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DOBY v. JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL INC.

December 16, 1985

ANDREW DOBY, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL INCORPORATED, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIMMONS

SIMMONS

 MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 Andrew Doby, Jr., a former employee of Defendant, Jones & Laughlin Steel Incorporated's, ("J&L"), Aliquippa Works in Aliquippa Pennsylvania, alleges that he was discharged in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. ¬ß 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). Defendant now moves for Summary Judgment asserting that Plaintiff has failed to, and cannot, adduce evidence sufficient either to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination or to rebut Defendant's proffered legitimate reasons for his termination. Both parties have submitted extensive evidentiary materials, including depositions and affidavits of parties and witnesses, which present all facts provable at trial.

 I. The Facts

 The undisputed facts of record may be summarized as follows: Plaintiff worked at J&L's Aliquippa Works and held a non-union salaried job. He worked in the Island department as a turn foreman and supervised union represented production and maintenance employees who were engaged both in handling scrap which was used in the steel-making process and in loading finished steel for shipment (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 9).

 Between 1946 and 1970, J&L employed no fewer than 12,000 employees at its Aliquippa Works which was, until recently, an integrated steel making facility (Alhborn Affidavit, para. 2). But, through the 1970's, the level of operations at the Aliquippa Works gradually declined (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 2). The spate of imports, shifting markets and erratic market demand made the Aliquippa Works increasingly uncompetitive and subject to sharp swings in operating levels (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 2). Between 1970 and 1981 the competitive position of the Aliquippa Works weakened as the domestic steel market shrank (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 2).

 In 1982, business conditions reduced operating levels at the Aliquippa Works to their lowest levels since the Great Depression. J&L was thus forced to respond to the depressed condition of the industry and the particularly severe problems facing the Aliquippa Works.

 In 1982, J&L took many actions to save the Aliquippa Works. Relevant to this case, J&L evaluated whether the manning levels in all areas of the plant were in balance with the operating levels at which the plant might reasonably be expected to operate in the future. In early 1982, J & L believed that while the severely depressed operating levels at the Aliquippa Works were not permanent, the plant would not return to mid-1981 operating levels in the foreseeable future (Ahlborn Affidavit para. 4-5). Accordingly, J&L implemented a reduction in force among its hourly and salaried work force.

 In April, May and June, J&L placed approximately 72 salaried employees on "layoff-recall unlikely" (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 5). Defendant maintains that all layoff decisions, at that time and later, were based on job performance and skills, and care was taken to insure that the layoff decisions were not discriminatorily based (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 7). In May of 1982, Plaintiff was laid off from the Island department and was placed on "layoff-recall unlikely" (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 13).

 The Aliquippa Works layoffs were extremely large in both the hourly and salaried work forces. In July, 1981, 6,772 hourly paid employees were actively at work in the plant and only 264 were on layoff. By October, 1982, only 2,464 hourly employees were scheduled to work, while 4,458 were laid off. (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 8).

 The reduction in force among salaried employees was also quite large. As of April 1, 1982, before the layoff at issue in this lawsuit, a total of 936 salaried employees, excluding superintendent level jobs, were permanently assigned to the 18 Aliquippa operating departments. By the end of 1982, 254 salaried employees had been placed on "layoff-recall unlikely" status. In 1983, 54 additional salaried employees were placed on "layoff-recall unlikely" status. (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 8).

 In sum, Plaintiff is but one of the more than 300 salaried employees J&L was forced to lay off in 1982 and 1983. He was placed on layoff in a reduction-in-force which resulted in an absolute reduction in the number of hourly and salaried employees working in their respective departments.

 With respect to Plaintiff's individual situation, immediately prior to the reduction in the salaried work force which began in the Spring of 1982, there were eight (8) turn foremen working in the Island department (Ahlborn Affidavit para. 10). In April of 1982, the Island Department Manager was requested to rank his turn foremen according to work performance, and he ranked Plaintiff as one of the foremen least necessary for the continued operation of the department (Ahlborn Affidavit para. 11). Consequently, when J&L found it necessary to lay off Island Department employees, Plaintiff was laid off on May 13, 1982 (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 13). By October of 1982, there were only two (2) turn foremen, ages 50 and 54, remaining of the eight (8) who had been working in the Island Department prior to the beginning of the layoff (Ahlborn Affidavit para. 15).

 Immediately prior to his layoff, Plaintiff had been temporarily transferred to the Aliquippa Works billet conditioning operation as a turn foreman because there was a temporary need for his services in the billet conditioning operation and the Island department could spare him because of a lack of work (Ahlborn Affidavit, para. 12). When the decision was made to reduce permanently the work force in the Island Department, Plaintiff was called back to the Island ...


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