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Brianne v. Cobe Cardiovascular

February 15, 2006

SHERRY BRIANNE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COBE CARDIOVASCULAR, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Marcia S. Krieger

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (#11). Having considered the motion, its supporting brief (#12), the response (#18), the reply (#21), and any attachments thereto, the Court finds and concludes as follows.

I. Jurisdiction

The Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.

II. Issue Presented

The Plaintiff, Ms. Brianne, asserts three enumerated claims. In Claim 1, she alleges that the Defendant, Cobe Cardiovascular, Inc. ("Cobe"), discriminated against her on the basis of sex and retaliated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Claim 2, she alleges that Cobe discriminated against her on the basis of age and retaliated against her in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In Claim 3, she alleges that Cobe's discriminatory and retaliatory conduct constituted a breach of contract and that Cobe should be estopped from reneging on any promises it made. The Court must determine whether a trial is required on any of Ms. Brianne's claims.

III. Material Facts

Except where otherwise noted, the Court finds that the following facts are undisputed based upon the evidence submitted. Such undisputed facts are deemed established for purposes of trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d). Where there is a factual dispute, the Court construes the evidence most favorably to Ms. Brianne.

1. Ms. Brianne was employed as a supervisor of custodial employees by Cobe.

2. Ms. Brianne is a female over the age of 40.

3. In February 2001, Ms. Brianne submitted a written complaint of discrimination to Cobe's Human Resources department. Also in February 2001, Ms. Brianne filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). In both, she complained that her supervisor, Dan Pace, discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and age. She also claimed retaliation.

4. As the result of her internal complaint, Cobe assigned Ms. Brianne a new supervisor, Robert McClary. Later that same year, she was assigned yet another new supervisor, Craig Snyder.

5. Ms. Brianne received a favorable performance review from Mr. Snyder for 2002.

6. Ms. Brianne reported to Mr. Snyder until her employment was terminated on November 6, 2003.

7. Mr. Snyder was the first person to inform Ms. Brianne that her job was being terminated. When he told her this, he was visibly upset, cried, and said that he "couldn't protect" her and that "the decision was not in his hands." Mr. Snyder had been happy with Ms. Brianne's work and did not believe that anybody in his chain of command knew how helpful she had been to him.

8. Ms. Brianne then met with Robert Smith, who was Mr. Snyder's immediate supervisor, and Sharon Oliver, who worked in Human Resources. They advised her of the termination, the severance package, and COBRA insurance.

9. The parties dispute who actually made the decision to terminate Ms. Brianne's employment. Construing the evidence most favorably to Ms. Brianne, such decision was made by Mr. Smith, his immediate supervisor Nick Zieman, and Mr. Zieman's immediate supervisor Bill Osgood. The decision might have been made as early as July 2003.

10. Ms. Brianne believes, based upon unspecified deposition transcripts, that Ms. Oliver was the person who made the decision to terminate her employment. Cobe disputes this. There is no evidence in the record that Ms. Oliver made such decision. However, Mr. Zieman testified at his deposition that he discussed the decision to terminate Ms. Brianne's employment with Human Resources. Mr. Smith testified at his deposition that the final decision to terminate Ms. Brianne's employment could not have been made without input from Human Resources.

11. The parties dispute the actual reason for Ms. Brianne's termination. According to Mr. Osgood, Cobe decided to terminate Ms. Brianne's employment in order to save money. He considered her termination to be part of an "ongoing reorganization." He stated that because Cobe's sales were "flat," the company needed to find $3 million in cost savings. He stated that spending the savings in some other area was absolutely out of the question "[b]ecause we had to come up with about $3 million of cost savings to offset all of the cost increases of the following year[.]"

12. Mr. Osgood's explanation for Ms. Brianne's termination is contrary to Mr. Zieman's explanation. Mr. Zieman testified at his deposition that the money saved by terminating Ms. Brianne's employment would be spent on safety matters.

13. From November 2002 until the time of Mr. Osgood's deposition, several employees (both male and female) left supervisory, managerial or technical positions with Cobe. Two left after accepting early retirement packages, two resigned, one retired, three left to take jobs elsewhere, two were involuntarily terminated for cause, and two left after their jobs were eliminated.

14. At the time Ms. Brianne's employment was terminated, several employees under the age of 40 who had less seniority than Ms. Brianne were not terminated. These included Andrew Allison, Laura Belmudez, and others.

15. The parties dispute whether Ms. Brianne's sex had anything to do with her termination. Ms. Brianne believes that sex had something to do with the decision to terminate her employment based upon her observations as to how "men interacted with men and that women were rarely included unless they were senior management."

16. At no time did Ms. Brianne ever observe Mr. Smith or Ms. Oliver make comments based upon age or sex.

17. Ms. Brianne received a letter advising her that she was "being terminated from the company effective November 6, ...


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