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STIEG v. CONRAIL

February 24, 1997

ARMAND P. DESHAIS and KARL H. STIEG, Plaintiffs, against CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORP., Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCAVOY

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiffs Armand Deshais and Karl Stieg allege that they were discriminated against on the basis of their age by defendant Consolidated Rail Corporation ("Conrail"). Plaintiffs also allege that Conrail committed fraud by submitting falsified documents and providing inaccurate information to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in connection with the EEOC's investigation of Plaintiffs' allegations.

 The following factual background is taken from Defendant's Local Rule 7.1(f) Statement of Uncontested Facts which Plaintiffs have not disputed. In June, 1992, Conrail was in the midst of a company wide workforce reduction program. Over the preceding fifteen years, Conrail had implemented a series of workforce reductions that reduced its staffing levels from approximately 100,000 employees in 1976 to approximately 22,000 employees in 1996.

 In a continuing effort to reduce the costs associated with redundant operations and to take advantage of advances in communication technology and data processing, Conrail planned to consolidate its six geographically dispersed regional customer service centers. Through a planned June 30, 1992, workforce reduction, the six Customer Operations Centers ("COCs") were to be consolidated into a single National Customer Service Center ("NCSC") in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Both plaintiffs were employed at Conrail's COC in Selkirk, New York.

 As a result of the planned consolidation, Conrail recognized that in order to fully staff its new single NCSC it would no longer need all 73 of the supervisors currently employed in the six COCs. Accordingly, Conrail implemented a plan to rank the 73 supervisors. (Def's Rule 7.1(f) Statement P 10). The procedure involved a score based upon performance appraisals (50%), a structured interview (30%), supervisor's recommendation (10%), and specific project/team activities (10%). (O'Donnell Aff. P 14). As a result of this evaluation process the 73 supervisors were ranked from highest to lowest. Plaintiff Deshais ranked 65th and plaintiff Stieg ranked 71st out of the 73 supervisors evaluated. (O'Donnell Aff. P 16).

 After completing the evaluation process, Conrail eliminated the positions of the 10 lowest ranking supervisors, including plaintiffs Deshais and Stieg, and transferred the remaining supervisors to the NCSC or to other non-agreement management positions elsewhere in the company. Of the 73 COC supervisors evaluated, only 9 were younger than forty on June 30, 1992, and Conrail retained fifteen supervisors who were older than plaintiff Deshais and twenty-two supervisors who were older than plaintiff Stieg. (Def's Rule 7.1(f) Statement PP 16, 21). In addition, three of the four oldest employees whose positions were abolished in the June 1992 workforce reduction were subsequently placed in non-agreement management positions equal to or higher in job level than their former positions. (Def's Rule 7.1(f) Statement P 19).

 Nevertheless, seven of the ten supervisors whose positions were abolished, including the plaintiffs here, filed charges of age discrimination against Conrail with the EEOC. Several EEOC offices investigated the charges because the seven charging employees were located in different states or regions. All EEOC offices involved issued determinations of no probable cause. (Def's Rule 7.1(f) Statement P 20).

 A. Procedural History

 Plaintiffs commenced this action on September 23, 1993. On January 31, 1994, more than 120 days after commencing the action and more than 210 days after the EEOC issued to Plaintiffs a 90-day Right to Sue Letter on June 21, 1993, Plaintiffs requested an extension of time to serve Conrail. On February 15, 1994, Magistrate Judge Hurd granted Plaintiffs' request to extend the service deadline to March 31, 1994. On March 31, 1994, Plaintiffs' filed their Amended Complaint; service was finally effectuated on Conrail almost nine months after Plaintiffs received their 90-day Right to Sue Letter from the EEOC.

 On July 17, 1996, due to Plaintiffs' failure for almost nine months to respond to Conrail's written discovery requests served in late 1995, Magistrate Judge Hurd ordered Plaintiffs to serve complete and satisfactory discovery responses. (See July 17, 1996 Order). As a result of Plaintiffs' failure to comply with Judge Hurd's July 17, 1996 Order, Conrail moved for Rule 37 sanctions. Conrail subsequently withdrew its motion for sanctions as Plaintiffs partially complied with the discovery requests and promised to appear for their depositions in August of 1996.

 Although Plaintiffs commenced this action on September 23, 1993, Plaintiffs did not serve any discovery requests until the last week of October 1996. On November 19, 1996, Judge Hurd denied Plaintiffs' request for an extension of the discovery schedule because the discovery requests served by Plaintiffs sought discovery after the discovery cut-off, and after the Court had already extended the discovery deadline at the request of Plaintiffs. Discovery closed on October 30, 1996.

 As is evident from the preceding procedural history, Plaintiffs have continuously flirted with, and sometimes violated, this Court's rules and scheduling orders. In addition, Plaintiffs did not respond to Conrail's Statement of Uncontested Facts as required by Local Rule 7.1(f). Local Rule 7.1(f) states:

 
On a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, there shall be annexed to the notice of motion a separate, short and concise statement of the material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue, with specific citations to the record where such facts are set forth. The papers opposing a motion for summary judgment shall include a separate, short and concise statement of the material facts as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue, with specific citations to the record where the factual issues arise. All material facts set forth in the statement served by the moving party shall be deemed admitted unless controverted by the statement served by the opposing party.

 N.D.N.Y. L. R. 7.1(f) (emphasis added). Accordingly, all facts in Conrail's statement must be deemed admitted.

 B. The Claims

 Plaintiffs' Complaint asserts a claim for age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Plaintiffs also allege a cause of action in common law fraud based upon their allegation that Conrail submitted forged or altered performance appraisals and submitted inaccurate information to the EEOC in connection with the EEOC's investigation of Plaintiffs' charges.

 Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Summary Judgment Standard

 Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), a court may grant summary judgment if it appears "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). Furthermore, it is the substantive law that will determine what facts are material to the outcome of a case. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.

 Initially, the moving party has the burden of informing the court of the basis of its motion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). If the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The Court must then resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). However, the non-moving party must do more than simply show "that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Only when the Court concludes that no rational finder of fact can find in favor of the non-moving party should summary judgment be granted. Gallo v. Prudential Residential, Servs., Ltd., 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994).

 B. ADEA Claim

 Plaintiffs bring a claim for age discrimination under the ADEA. 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Initially, the Court notes that although summary judgment is no longer a disfavored process for the elimination of groundless claims, see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322 (summary judgment favored to dispose of meritless claims), a district court should be wary of granting summary judgment in a discrimination case because the device is ...


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