of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment Against Plaintiff Paul L. Naas, Attachments B-1, B-2.
According to Westinghouse, plaintiff Naas was included within the plant-wide RIF because many of his duties were to be automated or rendered unnecessary. DeGroot Deposition 62-63; Defendant's Answer to Plaintiff's Interrogatory Nos. 5, 8. Robert DeGroot, Operations Manager of the Renewal Parts Division, and Robert Gillgrist (Gillgrist), Plant Manager, determined that Naas' position was not essential to the functions performed at the Homewood Plant, Gillgrist Deposition 5. Thus, defendant has articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action with respect to Naas' termination.
C. EVIDENCE OF PRETEXT
Because the defendant has carried its burden of production, the inference that would be raised by a prima facie case is rebutted, and plaintiff must now "demonstrate that the proffered reason was not the true reason for the employment decision." Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 255-56. As discussed, supra, under Chipollini, ADEA plaintiffs need not adduce any proof whatsoever that the defendant's articulated reasons for its actions were a pretext for age discrimination. Nonetheless, even under Chipollini, plaintiffs must produce evidence, whether direct or indirect, that the defendant's articulated reasons are pretextual. As the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit noted in Billet v. Cigna Corp., 940 F.2d 812, 828 (3d Cir. 1991), "despite the breadth of the language in Chipollini, discrimination cases are inherently fact bound. Accordingly, Chipollini does not stand for the proposition that an age discrimination case can never be taken from the jury." "A plaintiff has the burden of casting doubt on an employer's articulated reasons for an employment decision. Without some evidence to cast this doubt, this court will not interfere in an otherwise valid management decision. To require less would be to expose to litigation every management decision impacting on a protected party." Id.
The use of innuendo and insinuation to create a "metaphysical doubt," see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986), as to the defendant's reasons do not constitute the indirect evidence contemplated by Chipollini. The plaintiff must adduce facts raising a genuine issue of pretext; speculation aided by one's own depositions and cryptic criticisms of the defendant's reasons will not suffice. Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 344 (3d Cir. 1990); Dale v. Chicago Tribune Co., 797 F.2d 458, 464 (7th Cir. 1986). Otherwise, ADEA plaintiffs armed with no more than the evidentiary equivalent of a raised eyebrow could consistently reach a jury, contrary to the teaching of Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986) and Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986), which encourage the use of summary judgment when the non-movant's position lacks a factual basis.
In the instant action, much of plaintiff's Brief In Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment consists of exactly the sort of innuendo that does not rise to the level of indirect evidence, and that is not effective to support his claims of pretext. Plaintiff states that "it is interesting to note" that Westinghouse hired the younger Brosek right in the midst of its business decline in early-1991. Plaintiff's Brief In Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment 4. Even though plaintiff does not dispute Westinghouse's business downturn, the lack of age-related motivation in the decision to implement a RIF, or the lack of disparate impact on the protected class, plaintiff attempts to raise a genuine issue of pretext by the insinuation that Westinghouse's business decline could not have been the reason for his termination if it was at that very time hiring another employee.
But Brosek's hiring may not have been unwise, given the defendant's need for an in-house computer programmer. In fact, it appears that Westinghouse hired Brosek precisely in order to cut costs by automating some functions that previously had been performed by salaried personnel. Hiring an additional, cost-saving employee for those reasons would be good business judgment in the face of an economic downturn. In any event, Brosek's hiring was a business decision that the defendant was entitled to make. The fact that Westinghouse hired a computer programmer when it did, and that plaintiff considered it imprudent or threatening (since his salary was among the cost-savings realized by automation), does not in the least suggest that Westinghouse lied about its reasons for terminating Naas.
Plaintiff challenges Westinghouse's articulated reasons by pointing out that: (1) his alleged "replacement," Bruce Brosek, has "conceded" that his knowledge and experience were not equal to Naas'; (2) Plant Manager Robert Gillgrist acknowledges that Naas was the oldest and had more seniority than any employee in his group; and (3) Naas' supervisors were not aware of his programming expertise.
First, Brosek's "concession" came in the context of a discussion of his ability to maintain files on the computer system used at the Homewood Plant. He merely agreed that his knowledge and experience were "not equal," not necessarily inferior, to plaintiff's knowledge and experience. More importantly, the relevant question from a business perspective was whether Brosek or Naas had more knowledge and experience with respect to computer programming.
Naas obviously disagreed with his supervisors' opinions on that matter, and suggests they should have asked him directly about his programming abilities. In fact, Naas did not even think "there was a need for the Homewood Plant to consider hiring a contract programmer on a permanent basis." Plaintiff's Brief In Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment 8. Plaintiff also finds it "curious" that Plant Manager Robert Gillgrist did not consult Naas' supervisor, Mr. Anthony Asquino, regarding Naas' programming abilities (although plaintiff's assertion is contradicted by the deposition of Gillgrist),
and that Gillgrist never asked Naas about his "goals and objectives." Viewing these criticisms in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the only inference they permit is that Westinghouse relied on its supervisory personnel's less than fully informed judgment; they do not constitute evidence that Westinghouse terminated Naas for some reason other than that which it articulated. Naas has not shown or even suggested that Westinghouse's actions were a material departure from an established company policy. Absent direct or indirect evidence suggesting pretext, the ADEA does not protect class-member employees who simply disagree with the business decisions of, or feel insufficiently appreciated by, their employers. Thornbrough v. Columbus and Greenville R. Co., 760 F.2d 633, 647 (5th Cir. 1985).
That Plant Manager Robert Gillgrist was aware of plaintiff's age and seniority is unremarkable. Plaintiff has not linked that fact to any other evidence showing even circumstantially that Westinghouse executed its RIF as a pretext for discharging Paul Naas. See Tozzi v. Union R. Co., 722 F. Supp. 1236, 1239 (W.D. Pa. 1989).
In summary, plaintiff Naas has not shown that he was replaced by a younger employee, nor has he adduced specific evidence that either directly points to age discrimination, or circumstantially casts doubt on the veracity of the defendant's articulated reasons for its inclusion of Paul Naas in the 1991 RIF. Summary judgment is entered for the defendant.
The Clerk shall mark this matter CLOSED.
BY THE COURT,
D. Brooks Smith, United States District Judge
DATE: January 29, 1993