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EEOC v. UNITED STATES STEEL

October 16, 1986

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES STEEL, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TEITELBAUM

 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought this action against United States Steel (USS) alleging a willful violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., arising from the layoff, during a reduction in force, of John W. Bales from his job as project analyst. Because Bales was laid off more than two years before the action was commenced, unless there was a willful violation of the Act triggering the three year statute of limitations under 29 U.S.C. § 626(e)(1), the action is time-barred. USS moves for summary judgment contending there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding the absence of a) any willful violation of the ADEA, or b) any violation whatsoever. For the reasons set forth, the motion must be granted.

 During a 1982 reduction in force Bales was laid off from his job as project analyst. Bales had started working at USS in 1948 as a tracer (or blueprint operator). He left USS to perform military service in 1952-1953. He returned to USS in 1953 as a layout draftsman. In 1957 he was made a design draftsman. In 1967 he was promoted to associate research engineer and in 1972 he was promoted to research engineer. In 1978, during a reduction in force, Bales was demoted back to design draftsman. Notwithstanding the demotion, Bales continued to do the same sort of project work he had done as a research engineer, instead of performing drafting work. In December, 1981 Bales was laterally reassigned to project analyst. In May, 1982 Bales was notified that the project analyst position was to be eliminated. In July, 1982 Bales was laid off.

 From 1975 until April, 1980 Bales' actual and immediate supervisor was William A. Box. In April, 1980 Bales was placed under John E. Bower, Jr. for formal evaluation. Bales' last formal evaluation was completed in March, 1982 and covered his performance as a design draftsman in 1981.

 USS made the decision to reduce its force in January, 1982. A two step procedure was used. First, it was determined what functions could be eliminated, and second, it was determined, based on performance, which individuals should be laid off. Following this procedure, management first decided that the project analyst position held by Bales could be eliminated. Bales' supervisor, Bower, then considered allowing Bales to bump back to the design draftsman slot. Bower compared Bales' performance as a design draftsman to the performance of four other design draftsmen. Because of Bower's assessment of Bales' performance, Bower recommended Bales for layoff.

 EEOC concedes that the project analyst position was eliminated for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons. However, EEOC contends the negative evaluation of Bales' performance as a design draftsman was a pretext for age discrimination. Specifically EEOC contends Bower deliberately underrated Bales in March, 1982 in order to justify Bales' age-biased layoff.

 The order and allocation of proof governing Title VII actions have been adapted to actions brought under ADEA.

 
The plaintiff has the initial burden to establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence. This prima facie case is easily made out: a plaintiff alleging discriminatory layoff need only show that he is a member of the protected class and that he was laid off from a job for which he was qualified while others not in the protected class were treated more favorably.

 Massarsky v. General Motors Corp., 706 F.2d 111, 118 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 937, 104 S. Ct. 348, 78 L. Ed. 2d 314 (1983) (footnote omitted); see also Duffy v. Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corp., 738 F.2d 1393, 1395, (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1087, 105 S. Ct. 592, 83 L. Ed. 2d 702 (1984).

 In Massarsky the plaintiff established a prima facie case of discriminatory treatment under the ADEA by showing that he was within the protected age class (47) and was laid off from his job as a process engineer even though he was qualified for that position, while a person considerably younger in age (25) and with less seniority was retained. 706 F.2d at 118. In Duffy proof that the plaintiff was within the protected age class (59) and discharged from his job as a salesman even though he was qualified for that position, while a younger employee (26) was retained, established a prima facie case of discriminatory treatment. 738 F.2d at 1395 n. 2.

 Here Bales was within the protected age class (52) and not permitted to bump back to his prior job as design draftsman even though he was qualified for that position while three younger employees (Wilshire - 38, Briney - 46, Janosko - 49) were retained *fn1" as design draftsmen. It will be assumed that this establishes a prima facie case of age discrimination.

 
After a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of age discrimination, the burden shifts to the defendant to dispel the adverse inference by articulating "some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection."

 Duffy v. Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corp., 738 F.2d at 1395 (citations omitted).

 Here USS contends that Bales failed to perform the duties of the design draftsman job to the satisfaction of his supervisor even though Bales' abilities ...


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