The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM MARTINI, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Stryker
Howmedica Osteonic's, d/b/a Stryker Orthopaedics' ("Stryker"),
motion for summary judgment to dismiss Plaintiff Edny Tassy's
("Tassy") employment discrimination action under
42 U.S.C. § 2000e ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") and the
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq).
("N.J.L.A.D."). There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78.
For the reasons set forth below, Stryker's motion is GRANTED
and Tassy's Complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE in its entirety.
Stryker manufactures medical implant devices, such as knees,
hips and spines. Tassy is an African-American male. In 1989,
Stryker hired Tassy as a Polisher on the night shift at the
company's plant in Allendale, New Jersey. In this role, Tassy
polished "caps and heads" to be incorporated into hip implants.
See Compl. ¶ 3; Rule 56.1 Statement in Support of Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment ¶ 28 (hereinafter Deft's Rule 56.1
St.). Tassy claims that from the beginning of his employment at
Stryker, Caucasian employees received more and better training
than him. See Compl. ¶ 3. Tassy does not specify what training,
though, he did not receive. Tassy, however, concedes that he did
receive some on the job training. In particular, he states that
he received training on how to mix "slurry" and polish pieces in
1989. Id. In addition, he concedes that a co-worker trained him
on buffing from 1990 to 1991 when business was slow.
Throughout Tassy's tenure at Stryker, his personal record is
replete with unsatisfactory performance appraisals. For instance,
Tassy's initial performance appraisal from 1989 rated him as
"Needs Improvement" regarding "knowledge of work" and
"initiative." See Declaration of Lauri A. Mazzuchetti, Exh. E (hereinafter LM Decl.). In
addition, Tassy received written warnings in 1989 and 1990 for
absences and tardiness. See id. As a result of these warnings,
Stryker placed Tassy on a 90-day probationary period in 1990.
Id. at Exh. F.
In 1991, Tassy applied for the first of six positions he sought
while at Stryker. Id. at ¶ 4; See LM Decl. Exh Z. The
position he sought was in the Grinding Department. Id. Stryker
offered Tassy the positon, which he accepted. Id. While in the
Grinding Department, Tassy claims that another employee trained
him on grinding "from time to time" and that he received "minimal
instruction on grinding" in 1994. See Compl. ¶ 4. Again, Tassy
received some adverse appraisals during this time. For instance,
Tassy's initial performance appraisals for 1991 rated him as
"Needs Improvement" regarding "quality of work" and his 1991
performance appraisal noted that his rework rate was
"high."*fn3 See LM Decl. Exh. E.
In 1994, Stryker relocated its manufacturing facility to
Mahwah, New Jersey. At Mahwah, Stryker divided its manufacturing
processes into "cells." See Compl. ¶ 5; Deft's Rule 56.1 St. ¶
11. Under this approach, each cell is responsible for a different
aspect of the manufacturing process. See Deft's Rule 56.1 St. ¶
11. The cells are composed of "team-members" with the title of
"Fabrication Specialist" or "Generalist" and are led by a Team
Leader who reports to the Steering Team.*fn4 Id. at ¶¶ 13,
19. Tassy worked as a Generalist in the UHR/Acetabular Cell,
which produces hip implants. Id. at ¶¶ 35, 37. He remained a
Generalist in this cell until termination. See id. at ¶ 15; Pl.
Opp. at 1-2; Deft's Rule 56.1 St. ¶ 37. During the beginning of his stay at Stryker's Mahwah facility, Tassy
alleges that he requested further training and a promotion to the
level of "Machinist" but was denied such requests. See Compl. ¶
6. In response, Stryker contends that Tassy received the same
training as every other employee and, regardless, there is no
"Machinist" position at the company. Deft's Rule 56.1 St. ¶
In 1996, Tassy made his second application for a different
position. See LM Decl. Exh. Z. He applied for a team member
position in another cell. See id. Tassy's request was denied.
