Fratturo v. Gartner Inc.
Evidence that a manager who claimed at the time that there was a reduction in force later admitted that that was false, that afterward significantly younger workers handled some of the discharged worker's assignments, and that the discharged worker's disability was highly visible, can be sufficient to allege discrimination. In 2005, the plaintiff, Joanne Fratturo, won a promotion to senior coordinator at Gartner Inc. Asked if she would like to work on conducting webinars over the Internet, Fratturo allegedly answered, "No." Gartner allegedly hired younger workers to help with webinars. Fratturo, who was frequently out of breath, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Gartner accommodated a medical leave and requests to leave early to go to the doctor. To meet objectives of hiring a new vice president of webinars and an e-mail producer, Marta Armida initially decided to increase the number of employees, then decided to eliminate positions. Armida allegedly did not consider Fratturo's ranking or consult with Fratturo's boss. A human resources manager allegedly informed Fratturo there was a reduction in force and later admitted that was false. After Fratturo, 58, was discharged, some of her assignments were reassigned to workers who were significantly younger. Fratturo sued, alleging discrimination. Gartner Inc. moved for summary judgment. "Generally, a plaintiff's replacement by a significantly younger person is evidence of age discrimination," pursuant to Carlton v. Mystic Transp., a 2000 decision of the 2nd Circuit. The plaintiff adequately alleged a prima facie case that she was discharged because of her age and disability. Gartner articulated a legitimate business rationale, because it needed to hire a new vice president of webinars and an e-mail producer. A reasonable jury could infer that Marta Armida observed Fratturo's breathing disorder, that Armida could have made a business case to increase the number of employees and that the stated reason for discharge was false. "Plaintiff has produced sufficient evidence," wrote the court, "for a jury to infer both that Defendant's stated reason for Plaintiff's termination was not to be credited, and that her disability was a motivating factor." The court denied Gartner's motion for summary judgment.