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ROCCO v. AMERICAN LONGWALL CORP.

May 20, 1997

LAWRENCE M. ROCCO, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN LONGWALL CORPORATION and MECO INTERNATIONAL, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DIAMOND

 DIAMOND, D.J.

 In accordance with the Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636, this case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Benson who issued a report on April 1, 1997, recommending that defendants' motion or summary judgment be granted and that plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment be denied. Plaintiff's filed timely objections. After a de novo review of the record, this court finds that there are genuine issues of material fact and accordingly, will deny the cross-motions for summary judgment.

 Background

 Meco International, Ltd. ("Meco Limited"), is a British owned corporation which has world-wide operations. The core business of Meco Limited is to manufacture and sell equipment used in the longwall method of coal mining. *fn1" Meco Limited is one of the world's largest manufacturers of longwall mining equipment.

 The United States subsidiary of Meco Limited is called Meco International, Inc. ("Meco International"). *fn2" Meco International has four entities in the United States. There are three facilities in Warrendale, Pennsylvania; one which is a longwall rebuild facility, another which is a roof support facility and the third, Meco Belts, manufactures belt structure. (Richardson Deposition pp. 12, 476). The fourth facility is located in Abingdon, Virginia.

 Meco-Owens Manufacturing, Inc. ("Meco-Owens") is a wholly owned United States subsidiary of Meco International. Meco-Owens manufactured and sold equipment used mainly in conventional mining, but also manufactured and sold equipment used in the longwall mining process. Meco-Owens had locations in Bristol, Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama. The Bristol, Virginia, facility housed both Meco-Owens and Meco International's armored face conveyor strategic business unit/division. All of these entities are in the business of manufacturing, selling, repairing and overhauling mining equipment.

 Plaintiff began employment in 1986 with Meco-Owens in the Bristol, Virginia, division as a district sales manager for the northern district of the United States. *fn3" However, to facilitate his job, plaintiff worked out of his home in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. At the time plaintiff was hired Meco-Owens manufactured bulk feeders, starters (electrical components for drive systems), take-ups, tail pieces, belt structure and feeder-breakers. *fn4" Feeder breakers were a substantial product line of Meco-Owens at the Bristol facility. Plaintiff sold all of the products manufactured by Meco-Owens and at times sold longwall mining equipment, replacement rollers and other equipment manufactured by Meco International at the Warrendale facility.

 The sales structure of Meco-Owens and Meco International is somewhat convoluted and unclear from the record. What is clear is that Meco International and Meco-Owens had several district sales representatives, managers and manufacturer's representatives. Meco-Owens had one national sales manager, Steve Crewdson ("Crewdson"), to whom the district sales managers reported. *fn5" Both Meco International and Meco-Owens had separate presidents. *fn6" Although sales personnel received salary from one company only, the sales managers at some point in their careers, sold products manufactured by both Meco International and Meco-Owens and could easily interact with salespersons from the different subsidiaries in various locations. Plaintiff claims that the defendants distinguished the employees by locations rather than companies. Plaintiff stated that "people from Owens worked in Warrendale and vice-versa ... It was hard to identify just exactly who employed them and where they received their paycheck from." (Rocco Deposition p. 86). This also is illustrated by the following examples.

 Meco International had sales personnel who sold longwall equipment and personnel who mainly sold belt structures. For example, district sales managers Charles Kaczmarek ("Kaczmarek"), Paul Spedding ("Spedding"), and John Taylor ("Taylor") sold belt structure for the Meco Belts facility in Warrendale. *fn7" Meco-Owens salespersons, such as the plaintiff, sold conventional mining equipment. But, when Kaczmarek or Spedding had a feeder-breaker customer, they would call plaintiff for assistance. (Rocco Deposition p. 97). Particularly, Kaczmarek and plaintiff often completed sales that the other initiated. (Curtis Deposition p. 85). Generally, if a sales person picked up a lead for a product in which he did not specialize, he would refer that lead to someone within the Meco system. Keith Richardson, President of Meco International, referred to this process as "cross-fertilization." (Richardson Deposition p. 476).

 Another example of the porous nature of company barriers is that Crewdson, the sales manager at Meco-Owens, ultimately was promoted to the position of longwall sales manager for Meco International. When Crewdson commenced his newly elevated position, Ken Savidge, a Meco International employee, moved upward into Crewdson's former position at Meco-Owens.

 In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Meco International, Inc. experienced business difficulties. During this time salesmen, including plaintiff, Miller, Clark, Spedding, and Kaczmarek were selling both Meco and Meco-Owens products. *fn8" In October, 1992, the Meco-Owens division which manufactured the feeder-breaker product line was sold to Lakeshore Mining, Inc. The tail-piece division and the armored face conveyor business in Bristol eventually became part of Meco International. Meco International's belt structure division and what was left of Meco-Owens following the sale merged to form a material handling division. Accordingly, plaintiff began selling Meco International belt structure.

 In June 1992, the material handling division was disbanded and plaintiff was told that he no longer was to sell belt structure but only products manufactured by Meco-Owens. (Rocco Deposition p. 66). Accordingly, plaintiff, Clark and Miller went back to selling Owens' products exclusively and Spedding, Kaczmarek and Taylor were limited to selling belt structure. (Rocco Deposition p. 66). Shortly thereafter, Rocco was laid off.

 Plaintiff filed this lawsuit claiming that younger and/or British employees who performed similar duties were treated more favorably than he was by being provided with an opportunity to transfer to other locations within the Meco conglomerate rather than being laid off. Specifically, plaintiff claims that sales personnel with similar and/or less ...


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