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Hormann v. NW Sign Industries

August 26, 2009

LUDWIG HORMANN, SR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
NW SIGN INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas, Senior District Judge.

OPINION

This lawsuit concerns the reason Plaintiff Ludwig Hormann, Sr., was temporarily laid off for a period of ten weeks. Hormann's employer, Defendant NW Sign Industries, Inc. ("NW Sign"), asserts that Hormann was laid off in a reduction in force precipitated by the loss of a major client. Hormann asserts that his age (he was 63 years old at the time) was the reason NW Sign chose to lay him off, as opposed to other works. He asserts discrimination claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJ LAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.*fn1 NW Sign presently moves for summary judgment. For the reasons explained herein, the motion will be denied.

I.

Hormann was employed as a union production worker with NW Sign*fn2 from October, 2001, to January 23, 2008, when he was laid off. (Hormann Dep. at 6:5-6, 24:8-13.) He was rehired on April 1, 2008 (Id.).*fn3

Hormann worked in the fabrication department of NW Sign's Moorestown, New Jersey facility, doing plastic and sheet metal work. (Hormann Dep. at 7:20-22; Janosik Dep. at 15:17-25.) In late 2002, Hormann began working primarily on Commerce Bank signs.*fn4 (Hormann Dep. at 8:17.) Despite the significant amount of work Hormann performed for Commerce Bank, the shop foreman, Ralph Murri, always reassured Hormann that there was plenty of work for him even if Commerce Bank was not a client. (Id. at 18:3-4.) Furthermore, while Hormann acknowledges that NW Sign usually lays off five or six employees every year during January or February, he "never thought that [he] would have been one of them." (Id. at 16:15-17, 20:7-21:17.) Indeed, there is no evidence in the record that NW Sign ever laid off Hormann prior to 2008.

Mike Janosik, who was, at the time, general manager of the Moorestown facility and Hormann's second-line superior*fn5, testified that in late 2007 or early 2008, Commerce Bank "stopped all work" it had with NW Sign. (Janosik Dep. at 27:23-24.) However, Michael Uhorchuk, the Commerce Bank account manager and Janosik's predecessor and successor to the general manager position at the plant, provides a drastically different picture of the work level at NW Sign in 2008:

Q: Is there a point in time where you no longer had the Commerce Bank account?

A: I don't recall that at all. I don't understand. It's been bought out by TD Bank. So, we still do work for TD Bank. So, I'm not sure where that information came from.

Q: So, do you know when it was bout out by TD bank?

A: I think conversion was around last November.

Q: November of 2008?

A: Yes.

Q: So, there was a conversion from Commerce Bank ...


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