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SEGARRA v. RURAL OPPORTUNITIES

January 13, 1998

BARBARA SEGARRA, Plaintiff, against RURAL OPPORTUNITIES, INC., Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER

 BARRINGTON D. PARKER, JR., U.S.D.J.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Barbara Segarra brought suit against her former employer, defendant Rural Opportunities, Inc. ("ROI"), alleging that she was denied a position and ultimately discharged in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. ; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1) and (2); and the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law, § 292 et seq. Defendant now moves for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion is granted.

 FACTS

 On a motion for summary judgment, "as a general rule, all ambiguities and inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts should be resolved in favor of the party opposing the motion." Brady v. Town of Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 210 (2d Cir. 1988). The following facts are construed accordingly.

 ROI is a New York not-for-profit corporation that provides job training and housing services to low and moderate income individuals. To aid in its efforts, defendant receives federal and state funding. Defendant's New York operations are divided geographically into two regions.

 Segarra was hired by ROI in February 1988, as the Deputy Director of Field Operations for Region II, which encompassed the mid-Hudson area and Long Island. Her title was later changed to Deputy of Field Operations. She remained in that position until her termination in February 1996. At the time of her termination, plaintiff was fifty-five years old and suffered from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and obesity.

 In the summer of 1995, Velma Smith became the acting director of Program Operations for New York. She directly supervised plaintiff, who administered job training and supportive services in Region II. That year, defendant was notified that its federal and state funding would be reduced. Four individuals were laid off in Region II as a result. Plaintiff was not among the first round of layoffs.

 After the initial layoffs, Smith determined that plaintiff's position would be eliminated as well. After consultation with Judy Jones, ROI's Deputy Director for Housing Administration, Smith and Jones decided to combine the two Deputy Director positions for Region II (Housing and Operations) into one. The new Deputy Director would serve both in the housing area and in the job training and supportive service area. ROI's management agreed to this change, with the understanding that applications for the new position would be both internally and externally solicited. At that time, the position of Deputy Director for Housing in Region II was vacant.

 Three candidates applied for the new position, but one withdrew, leaving plaintiff and Rhetta Eason, a forty-five year old, non-disabled woman with a Master's degree. Eason had been serving as the administrator of the Section 8 housing program in Sullivan County, a position lower than plaintiff in ROI's organizational hierarchy. Both candidates submitted resumes and writing samples and were separately interviewed by a panel. In their interviews, each candidate was asked questions prepared by Smith and Jones. Each interviewer numerically scored the candidates' answers and recorded the scores on interview sheets. The panel then discussed the candidates. Smith, who was to directly supervise the new Deputy Director, had final approval over the decision.

 Defendant contends that after the panel interviewed both candidates and compiled and averaged their scores, they determined that Eason had scored higher than plaintiff. While both candidates were deemed capable of the job, the panel believed that plaintiff's management style was less effective than Eason's. Specifically, plaintiff was viewed as having a tendency to micromanage, which the panel thought would render her less likely than Eason to permit her staff (or supervisees) to perform their job responsibilities. In addition, Eason had experience in housing, which Velma Smith lacked. This experience was considered important for the new Deputy Director position. As a result of the panel's interviews and reviews of the applicants, Eason was offered the position. Plaintiff was terminated shortly thereafter. The average age of ROI employees was 39, and the average age of the ROI employees who were terminated or laid off was also 39.

 According to defendant, plaintiff was viewed as a competent, qualified employee, who had always performed satisfactorily. Plaintiff was never viewed as being unable to perform her position for any reason. While she appeared to need a cane to give her additional support, this requirement did not impair her work. Plaintiff never requested accommodation for her obesity, arthritis, or fibromyalgia. However, as a result of a sleeping problem, she requested, and was granted, a private room paid for by defendant when she attended conferences.

 Plaintiff claims that she was more qualified than Eason for the new Deputy Director position and that defendant's stated reasons for offering Eason the position were false. *fn1" Plaintiff contends that she had worked for the defendant both longer than Eason, and at a higher level within defendant's hierarchy. Plaintiff also contends that she had ...


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