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TASSY v. OSTEONICS

October 7, 2005.

EDNY TASSY., Plaintiffs,
v.
STRYKER HOWMEDICA OSTEONICS a/k/a, STRYKER HOWMEDICA OSTEONICS CORP. Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM MARTINI, District Judge

OPINION

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.

  BACKGROUND*fn1

  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. Id.*fn2

  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. ¶ 17.*fn5

  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 ...


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