613 F.Supp. 1156 (D.N.J. 1985), Civ. A. 84-1669, Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc.

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 84-1669
Citation:613 F.Supp. 1156
Party Name:Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc.
Case Date:July 23, 1985
Court:United States District Courts, 3th Circuit, District of New Jersey
 
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Page 1156

613 F.Supp. 1156 (D.N.J. 1985)

Anthony J. CHIPOLLINI, Plaintiff,

v.

SPENCER GIFTS, INC., Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 84-1669.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey.

July 23, 1985

Page 1157

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1158

Joseph R. Lally, Ventor, N.J., for plaintiff.

Gary D. Fry, Jeanne Schubert Barnum, P.C., Camden, N.J., for defendant.

OPINION

GERRY, District Judge.

This is a suit brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The plaintiff was terminated in October, 1982. At that time, he had been employed by the defendant for a period of ten years and was 58 years of age. Plaintiff during those ten years was a construction manager for the defendant. Upon his termination, plaintiff's duties were assumed by his assistant, Ralph Liberatore, who was 43 years of age. Shortly thereafter, Liberatore was officially promoted to the title of construction manager, and the assistant's job was eliminated.

The defendant, Spencer Gifts, contends that plaintiff's termination was the result of a need to reduce the size of its work force. In the previous year, the number of new stores the company opened declined dramatically in comparison to previous years. One of the principal responsibilities of plaintiff's department was the planning and supervision of new store openings. The defendant states that it decided that it could only retain one executive in the construction department, and thus, that it had to choose between plaintiff and Liberatore.

The defendant does not seriously dispute that plaintiff was a good worker. However, his informal evaluations had gradually declined from "Excellent" to "Good +." Moreover, his supervisors had found him to be less cooperative and easy to get along with than they would have liked. They also believed that his health problems made him less flexible from the standpoint of travel. Finally, they were disappointed in his performance on a project assigned to him toward the end of his tenure. Chipollini had been made the company's "energy warden," in charge of implementing cost-cutting measures in this important area. Apparently, according to defendant, Chipollini did not accept this new responsibility very willingly, failed to show much initiative in doing this job, and did not produce the hoped-for energy savings.

The defendant states that Liberatore was more flexible and easier to work with than plaintiff. Liberatore, however, had only been made Chipollini's assistant in the home office some 3 to 4 months prior to plaintiff's termination. Prior to that, he had been a construction person "out in the field" for about three years. Thus, despite his relative lack of experience in carrying out the functions of the executive branch of the construction department, the defendant believed that Liberatore was a better man for the job.

The plaintiff, for his part, does not dispute Liberatore's qualifications for the job. He simply alleges that age entered impermissibly into the decision as to who should be retained.

The defendant has moved for summary judgment and claims that age had nothing to do with its decision on who to retain and who to let go.

Legal Analysis

1. The defendant initially contends that the plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case under the ADEA. In a discriminatory treatment case such as this, the plaintiff, in the absence of direct proof of discriminatory intent, may satisfy his initial burden of going forward by meeting the four-part test of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). That...

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