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Montana v. First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Rochester

decided: February 21, 1989.

ELEANOR H. MONTANA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FIRST FEDERAL SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATION OF ROCHESTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from summary judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Louis L. Stanton, Judge, dismissing plaintiff-employee's claims of age and gender discrimination.

Feinberg, Chief Judge, Cardamone and Pratt, Circuit Judges.

Author: Pratt

PRATT, Circuit Judge.

The district court granted summary judgment dismissing claims of Eleanor H. Montana that in discharging her First Federal Savings & Loan Association of Rochester (First Federal) discriminated against her on the basis of age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. (ADEA) and on the basis of gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (Title VII). We affirm the dismissal of the sex discrimination claim, because plaintiff failed to establish even a prima facie case of sex discrimination. On the age discrimination claim we reverse and remand, because plaintiff's submissions both established a prima facie case and set forth specific facts raising a genuine issue as to whether the employer's proffered reason for termination was pretextual.

I. FACTS

Montana began her employment with Knickerbocker Federal Savings and Loan Association (Knickerbocker) in 1951 at the age of twenty-four. In 1981 and 1982, Knickerbocker and three other savings and loan associations merged to create First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Rochester (First Federal).

First Federal is now divided into four regions: the "metro" region, including all branches and departments in the New York City area; the "central" region, including all branches and departments in Binghamton, Syracuse, and outlying areas in central New York; the "upstate" region, including all branches and departments in "upstate" New York; and corporate headquarters, including all branches and departments in the Rochester area.

Because of the mergers, the number of employees in the metro region, where Montana was employed, was reduced from approximately 600 in September 1982 to approximately 480 in November 1983. Included in the reduction in force was the elimination of forty-five managerial positions.

After the March 1982 Knickerbocker merger, Montana, who had been vice president of personnel at Knickerbocker, became the personnel administrator of First Federal's metro region. First Federal maintained Montana's salary at $36,200, and credited her with approximately thirty years of service.

In early November 1983 Susan Chapin, corporate personnel manager, and Dean Schultz, acting senior vice president of administration and general counsel, restructured First Federal's personnel reporting system so that the metro and central regions would no longer be accountable for their own personnel functions, but would instead report directly to, and be administered through, the Rochester headquarters. Following that decision Montana was discharged on November 10, 1983.

Until the time of her discharge, Montana had consistently received satisfactory to excellent performance ratings. She was described by her immediate supervisor, First Federal's administrative services manager, as a "very capable personnel manager" and an "excellent" personnel administrator. At fifty-six years of age and with thirty-two years of experience behind her at First Federal and Knickerbocker, including nineteen years in the personnel department, Montana was at her termination the oldest, highest paid, and most senior nonclerical employee in First Federal's personnel department.

After her discharge, First Federal assigned the bulk of Montana's responsibilities to Mary Sue Rossi, a twenty-six year old woman who had been hired by First Federal on December 6, 1982. Rossi held the rank only of personnel administrator, she was paid less than Montana, and she was less experienced in the field. Even though Rossi's previous workload had required her to work overtime on a regular basis, the addition of some of Montana's duties increased her already heavy workload by approximately 15-20 percent. Some of Montana's duties were also assigned to Patricia Chugg, the corporate employee relations/benefits manager.

When First Federal terminated Montana in late 1983, it also decided to centralize in Rochester the personnel functions of its wholly owned subsidiary, HWD Funding Corporation (HWD). First Federal brought Barbara Schrot and her assistant from HWD to First Federal's personnel department in January 1984, only a few months after Montana's termination. Barbara Schrot, age twenty-six, had been HWD's personnel officer, leasing specialist, and corporate secretary and had spent up to fifty percent of her time at HWD on personnel work. On January 2, 1984, she assumed the position of compensation analyst in First Federal's personnel department where she was responsible for salary administration, performance appraisal, and compensation for all of First Federal. Some of these duties had been performed by Rossi who had become overworked by assuming Montana's responsibilities. Schrot's assistant assumed the position of assistant compensation analyst. Montana was not considered for the position of compensation analyst although she was qualified for it.

The district court granted First Federal's motion for summary judgment on the age discrimination claim, holding that Montana had established a prima facie case but had not produced evidence creating a material factual issue as to whether First Federal's stated reason for terminating her was pretextual. The district court also granted First Federal's motion for summary judgment on the sex discrimination claim, holding that Montana ...


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