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Paris v. Lockheed Martin Corporation

United States District Court, Third Circuit

June 3, 2013

KENNETH PARIS, Plaintiff,
v.
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant. Oral argument on the motion was heard on May 15, 2013, and the record of that proceeding is incorporated here. For the reasons placed on the record that day, and those articulated below, the motion will be granted.

Background

Plaintiff Kenneth Paris filed the Complaint in this matter on June 13, 2011 alleging age discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by Plaintiff's employer, Defendant Lockheed Martin Corporation. In Plaintiff's brief in opposition to summary judgment, Plaintiff's attorney withdrew previously pled claims of negligent supervision, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Plaintiff began working for Defendant in 1980. He has held various positions, most recently employed as a Project Specialist Senior Staff member in Defendant's MS2 line of business. (Compl., ¶ 13; Pl. Tr. 48:9-51:7.) At the time the Complaint was filed, Plaintiff's supervisor was Michael J. McCandless, and his supervisor was Larry Finnegan. (Compl., ¶ 15, 16.)

Plaintiff has alleged that, although he was "a well-regarded employee, " (Compl., ¶ 19), in July of 2010, when he was 52 years old, he received a poor performance review rating of "4" or "Basic Contributor" on an interim performance review conducted by McCandless. (Compl., ¶ 19.) Plaintiff also asserts that the concept of going "younger" was frequently discussed throughout the corporation. (Compl., ¶ 23.) Finally, a coworker named Zak Atiram, believed to be in his 20s, was being trained for Plaintiff's position. (Compl., ¶ 24.) Through Defendant's internal grievance procedure, Plaintiff explained these circumstances, which he perceived to constitute age discrimination, to Kimberly A. Shell of Defendant's Human Resources Department on August 12 and August 17, 2010. (Compl., ¶ 25-26.) Shell allegedly requested that Plaintiff discuss his complaints directly with McCandless. (Compl., ¶ 27.) Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, and was subsequently issued a Notice of Right to Sue. (Compl., ¶ 32-33.) Importantly, Plaintiff associates chest pains and a November 2010 surgery with the alleged age discrimination. (Compl., ¶ 30-31.)

Plaintiff has asserted claims for: (1) disparate treatment in violation of the ADEA in that the performance management system, for example, treated similarly situated employees under age 40 more favorably than older employees; (2) hostile wok environment in violation of the ADEA; (3) disparate treatment in violation of the N.J. LAD; (4) hostile work environment in violation of the N.J. LAD; (5) retaliation in violation of the ADEA[1]; and (6) retaliation in violation of the N.J. LAD.

Summary Judgment Standard

"Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp. , 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, (1986)); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court will enter summary judgment in favor of a movant who shows that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and supports the showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations... admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) (1)(A).

An issue is "genuine" if supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id . In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id .; Maidenbaum v. Bally's Park Place, Inc. , 870 F.Supp. 1254, 1258 (D.N.J. 1994). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 256-57. "A nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations, general denials or... vague statements....'" Trap Rock Indus., Inc. v. Local 825, Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs , 982 F.2d 884, 890 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Quiroga v. Hasbro, Inc. , 934 F.2d 497, 500 (3d Cir. 1991)). Indeed, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322. That is, the movant can support the assertion that a fact cannot be genuinely disputed by showing that "an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the [alleged dispute of] fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). In deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility determinations are the province of the factfinder. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc. , 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

Analysis

The task of the Court is not to second-guess employment decisions, but is instead to determine whether the employment decisions were motivated by an illegal discriminatory purpose. Ezold v. Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen , 983 F.2d 509, 525-27 (3d Cir. 1992). Analysis of Plaintiff's claims is governed by McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green , 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Under McDonnell Douglas, an employee must first establish by a preponderance of the evidence a prima facie claim of discrimination by showing (1) the plaintiff is a member of a protected class; (2) he or she was qualified for the position sought; (3) he or she was subject to an adverse employment action despite being qualified; and (4) the employer treated more favorably those not in the protected class or, under circumstances that raise an inference of discriminatory action, the employer continued to seek out individuals with qualifications similar to plaintiff's to fill the position. Sarullo v. United States Postal Service , 352 F.3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). The prima facie test is a flexible one which must be tailored to fit the specific context in which it is applied. Id. at 797-98.

Once a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its adverse employment decision. McDonnell Douglas , 411 U.S. at 802. The employer may satisfy this burden "by introducing evidence which, taken as true, would permit the conclusion that there was a nondiscriminatory reason for the unfavorable employment decision." Fuentes v. Perskie , 32 F.3d 759, 763 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks , 509 U.S. 502, 509 (1993)). However, "[a]n employer cannot successfully defend a hiring decision against a Title VII challenge merely by ...


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