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DANAS v. CHAPMAN FORD SALES

October 27, 2000

LOUIS DANAS AND LINDA DANAS, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
CHAPMAN FORD SALES, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Louis Danas ("Danas") filed this action against his employer, Chapman Ford Sales, Inc. ("Chapman"), alleging that Chapman unlawfully discriminated against him based upon age.*fn1 Danas claims that Chapman's refusal to transfer him to a more profitable team of automobile service technicians and a number of other incidents constitute discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 951 et seq. The complaint also seeks damages for Danas and his wife, Linda Danas, for negligent infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium.

Before me is Chapman's motion for summary judgment. The motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn2

Danas was born on November 4, 1943. He is employed as a master service technician in Chapman's Northeast Philadelphia automotive service department. Danas began working as a master technician for Chapman in 1989. Chapman classifies its auto technicians by level of expertise — C, B, A, and master — with master technicians being the most experienced employees, presumed capable of handling any job that comes into the service department. At the time of the alleged events, Chapman further divided the technicians into teams identified by color. Each team had a service writer to receive work and distribute assignments to members of his team.*fn3

When Chapman sold a car or when a car first came in to be serviced, that car was assigned to one of the service writers by serial number. Once assigned to a team, any future work on that car would be automatically reassigned to that same team. The longer a service writer had been with Chapman, the more cars he had in circulation as potential service jobs for his team.

Mechanics at Chapman are not paid by the actual number of hours they work, but rather by the value of the jobs they complete. Chapman pays its technicians an hourly rate based on the hours they "turn" by "clock rate." The clock rate for a given job is the number of hours allowed by the industry standard guide. Regardless of how many hours the technician actually spends on a job, he is paid for the hours he turns by the clock rate system.*fn4 An experienced master technician like Danas can often turn a big job in half the number of hours allowed by the clock rate. Therefore, a technician's income depends on the number of lucrative jobs assigned to his team.

Danas has worked on several teams since joining Chapman in 1989. He was initially assigned to the Silver team, where he remained for approximately a year and a half. When the Silver team was disbanded, he was placed on the Red team, where he worked for approximately six weeks. Danas was then assigned to the Green team, where he remained for at least four years, until it was disbanded in April of 1996.

When Chapman disbanded the Green team in 1996, the three remaining Green team members were assigned to other service teams. Danas was assigned to the Red team, becoming one of two master technicians on that team. Danas understood that he would be reassigned to the Green team should it be reconstituted. Should that occur, Danas was told, the three former members would be reassigned to the Green team and Chapman would make every effort to recover the Green team's former customer base from the other teams.

Danas worked on the Red team for six months, until November 1996, when he took medical leave. When Danas returned from medical leave six months later, in April 1997, he was reassigned to the Green team, which had been reestablished during his absence. By this time Danas was 54 years old. Danas was the only master technician on this new Green team, and he was the only former Green team member reassigned to the new Green team. At the time of Danas' reassignment, the new Green team had three members: Danas, a second technician who left Chapman within a few weeks, and a C — level technician capable of handling only the simplest jobs.

Immediately upon reassignment to the Green team, Danas requested a transfer back to the Red team.*fn5 The Red team consistently offered the highest earning opportunity for a master technician at Chapman. Given his seniority, Danas believed he was entitled to that job.*fn6 Chapman's service director at the time, Richard Gambone, denied Danas' request to rejoin the Red team. Gambone reasoned that moving Danas would deprive the Green team of a master technician, and the Red team already had a master technician who had been part of its team for many years. The Red team's master technician, Jim Eyer, was 36 years old when Danas' transfer request was refused.

When Danas was reassigned to the Green team, his earnings dropped significantly. During his stint on the Red team in 1996, and for many years before that, Danas consistently earned a weekly performance bonus. As his hours dropped, Danas lost not only compensation for those hours but also the substantial weekly bonus.*fn7

Three main factors account for Danas' inability to maintain his income after the reassignment. First, Chapman did not restore the Green team's customer base. The Green team handled a disproportionate amount of service work covered by warranty. As the hourly allowance on the clock rate system is generally lower for warranty jobs than for customer-paid jobs, Danas had poorer earning opportunities. Second, the Green team's service writer, Anthony Dodson, denied Danas access to available customer-paid service jobs even though Danas, as master technician, should have had first priority on all jobs. Third, Danas had problems with the other teams' service writers, who ignored the priority order system to keep lucrative jobs for their own team members.*fn8 In December 1997 and February 1998, Danas was passed over for high-paying repair jobs in favor of younger, less experienced employees. Danas repeatedly complained to Chapman management about his problems with Dodson and the other service writers, but nothing was done to resolve the problem.

In addition to describing the effects of Chapman's failure to restore him to the Red team and insure that work in the shop was properly assigned, Danas also alleges the following two incidents. In February 1998, Chapman gave Danas a disciplinary report for causing damage to a diagnostic computer. According to Danas, a younger technician was not reprimanded for a similar accident.*fn9 In December 1997, Danas fell and hit his head while on the job. Against his will, Chapman management ordered him to seek treatment at its injury center, denying his request to deal with his own doctor after work hours. Danas lost income waiting for the injury center to find him fit to work. Danas suggests that other, younger technicians would not have been ordered to the injury center under similar circumstances.

Danas also describes a personnel meeting convened in July of 1998 by Chapman's general manager, Cecil Lam. At that meeting, Lam made statements regarding the financial burden placed on the business by a certain class of employees, namely, those who had been at Chapman for a long time. Lam said that the Company was looking for ways to lower the cost of its benefit package for those employees.

Having worked at Chapman since 1989, Danas enjoys the most generous benefit package available to technicians at Chapman. Like all technicians who have worked at Chapman for over seven years, his annual compensation package includes three weeks of paid vacation, two paid personal days, paid holidays, and six sick days. As a master technician, Danas is eligible for the $3.00 per hour incentive bonus for particularly profitable work weeks. Moreover, since Danas joined Chapman before December 15, 1992, he is "grandfathered" for insurance purposes. While more recently hired technicians receive only individual health insurance coverage, grandfathered employees such as Danas also receive family coverage at Chapman's expense.

According to Chapman, nine of its eleven master and A — level technicians were hired before December of 1992, and therefore they, like Danas, are grandfathered for insurance purposes and qualify for the maximum amount of vacation. The $3.00 per hour incentive bonus for work weeks over 60.1 hours is available to all master technicians, regardless of seniority.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment may be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The role of the trial court is to determine whether there are material factual issues that merit a trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In making that determination, the court must give the nonmoving party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that might be drawn from the underlying facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Sempier v. Johnson and Higgins, 45 F.3d 724, 727 (3d Cir. 1995) (en banc). Summary judgment ...


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