Fowler v. AT&T Inc., No. 20-2247 (3d Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
AT&T employed Fowler, 1986-2016. She was diagnosed in 2006 with epilepsy that caused cognitive impairments. In 2015, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and informed AT&T of her diagnosis. In December 2015, AT&T planned to reduce Fowler’s unit by consolidating roles. Fowler began a new position in March 2016. After two months, Fowler sought reassignment, acknowledging she did not have the skills for the job. AT&T, through an outsourced service center, negotiated with Fowler’s doctors on her accommodation requests but the representatives found that Fowler “could not describe a specific accommodation that would help her on the job.” Fowler, age 60, was laid off and could not find any replacement positions within AT&T. She was terminated and sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621.
The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of AT&T. Based on the original downsizing, Fowler established an adverse employment action that could support a discrimination claim, although she eventually found another job within AT&T. However, AT&T provided powerful evidence that Fowler’s selection for downsizing was simply a neutral reduction in force; she has not provided sufficient evidence to suggest that the explanation was a pretext. As for Fowler’s termination, she may not maintain discrimination or failure-to-accommodate claims connected to a job for which she was not qualified by her own admission.