PHILADELPHIA – A trio of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have upheld a dismissal regarding an Allentown woman’s claims of age discrimination versus her former employer, Lehigh Valley Hospital, Inc., as well as a denial of her motion for reconsideration.
Judges D. Michael Fisher, Robert E. Cowen and Marjorie O. Rendell ruled Monday to affirm a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decision to dismiss Betty E. Cauler’s lawsuit against the hospital system.
Rendell authored the Court’s opinion in this case.
“Cauler worked for Aaron Resources, a temporary staffing agency, that assigned her to work at Lehigh Valley as a temporary part-time Standardized Patient/Simulation Technician beginning in February 2011,” Rendell said. “In June 2012, Lehigh Valley sought a full-time Simulation Technician. Cauler told her supervisor, Deborah Arnold, that she intended to apply for the position.”
According to Cauler, Arnold told her “she should not apply.” Cauler alleged in her lawsuit that Arnold “sabotaged” her application because she wanted a “younger” employee for the role.
Cauler did apply for the Simulation Technician position, but did not receive it. Subsequently, Cauler says the hospital hired a “substantially younger” employee for the role. After Cauler was told she did not get the position, she complained to Arnold’s supervisor. As a result, Cauler was terminated from her position in August 2012.
Cauler’s District Court complaint alleged Lehigh Valley “discriminated against her and retaliated against her in violation of the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA).” In response, Lehigh Valley filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.
“Cauler replied to the motion and did not seek to amend her complaint. After the District Court dismissed the complaint, Cauler filed a Motion for Reconsideration seeking to amend her complaint. The District Court denied her motion,” Rendell explained.
Rendell stated the District Court’s dismissal was proper, under Cauler’s failure to prove a prima facie case for failure-to-hire due to age discrimination, pursuant to the ADEA.
“As recognized by the District Court, Cauler can satisfy the first three elements – she was over 40 years old, was not selected for the position, and, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Cauler, was qualified for the position,” Rendell said. “However, we agree that the allegation in the complaint that a ‘substantially younger’ person was hired does not give rise to an inference of discrimination. Not only is it simply a bare contention, ‘substantially younger’ is a legal conclusion, not a factual allegation on which an inference could be based.”
As to Cauler’s retaliation claims, Rendell said they too were not satisfactorily proven under the law.
“She sets forth no facts to support the causal connection between her discrimination complaint and her later termination; rather, she alleges that ‘defendant terminated plaintiff solely because plaintiff applied for the…position…after Deborah Arnold told her not to apply,” Rendell said.
“The District Court ultimately dismissed the retaliation claim on the grounds that Cauler was an employee of Aaron Resources, not Lehigh Valley, and consequently could not pursue a retaliation claim against Lehigh Valley under the ADEA. We agree,” Rendell added.
Rendell further reasoned the District Court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Cauler’s motion for reconsideration or provide her the ability to amend her complaint.
“Because Cauler did not cite intervening authority or point to previously unavailable facts, the District Court had to ‘guess’ at Cauler’s rationale – a manifest error of law. The District Court correctly found no error. Moreover, the District Court did not err when it did not…afford Cauler the opportunity to amend,” Rendell said. “Cauler had the opportunity to seek leave to file an amended complaint prior to the District Court’s dismissal; the District Court did not abuse its discretion by not, on its own, affording her an additional opportunity.”
“We find the District Court’s analysis to be correct in all respects and will therefore affirm its dismissal of Cauler’s complaint and denial of her motion for reconsideration,” Rendell concluded.
The appellant is represented by Richard J. Orloski of Orloski Law Firm, in Allentown.
The appellees are represented by of A. James Johnston, Andrea Meryl Kirshenbaum and Darren Michael Creasy of Post & Schell in Philadelphia, plus Glenn Guanowsky of Lehigh Valley Hospital & Health Network’s Department of Legal Services, in Allentown.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 15-2635
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 5:15-cv-01082
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org