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Quiroga v. Hasbro

filed: June 11, 1991.

ALVARO QUIROGA, APPELLANT
v.
HASBRO, INC. AND PLAYSKOOL BABY, INC.



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; D.C. Civil Action No. 89-01187.

Hutchinson, Nygaard and Rosenn, Circuit Judges.

Author: Nygaard

Opinion OF THE COURT

NYGAARD, Circuit Judge

In the case underlying these consolidated appeals, Alvaro Quiroga instituted an action against Hasbro and its subsidiary, Playskool Baby, Inc. (collectively, "Hasbro") alleging violations of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17, the Age Discrimination In Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5, et seq., and state claims for breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Just before trial, the district court granted summary judgment for defendants on all but the Title VII and comparable NJLAD claims. These remaining claims alleged Quiroga, a vice-president of Hasbro, was wrongfully denied stock options in 1988, and was discharged in retaliation for asserting his rights to those options. Following trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of Hasbro. Upon post-trial motion by Hasbro, the district court also ordered Quiroga to pay Hasbro's attorneys' fees in the amount of $10,000 under Section 706(k) of Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k).

Quiroga claims in appeal No. 90-5284 that the district court's trial findings are clearly erroneous and that the district court ignored issues of material fact in its summary judgment. In appeal No. 90-5748, Quiroga claims the district court abused its discretion by awarding Hasbro attorneys fees. We will affirm the district court's orders appealed in No. 90-5284, and for the reasons following we will remand on appeal No. 90-5748. The case is quite simple and ordinarily we would not write, but it is necessary here to explain our decision on appellant's challenge to the district court's attorney fee award.

I.

APPEAL NO. 90-5284

A. SUMMARY JUDGMENT.

The district court summarily dismissed many of Quiroga's claims, including the claim that Hasbro's Personal Policies Manual ("manual") gave Quiroga contractual rights that Hasbro violated when it discharged him. Quiroga challenges only that portion of the summary judgment. He contends that whether the manual applies to him is an unresolved, material question of fact precluding summary judgment, and that the district court misapplied New Jersey law regarding contractual rights created by the manual when it dismissed his claim for breach of contract. Our review of a summary judgment is plenary.

Quiroga's contentions are without support in the record because it does not show that the manual applied to Quiroga as vice-president and plant manager. The affidavit of William Daly, Hasbro's vice president in charge of industrial relations, states that the guide is intended for use by supervisors and managers to assist them in managing personnel matters of the rank and file employees and does not create rights for supervisors or managers. Daly also stated that unless a specific written employment contract is in place, managers are employed at will. There is nothing in the record to dispute that evidence.

Daly's affidavit carried Hasbro's burden under Rule of Civil Procedure 56 because, in response to Daly's affidavit, Quiroga says only that he was not informed the manual did not apply to him. This does not create a dispute of fact. Quiroga must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). Quiroga must set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial and may not rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or such vague statements that he was never informed that the manual did not apply to him. He must offer some evidence that the manual does indeed apply to him. Sound Ship Building Company v. Bethlehem Steel, 533 F.2d 96, 99 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 860, 97 S. Ct. 161, 50 L. Ed. 2d 137 (1976). Quiroga has simply offered no such evidence. Since Quiroga has not shown that the manual applies to him, we need not consider his contention that the district court misapplied New Jersey contract law. We hold that Quiroga's objection to the summary judgment is without merit.

B. TRIAL FACTS.

Following a bench trial on the remaining claims the district court found the following facts which are germane to its decision and our review. Quiroga was a valued employee of Hasbro and its corporate predecessors from 1974 until he parted company with them in May, 1988. As vice president of operations in Hasbro's Wayne, New Jersey plant, Quiroga was second-highest ranking employee in New Jersey.

Quiroga received a stock option award in 1986. In 1987 he committed the Wayne plant to production far beyond the company's manufacturing plan. Because of the overproduction, Hasbro sustained losses and seriously considered closing the plant. It did not close the plant, but as a consequence of overproduction, management did not recommend Quiroga for a stock option award for 1987. When in early 1988 Quiroga learned he would not receive the award, he complained to his superiors. Because Hasbro considered Quiroga to be a key person, management reconsidered and added Quiroga's name to the list of those recommended for stock options.

During 1987 there were rumblings between Quiroga and Hasbro's management. Quiroga found himself in disagreement with management decisions. He was disappointed with their decision not to relocate the New Jersey plant to South Carolina, where Quiroga was to have been plant manager. Quiroga viewed Hasbro's decision to scuttle the relocation as a failure to promote him. He was affronted by Hasbro's relocation of his responsibilities to others. He also incorrectly believed he was to be denied a stock option award, and so early in 1988, he hired an attorney. What happened thereafter cost Quiroga his stock options and his job.

Quiroga's attorney, Stephen R. Mills, wrote a letter to Hasbro that the district court found to be "heavy handed" and "extraordinary and outlandish." Attorney Mills claimed that Quiroga had been "constructively discharged" and suggested a meeting to explore "specific proposals for an outplacement arrangement" for Quiroga and "a possible settlement of Mr. Quiroga's claims." App. 401. The district court found the letter to be Quiroga's announcement that he was "departing from the company." App. 402.

Nevertheless, and in spite of Attorney Mills' letter, "Hasbro was anxious to retain [Quiroga] in its employ as he was still considered to be an important executive." App. 402. Quiroga, Mills and representatives of Hasbro all met in response to Attorney Mills' letter. At the meeting, Mills stated Hasbro had breached its ...


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