Id. Then, from 1997 to 1998, Tassy applied for four more
positions in various cells.*fn6 See LM Decl. Exh. Z; LM
Decl. Exh. D at 61:13-62:22. The last job he applied for was
"Generalist-Machinist" in the "Cap Cell" on August 3, 1998. See
LM Decl. Exh. Z. All of Tassy's requests were in response to "job
postings" located in different cells where everyone could observe
which jobs were available. See Compl. ¶ 6.*fn7
Tassy's employment record after Stryker's relocation to Mahwah
again exhibits certain performance deficiencies. For example, a
1996 Team Member Feedback Form rated Tassy's performance "below
expectations" in terms of "team skills," "quantity and quality"
and "customer focus." See LM Decl. Exh. G. As a result of this
unsatisfactory review, Tassy was reviewed again. See LM Decl.
Exh. H. This time, he was rated as "meeting team expectations" in
terms of "quality and quantity" and "customer focus," but "below
team expectations" in terms of "team skills." Id.
Tassy also received a verbal warning in February 1996 for
quality deficiencies. See id. at Exh. J. The warning stated
that any further unsatisfactory performance would result in a
suspension. Id. Then, in April 1997, Tassy received another
verbal warning for approving an implant for final inspection
without identifying the proper identification number of the
implant. See id., at Exh. J. This constituted a quality error
because the FDA requires product traceability. Deft's Rule 56.1
St. ¶ 48.
In 1999, Stryker placed Tassy on the day shift. See Compl. ¶
8. According to Tassy, he agreed to the move because Stryker
promised more and better training. Id. Tassy claims, though,
that he never received training as promised. Id. Furthermore,
Tassy claims that when he sought additional training, his efforts
were frustrated. Id. at ¶ 9. The only instance Tassy points out
to substantiate this claim is an instance where another
individual tried to explain to Tassy how to fix a grinding
machine, and a man by the name of "Mr Camacho" told the
individual not to instruct Tassy further. Id.
Over the next two years, Tassy received more adverse
performance appraisals. In January 2000, Tassy received a written
warning for three quality problems occurring over three days.
See LM Decl. Exh. L. The report stated that, as a result, Tassy
would be retrained in all aspects of the quality problems at
issue in the warning. See id. In addition, the report stated
that future occurrences of the same quality problems would result
in suspensions. See id. Three months later, in March 2000, a Team Member Feedback Form rated Tassy's
performance "below team expectations" in terms of "quantity and
quality." See LM Decl. Exh. M. Furthermore, Tassy's Annual
Review for that year also stated that "[Tassy] generated the
highest scrap rate of any . . . team member," "[Tassy's]
performance has needed constant monitoring and has required
several discussions about his lack of productivity," "[Tassy] did
not generate quality product on a consistent basis . . .,"
"[Tassy] does not maintain a consistent level of production that
meets team expectations," and so forth. See id.
Later that year, in June 2000, a Caucasian employee that Tassy
was training damaged a device. Compl. ¶ 12.a. Tassy claims that
he was deemed responsible and suspended when the broken part was
discovered. Id. According to Tassy, other white employees made
similar errors and were not suspended or disciplined. Id. Then,
in December 2000, Tassy received a verbal warning for excessive
late arrivals. See LM Decl. Exh. N. The record of verbal
warning stated that Stryker's electronic swiping system, which
recorded Tassy's entry into its facility, differed from the
submissions on his time sheets. See id. Tassy was warned that
"further occurrences against the attendance/absenteeism policy
[would] result in further disciplinary action." See id.
A year later, in 2001, Stryker received a "Product Experience
Report" from an orthopedic surgeon indicating that a bipolar hip
prosthesis manufactured by Stryker failed after it was implanted
into the patient. See LM Decl. Exh. O. Stryker conducted an
investigation of the product's router the system it uses to
trace the manufacturing of implants and determined that the
defect was directly traceable to work performed by Tassy. See
id. Consequently, Stryker suspended Tassy for three days. See
id. The warning report documenting this issue ...