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Rosinski v. American Axle & Mfg.

September 29, 2009

BARBARA ROSINSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMERICAN AXLE & MFG., INC., TONAWANDA FORGE DIVISION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John T. Curtin United States District Judge

INTRODUCTION

In this employment discrimination case brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII") and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111, et seq. ("ADA"), plaintiff seeks damages for the defendant's alleged failure to promote her and provide her educational and training opportunities based on her gender. She also alleges that she was forced to endure a gender-based hostile work environment, suffered gender-based retaliation for her complaints, and was discharged from her position based on gender and disability in violation of the ADA. Plaintiff has withdrawn her claims pursuant to the New York State Human Rights Law. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint in its entirety (Item 17). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion (Item 21), and defendant filed a reply (Items 25, 26). Oral argument was heard on August 12, 2009. For the reasons that follow, the defendant's motion is granted.

FACTS

In support of the motion, defendant submitted plaintiff's deposition. In it, plaintiff testified that she commenced her employment with General Motors ("GM") in 1976 as a college graduate in training. Item 18, Exh. D ("Rosinski Dep."), p. 18. In 1980, she became a purchaser. Id., p. 21. In 1990, plaintiff was promoted to the position of Production Planner/Scheduler at GM's Tonawanda Forge plant. Id, pp. 23, 33. During that time, GM paid for plaintiff to attend night classes at the University of Buffalo toward a Bachelor of Science degree. Id., 21-22.

In 1994, GM sold its Tonawanda Forge Division to American Axle. Rosinski Dep., p. 26. Plaintiff remained a scheduler for American Axle with the same seniority rights. Id., p. 30. Her manager was Dan McNaughton, who had supervised her at GM. Id., pp. 35-36. McNaughton was replaced by Robert Boeing in 1996. Id., p. 36. At that time, plaintiff complained to Boeing about the daily production meetings which were "getting out of hand." Id., p. 40. She was the only woman, and the other attendees often made inappropriate comments. Id., pp. 48-49. On one occasion, a man unzippered his pants and took out a banana. Id., p. 42. Another man told her if she had a pickle to take out the garbage, she would not need to get married. Id., p. 43. The atmosphere at the meetings got worse after she complained to Boeing. Id., p. 46. Boeing advised the plant manager about the situation. Id., p. 50. For a brief time period, the plant manager attended the meetings. Id., p. 51. Action was taken against the offending employees, but plaintiff felt that her complaints led to her eventual dismissal. Id., pp. 44, 50. Plaintiff also stated that she had earlier complained to McNaughton about the meetings. Id., p. 43.

Plaintiff stated that she was passed over for a promotion in 2001. She sought the position of material supplier scheduling/buyer, which was filled by James DeGuehery. Plaintiff stated that DeGuehery had supervisory experience, and she did not. Rosinski Dep., pp. 56-58.

Plaintiff testified that she was part of a team that worked to implement the "Oracle" computer system from 1997 until 2000. After the successful implementation, the Information Technology ("IT") manager brought the team together for a celebration luncheon. Plaintiff was not invited to the celebration, and her congratulatory plaque was given to her after the fact and was not personalized, as all the others were. Rosinski Dep., p. 60. Plaintiff did, however, receive a $1000 cash award for her work on the team. Id., p. 61. She was the only team member to receive a cash award. Id.

In early 2002, plaintiff sought permission to work a four-day week so that she could travel to New York City and attend a Masters degree program at St. John's University. The program was not offered by American Axle, but another organization unaffiliated with American Axle. Plaintiff was told that American Axle could not guarantee her position if she left her job to attend the course of study. Rosinski Dep., pp 65-66.

From April to December 2002, plaintiff took a medical leave for treatment of ovarian cancer. She returned to her job and was promoted in January 2004 to the position of Coordinator of Scheduling. Rosinski Dep., p. 79. Following her medical leave, plaintiff sought no accommodation and was never questioned regarding her ability to work. Id., pp. 87-88.

On September 30, 2004, plaintiff was advised that she would be laid off. Rosinski Dep., p. 91. She declined a severance package that was offered. Id., p. 97. Plaintiff stated that American Axle had a policy that prohibited the layoff of employees within two years of retirement, and plaintiff was approximately six months away from being protected from termination. Id., p. 103.

Defendant also submitted the deposition of Robert Boeing, who testified that while he was her supervisor, plaintiff asked for more responsibilities. Item 18, Exh. E ("Boeing Dep."), p. 22. Plaintiff also complained to him when she was not invited to the Oracle celebration lunch. Boeing spoke with either the plant manager or the IT manager and determined that it was merely an oversight. Id., pp. 24, 46. Boeing said that plaintiff was a good employee with no performance problems. Id., p. 36.

In support of the motion, defendant submitted the deposition of Linda Seay, the personnel director at American Axle from 2003 until 2006. Item 18, Exh. F ("Seay Dep."), p. 7. Ms. Seay stated that GM had a program whereby employees close to retirement would be given credit for service and age so that they could retire early. American Axle did not have the same program. Id., pp. 33-34. Ms. Seay notified plaintiff of her layoff in 2004. Id., p. 38. At the time, management asked all departments to determine whether jobs could be combined or eliminated. Id., pp. 39, 59. Plaintiff's position was combined with another, and the job was given to the other employee, also a female, who "had a different skill set." Id., p. 40. Plaintiff complained to Ms. Seay that she was being laid off because she "spoke up." Id., p. 44. Ms. Seay stated that there was no freeze on promotions at the time plaintiff was promoted in January 2004. Seay Dep., pp. 47-48.

In opposition to the motion (Item 21), plaintiff submitted her letter request for an educational leave in 2001 (Exh. C), a letter to Richard Dauch, CEO of American Axle, following her layoff (Exh. D), and a reply from Robert Mathis, Director of Human Resources at American Axle, dated October 1, 2004 (Exh. E). Mr. Mathis explained that business conditions at the Tonawanda Forge facility had "deteriorated significantly" and the entire facility was "required to re-examine its departmental organizations and prioritize the job positions." Layoff decisions were made after "thorough reviews of every position within each department, focusing on skills, abilities and positions within each group." Mr. Mathis ...


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