Resources Manager position for the limited purpose of its summary judgment motion. In 1992, he was terminated and subsequently replaced by a younger non-disabled female each time he was laid off. Accordingly he has established a prima facie case for each of his claims.
The burden then shifts to the defendants to set forth a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the plaintiff's discharge. Id. According to the Company, "the material facts establishing [the] legitimate reasons for laying off Brennan are undisputed." The plaintiff was originally hired in May 1990 as a leased employee on a temporary basis in anticipation of the imminent closure of the Hauppauge facility. Brennan was hired to replace Tommasi who was moving to the new plant in Tampa to accommodate her husband's illness. By November 1990 it had become apparent that the closing of the Hauppauge Plant would not occur for six to eight months. As a result, Brennan was hired as a Company employee. In July 1991, the plaintiff was laid off when Tommasi returned from Florida after her husband's death.
In November 1991, Tommasi left the Company and Brennan was rehired. By this time, the anticipated plant closure had been pushed back to early or mid 1992. However, in 1992, new FDA restrictions on new drug manufacturing approvals for the Tampa facility led the defendants to believe that the Hauppauge closing would be delayed for several more years. As a result of this last postponement "both Borgel and Irvin decided that the Human Resources Manager at the Hauppauge plant should no longer assume merely a short-term caretaker role, but should assume a more long-term responsibility for building worker morale and conducting employee training programs." Accordingly, the defendants initiated a search for a "more experienced" individual who "could better handle a more stable, long-term Human Resources function."
At this time, Elaine Lakis, who had been employed by the Company's International Division became available as the result of a corporate reorganization. According to the defendants, "Lakis was offered the position based on her qualifications, the favorable impression she created during her interviews, her 8 years of Human Resources experience with the Company, and her 13 years of service with the Company." In short, the defendants maintain that their decision to terminate the plaintiff was based on three legitimate non-discriminatory reasons: (1) the nature of the Human Resources position had changed since the plant was to remain open longer than originally anticipated; (2) the Company believed it needed a more experienced and more qualified person to fill this role; and (3) Lakis had 13 years with the Company and eight years experience in human resources work. In the Court's view, these reasons are sufficient to constitute legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for Brennan's discharge.
Once the Court finds that the employer has stated a legitimate reason for the termination, the burden is on the plaintiff to set forth evidence that the defendants' reasons for the discharge constitute a pretext for unlawful discrimination. Id. The Company argues that the plaintiff has failed to produce such evidence, and as a result, it is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. For the sake of clarity, the Court will address each of the plaintiff's three discrimination claims separately.
1. Age discrimination
The defendants argue that the plaintiff has failed to put forth sufficient evidence that would establish that the Company reason for the termination was a pretext for age discrimination. In support of their position, the defendants argue that the plaintiff was hired and fired by the same person and was a member of a protected class both at the time he was hired, and when he was discharged shortly thereafter. Indeed, some courts recognize that under such circumstances, "a strong inference exists that discrimination was not a determining factor for the adverse action taken by the employer." Proud v. Stone, 945 F.2d 796, 797 (4th Cir. 1991); see also Brown v. CSC Logic, Inc., 82 F.3d 651, 658 (5th Cir. 1996) (recognizing this inference); Rand v. CF Indus., Inc., 42 F.3d 1139, 1147 (7th Cir. 1994) (plaintiff hired at age 47 and fired by the same person two years later failed to establish a claim for age discrimination); Lowe v. J.B. Hunt Transp., Inc., 963 F.2d 173, 175 (8th Cir. 1992) ("it is simply incredible, in light of the weaknesses of plaintiff's evidence otherwise, that the company officials who hired him at age fifty-one had suddenly developed an aversion to older people less than two years later").
Although the Second Circuit has not yet ruled on the validity of this inference, the Court finds its application, even if not appropriate in all cases, is appropriate here. The only evidence that the plaintiff offers of pretext is that during his deposition, Borgel stated that he was interested in recruiting "junior" people and giving them "on-the-job training" to enhance their career [sic]. Brennan Aff. Exh R. Borgel Dep. at 151-52. Yet, in spite of these representations, the defendants hired a younger employee with more experience than the plaintiff. In the Court's view, these allegations alone, are insufficient to support a claim for age discrimination. The plaintiff was over 40 years old both when he was initially hired and when he was rehired. He was hired and fired by the same individuals and his entire employment with the defendants lasted less than three years. Further, when he was replaced on both occasions, it was by a woman who 40 years old, not much younger than him. Accordingly, the defendants motion for summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff's age discrimination claims is granted.
2. Disability discrimination
The Court reaches a different conclusion with respect to Brennan's disability discrimination claim. In addition to establishing a prima facie case under the ADA, the plaintiff further contends that he was regularly harassed with respect to disability. As set forth above, Brennan testified in deposition that:
On several occasions Mr. Irvin made fun of the fact that I have a seizure disorder and asked me if that was in any way shape or form affecting the function of my brain because he didn't think I was making a very good decision on one thing or another.