with up to one year of medical leave absence, after which employment was terminated. See Coffman cert., ¶ 4; Owen Dep. 76:16 - 77:1. Plaintiff received short-term disability benefits from the state from January 19, 1995, through February 18, 1995 due to her anemia. She subsequently received long-term disability benefits with CSC's long-term disability benefits carrier, the CNA Insurance Company ("CNA"), from February 18, 1995, through June 26, 1995. CNA discontinued Owen's long-term disability benefits on June 26, 1995, after finding that Owen's blood count had returned to normal and she no longer suffered from anemia.

Plaintiff appealed the discontinuation of her long-term disability benefits, alleging that although she no longer suffered from anemia, she now suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivity or chemical magnetic sensitivity (hereinafter "MCS"). Such appeal was denied on the basis that CMS is a speculative condition that is not supported by acceptable medical documentation. See Coffman Cert., ¶ 5, Exh. A. On October 19, 1996, plaintiff also applied for worker's compensation benefits with CSC's worker's compensation carrier. Such application was denied because of the lack of medical or scientific evidence to support Owen's claim that her condition was related to her employment. See Owen Dep., 125:23-126:8; 126:14-127:22. Plaintiff remained on medical leave through CSC's company policy for the duration of the year permitted, through January of 1996. Plaintiff regularly contacted CSC's Human Resources Department about her status throughout her medical leave. See Pl.'s Dep. 88:18-21.

By telephone on January 10, 1996, Owen notified CSC that she intended to return to work on January 15, 1996. Owen indicated that she would be willing to relocate if necessary, as long as relocation assistance was provided. CSC advised plaintiff that she could not return to work without a doctor's authorization. On January 17, 1996, Owen provided CSC with a note from Dr. Harold Buttram ("Buttram"), releasing Owen to return to work as of January 19, 1996. Buttram's note stated that Owen had been under his care for MCS and Sensitivity to Electromagnetic Radiation. By telephone and facsimile dated January 19, 1996, CSC notified Owen that her employment was terminated.

CSC states that Owen was terminated due to a downsizing of JCALS staff that incurred during plaintiff's medical leave. The JCALS engineering staff was reduced from approximately 125 to 75 employees because of the completion of various stages of the project and a reduction in the engineering budget. See Cert. of James Scarpello ("Scarpello"), Senior Manager for JCALS, at ¶ 7. Owen's position in the Infrastructure Requirements Group was one of the jobs that was eliminated during such downsizing. Chi Coffman ("Coffman"), the technical recruiter assigned to the JCALS project, under the direction of Human Resources Director Kathy Woytowich ("Woytowich"), searched for, but was unable to find, another suitable position for plaintiff by January 19, 1996. *fn3 Accordingly, Owen was terminated pursuant to company policy.

B.

On January 26, 1996, Owen filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging a violation of the ADA. In support of her ADA charge, plaintiff highlighted CSC's participation in a local job fair through an advertisement in the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 14, 1996. CSC's Moorestown, New Jersey Integrated Systems Division ("ISD") *fn4 did not hire any staff as a result of its participation in the job fair. New Jersey's ISD office did not hire any Principal Engineers between January 19, 1996, and the Fall of 1996. See Coffman Cert., ¶ 17, 18. On September 29, 1997, the EEOC issued a dismissal of Owen's charge and right to sue notice, stating that it was "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes." See EEOC letter dated September 29, 1997. Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit on December 29, 1997, requesting relief pursuant to 1) the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA"); 2) the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"), and 3) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). *fn5 On December 14, 1998, CSC filed the instant motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of plaintiff's ADA, ADEA, and Title VII claims.

II.

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), a court may grant summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." The non-moving party may not simply rest on its pleadings to oppose a summary judgment motion but must affirmatively come forward with admissible evidence establishing a genuine issue of fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pollock v. American Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). The role of the court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

The substantive law governing the dispute will determine which facts are material, and only disputes over those facts "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id. at 248. Where the moving party has carried its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Idus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A genuine issue for trial does not exist "unless the party opposing the motion can adduce evidence which, when considered in light of that party's burden of ...


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