Appeal from Superior Court of Yakima County. Docket No: 94-2-00764-4. Date filed: 02/03/95. Judge signing: Hon. Robert N. Hackett JR.
Authored by Dennis J. Sweeney. Concurring: John A. Schultheis, Ray E. Munson.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sweeney
THOMPSON, J. Randy Cluff sued CMX Corporation for employment discrimination. The court granted CMX's motion for summary judgment finding Mr. Cluff failed to present a prima facie case of employment discrimination because he did not establish he had been replaced. Mr. Cluff appeals claiming: (1) he did not need to show he had been replaced to establish a prima facie case; (2) he had been replaced by existing employees; and (3) factual issues precluded summary judgment. We affirm.
Mr. Cluff is a 45-year-old diabetic. As a result of his diabetes, he also suffers from peripheral neuropathy which necessitated amputation of his right foot and his left leg below the knee.
In 1988, Mr. Cluff began working in Yakima as a sales manager for CMX.
He sold x-ray film and related products. During his employ, he increased CMX's client base by finding new clients and persuading former clients to return to CMX.
In 1993, while Mr. Cluff was on medical leave to have his left leg amputated, CMX began restructuring in order to improve efficiency.
After surgery, Mr. Cluff received a facsimile announcing the corporate reorganization plans for eastern Washington. Yakima deliveries would occur twice a week, the Yakima receptionist position was eliminated, and three employees would cover Mr. Cluff's duties while he was on medical leave. No other changes were announced.
In April 1993, John Van Valey, CMX's Vice President, visited Mr. Cluff in the hospital. He inquired about Mr. Cluff's condition and told Mr. Cluff he was looking forward to his return to work. Mr. Cluff later received a letter from Mr. Van Valey explaining his Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) rights. On July 30, he learned he had been terminated. On August 6, he wrote to CMX requesting an explanation for his termination. On August 13, Mr. Van Valey wrote to Mr. Cluff and explained the termination was the result of a corporate restructuring. The Yakima sales office had closed and Mr. Cluff's position was eliminated.
These decisions were made in July or August and were solely economic decisions. The Yakima office is currently open, but only employs service and delivery personnel. The closure of the sales office has increased CMX's revenues by $10,000.
Mr. Cluff requested and received a letter of reference from CMX. The letter listed depressed economic conditions and changes in the medical profession as the reason for the Yakima office closure and his termination.
Mr. Cluff filed a complaint against CMX for employment discrimination.
On December 5, 1994, CMX filed a motion for summary judgment. CMX argued (1) Mr. Cluff failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, and (2) CMX had a non-discriminatory business reason for terminating Mr. Cluff.
On February 3, 1995, the motion for summary judgment was granted. In its oral ruling, the court stated Mr. Cluff failed to establish a prima facie case because he did not prove he was replaced. Mr. Cluff filed a motion for reconsideration. He argued the court erred by applying a rigid standard to the elements of a prima facie case of discrimination. He also claimed he was replaced by existing employees of CMX. The court denied the motion for reconsideration finding (1) it was uncontested that the sales portion of the Yakima office ...