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Valle-Santana v. Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

October 20, 2015

RAQUEL DEL VALLE-SANTANA, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
SERVICIOS LEGALES DE PUERTO RICO, INC., CHARLES S. HEY-MAESTRE, Defendants, Appellees

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpí, Jr., U.S. District Judge.

José R. Olmo-Rodríguez on brief for appellant.

Guillermo Ramos-Luiña on brief for appellees.

Before Lynch, Thompson, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 128

THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant Raquel Del Valle-Santana (" Del Valle-Santana" ) claims her employer Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico, Inc. (" SLPR" ) wrongfully terminated her on the basis of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (" ADEA" ), 29 U.S.C. § § 621-634. The district judge entered summary judgment in favor of the employer. Coming to the same conclusion after our de novo review, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

As required when reviewing an order granting summary judgment, we outline the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant, in this case Del Valle-Santana. See Penn-Am. Ins. Co. v. Lavigne, 617 F.3d 82, 84 (1st Cir. 2010).

On January 12, 2012, Del Valle-Santana was fired from SLPR, a non-profit legal services organization, where she had worked for nearly 28 years. Del Valle-Santana began her career at SLPR as sub-director

Page 129

in the Villa Palmeras office on January 16, 1984, and during her tenure was transferred several times to different directorial positions in various SLPR offices. Defendant-Appellee Charles S. Hey-Maestre (" Hey" ) became Executive Director of SLPR on May 8, 2006.

In September 2008, upon her return from a year-long leave of absence, Del Valle-Santana was made a sub-director at the Carolina office because, at the time, the other director positions were occupied. She was then transferred to Director of the Appeals Unit on August 10, 2009. Her transfer letter, signed by Hey, stated that the transfer was a " lateral movement," and that her salary and marginal benefits would remain the same. During this time, in addition to serving as Director, Del Valle-Santana also performed some director duties for the Corozal and Rio Piedras offices, and worked on appeals as a litigating attorney.

In mid-November of 2011, Congress announced a major cut in the amount of federal funds that would be allotted to the Legal Services Corporation (" LSC" ), the congressionally-created non-profit corporation that manages annual appropriations from Congress and allocates them to legal services organizations across the United States. The LSC is a major funding source for SLPR, and the appropriations cut translated into a decrease of approximately $2.7 million, or 15 percent, of the SLPR budget for 2012. In response, SLPR's Board of Directors convened several emergency meetings and ultimately decided to reduce staff, laying off ten employees. As part of the lay-offs, SLPR eliminated the Appeals Unit, which consisted of Del Valle-Santana's director position and ...


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