Ethan Allen Retail Wins Partial Summary Judgment in Employment Case Against Former Design Consultant

Ethan Allen Retail Wins Partial Summary Judgment in Employment Case Against Former Design Consultant.

Case Name: Shanahan v. Ethan Allen Retail

Court: United States District Court – Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Date of Opinion: May 16th, 2022

Judge: Timothy J. Savage

Overview: Design consultant filed suit against her former employer for numerous claims.  The court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment in part and denied it in part.

Background:  61 year old Tamara Shanahan worked for the defendant, Ethan Allen Retail, as a design consultant for fifteen years.  She alleges that she was terminated from her employment because she exhausted her Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave and was temporarily unable to return to work. She claims that two weeks before she was supposed to return to work, she was replaced by a younger person.

Shanahan filed suit against Ethan Allen Retail alleging claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and retaliation for exercising her rights under the FMLA.  Ethan Allen Retail filed a motion for summary judgment.

The court notes that Shanahan has made a prima facie case for age discrimination as she was over 40 when she was fired, was qualified for her position as a design consultant, she was terminated from that position, and was replaced by a younger person.  In addition, the court opines that Ethan Allen Retail prepared a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Shanahan’s employment.  They state that Shanahan’s FMLA protection had ended and that the company would suffer an undue hardship because of her absence.  The court then states that Shanahan did not produce any evidence that she was terminated due to her age.  Thus, the court will dismiss her age discrmination claim.

The court also notes that there is no evidence that Shanahan was disbaled and that she had informed Ethan Allen Retail that she had a disability.  To be sure, the court notes that there is no evidence that she had foot pain or did not have the ability to walk before she left on her FMLA leave. The court opines that, because her impairment was temporary and of limited duration, it is not a disability under the ADA.

That said, the court notes that a jury could find that Ethan Allen Retail perceived her as disbaled and replaced her because of that perception.  In addition, the court states that Shanahan’s impairment was not transitory because her impairment lasted six months and two days.

In addition, the court states that a reasonable jury could find that the defendant unlawfully retaliated against Shanahan because she requested an accommodation and complained about her treatment.

Conclusion:  The court granted summary judgment to the defendant on claims for age discrimination, age retaliation, disability discrimination based on an actual disability, failure to accommodate. The court denied the motion on the other claims.

Steven M. Cohen
Law Librarian | + posts

Steven M. Cohen is a law librarian at a midsize law firm in New York City.  He was the creator of Library Stuff, one of the first library blogs, which lasted over 15 years.  He obtained his MLS from Queens College in 2002.  His passions include legal research, reading novels, and rooting on his favorite sports teams.