A federal court in Georgia recently granted a summary judgment motion against an employee with an age discrimination lawsuit.
In Godwin v. WellStar Health System, Inc., Mary Godwin had been working as an order puller for WellStar Health Systems since 1999. By 2003, she had been promoted to the position of Buyer in WellStar’s Purchasing Department. Her duties included processing orders with outside vendors for goods made by WellStar’s different departments. In 2009, WellStar hired a new Vice President of the Supply Chain, Tony Trupiano, whose job included overseeing the Purchasing Department. Soon after, Godwin’s supervisor expressed concerns to Trupiano about Godwin’s performance, noting that she had made some errors with purchase orders. Later that year, the supervisor conducted an evaluation of Godwin and found her to be “below expectations.” Soon after, that supervisor left and a new one was hired, Ken Tifft. Tifft read the former supervisor’s comments on Godwin, but thought they lacked documentation, and thus approved a merit pay increase for Godwin. However, Tifft would later come to share the view that Godwin was performing “below expectations.”
In September 2010, Godwin was placed on a 90-day performance improvement plan, with follow-up consultations after 30 and 60 days. Each time, her supervisor noted improvement, but also continued concerns. Godwin was eventually placed on a second 90-day plan in February 2011. Later that month, Godwin provided her supervisor with a letter from her doctor stating that due to her arthritis, she needed to move around every hour. Her supervisor responded that Godwin needed to remain visible in the Purchasing Department, which was large enough to walk through. However, Godwin, then 63 years old, complained to the Human Resources Department that her supervisor’s comments were ageist and there was no accommodation of her need to walk.
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