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GUTKNECHT v. SMITHKLINE BEECHAM CLINICAL LABS.

December 23, 1996

WESLEY W. GUTKNECHT, Plaintiff,
v.
SMITHKLINE BEECHAM CLINICAL LABORATORIES, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: REED

 Reed, J.

 December 23, 1996

 Plaintiff Wesley W. Gutknecht, a former Vice President of defendant SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories, Inc. ("SmithKline") has brought this action alleging age discrimination, pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., and the Missouri Human Rights Act, R.S.Mo. § 213.010 et seq.

 Currently before the Court is the motion of defendant for summary judgment (Document No. 22), and responses of the parties thereto. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

 I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND1

 SmithKline performs employee drug testing and other kinds of laboratory testing. Plaintiff was hired at SmithKline in 1986 as the Vice President and General Manager ("VPM") for the Central area. He was 53 years old at the time of hiring. During his tenure heading the Central area, plaintiff received favorable performance evaluations, salary increases, and bonuses.

 In March 1990, the then-President of SmithKline, Harry Groome ("Groome"), asked plaintiff to become a member of the Executive Management Team and undertake a new assignment as VPM for the West area, which had been a problematic region financially for SmithKline as well as the entire industry. Despite his initial reluctance given the region's poor financial performance in the past, plaintiff agreed.

 In his new position, plaintiff was responsible for the laboratories in Hawaii, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. He was also responsible for the Clinical Trials nationwide and for the Esoteric Testing Laboratory. In 1991, plaintiff received, overall, a favorable evaluation from Groome. Yet, Groome noted in this evaluation that the sales performance in Los Angeles and Hawaii was "disturbing" and that plaintiff should listen more to his subordinates in order to improve his management style. *fn2"

 Mike Moore ("Moore"), Vice President of Human Resources at SmithKline, met with employees who worked with plaintiff in March 1992. As a result of this meeting, Moore sent a memorandum to plaintiff identifying problems with his management style and suggesting ways in which plaintiff could improve his interactions with his subordinates. In response, plaintiff sent a memorandum to his subordinates thanking them for their participation in the meeting and pledging to make an effort to improve.

 In April 1992, the newly appointed President of SmithKline, W. Vickery Stoughton ("Stoughton"), became concerned about the inadequate performance of plaintiff, in particular his failure to meet his own budget in the West area, his inability to provide any reasonable explanation for the failure to meet his own budget, his failure to launch a strategy to improve the region's performance, and his faulty treatment of his subordinates. Defendant states that because of these reasons, he decided to discharge plaintiff and informed plaintiff of the termination on September 2, 1992. Later that day, plaintiff asked Stoughton whether he could be considered for another lower level position rather than discharged. Stoughton refused.

 Upon the discharge of plaintiff, he was replaced by 59 year-old Robert Murphy ("Murphy"). When Murphy retired fifteen months later, the position of VPM for the West area was eliminated due to a consolidation of the four regions. The two VPM positions that remained were eventually occupied by individuals younger than plaintiff.

 II. LEGAL STANDARD

 Summary judgment is proper only when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). A disputed factual matter is a genuine issue "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. The court must make its determination after considering the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 255-56. The nonmoving party must produce evidence to support its position, and may not rest upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations, or suspicions. Fireman's Ins. Co. of Newark, N.J. v. DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982).

 III. DISCUSSION

 Plaintiff claims that defendant terminated him in violation of the ADEA and the Missouri Human Rights Act. Because the same standards and allocation of burdens of proof govern both claims, the ADEA and state law claim will be discussed together. See Wentz v. Industrial Automation, 847 S.W.2d 877, 879 (Mo. 1992) (citing Midstate Oil v. Missouri Comm'n on Human Rights, 679 S.W.2d 842, 845-46 (Mo. 1984) (en banc)). Under both the state and federal statutes, a plaintiff can sustain an age discrimination claim by either presenting direct or circumstantial evidence. In the instant case, the age discrimination claim of plaintiff is purportedly grounded in both direct and circumstantial evidence. *fn3"

 A. Direct Evidence

 A direct evidence case of age discrimination exists when "the evidence the plaintiff produces is so revealing of discriminatory animus that it is not necessary to rely on any presumption from the prima facie case [as is necessary in a circumstantial evidence case] to shift the burden of production." Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 778 (3d Cir. 1994). Statements by decisionmakers that are unrelated to the decisional process in terminating an employee do not satisfy the plaintiff's burden. Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 277, 104 L. Ed. 2d 268, 109 S. Ct. 1775 (1989) (O'Connor, J., concurring). "What is ...


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