Employers frequently file Motions for Summary Judgment attempting to dismiss cases before trial. The key to defeating a Defendant’s Motion so that a case moves forward to trial is identifying disputed facts which are material to an employee’s claims. The Third Circuit recently reiterated that trial courts can not dismiss an employee claims when a material fact is in dispute. In Burton v. Teleflex Inc. 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 3538 (3rd Cir. February 20, 2013), the Third Circuit reversed the trial court and held that the question of whether the Plaintiff employee resigned or was terminated is a factual dispute which precludes summary judgment from being granted.
In Burton, the Plaintiff brought claims for age and gender discrimination and violation of several state law causes of action. The Third Circuit found that because the Plaintiff testified she did not resign and never told anyone that she had resigned, an employer’s letter which interpreted a previous conversation as a resignation was insufficient to prove a resignation. The Third Circuit held that by crediting the testimony of the employer witnesses and disregarding the Plaintiff’s conflicting testimony, the District Court improperly made credibility determinations, which can not be made at summary judgment. See Doe v. Luzerne Cnty., 660 F.3d 169, 175 (3d Cir. 2011) (at summary judgment “[t]he court may not . . . weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations because these tasks are left for the fact finder.” Ultimately, in Burton, the Third Circuit found that the credibility of the employer’s proffered reason for her discharge — i.e. a resignation could be “unworthy of credence”, that the Plaintiff need not need present evidence of discriminatory animus and the Third Circuit remanded the case so that the Plaintiff could proceed with her age and gender discrimination claims at trial.
For more information on age discrimination, gender/sex discrimination and Abramson Employment Law see http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-1126515.html, http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-1126517.html.