Fowler v. AT&T

The plaintiff sued her former employer for age and disability discrimination and alleged that the company failed to accommodate her disabilities. This District Court granted summary judgment, and the Third Circuit affirmed. The plaintiff had a seizure disorder and breast cancer. She worked at AT&T and was placed in the company’s layoff procedure when her unit was downsized. As with all employees in layoff procedures, she had two options: (1) take a severance package and separate from the company, or (2) find another position in the company in 60 days. The plaintiff chose the second option. The new position turned out to be a poor fit. Additionally, due to her health issues, the plaintiff asked for longer deadlines for projects. But she could not offer a specific accommodation that would help her. She was placed into the layoff procedure again but could not find a suitable position within AT&T. Thus, the company terminated the plaintiff. After exhausting her remedies with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she sued. The Third Circuit held that the first layoff procedure was an adverse employment action that could support a discrimination claim, even though she found another job within the company. However, AT&T provided evidence that the selection was simply a neutral reduction in force. And the plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence to suggest that the company’s explanation was a pretext masking discrimination. Thus, the District Court correctly granted the motion for summary judgment.

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