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SCANLON v. HONEYWELL

October 18, 2005.

KEVIN M. SCANLON, Plaintiff,
v.
HONEYWELL, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TERRENCE McVERRY, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court for consideration and disposition are DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE (Document No. 37), with brief in support (Document No. 38) and PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE (Document No. 47). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion in Limine will be granted in part and denied in part.

Background

  Plaintiff Kevin Scanlon ("Scanlon") filed a Complaint in which he alleged age discrimination, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., religion and national origin discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., ("Title VII"), and retaliation, in violation of Title VII. In a Memorandum Opinion and Order filed on March 18, 2005, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Honeywell on Scanlon's claims of age, religion and national origin discrimination. However, the Court found that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Honeywell retaliated against Scanlon due to his July 12, 2001 call to Honeywell's Ethics Hotline.*fn1

  To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, Scanlon must demonstrate that: 1) he engaged in conduct protected by Title VII; 2) the employer took an adverse action against him either after or contemporaneous with the protected activity; and 3) a causal link exists between his protected conduct and the employer's adverse action. See Aman v. Cort Furniture Rental Corp., 85 F.3d 1074, 1085 (3d Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). The gravamen of Scanlon's retaliation claim is that Honeywell management, and particularly William Lendh, Scanlon's supervisor, engaged in a pattern of harassment and excessive monitoring, put Scanlon on a performance plan which had unreasonable and/or unattainable goals, and ultimately fired him due to the ethics complaint.

  Discussion

  Honeywell contends that various evidence is not relevant to whether Scanlon was the victim of unlawful retaliation, and therefore should be excluded. The Court will address the categories of evidence seriatim.

  A. Alleged wrongs that occurred prior to Scanlon's ethics complaint

  Honeywell contends that various events which occurred prior to Scanlon's July 12, 2001 call to the Ethics Hotline cannot possibly be relevant to whether Honeywell retaliated against Scanlon because the events occurred prior to the call. Honeywell Br. at 2. Specifically, Honeywell contends that evidence of the following events should be excluded: 1) the removal of West Virginia from Scanlon's territory; 2) increases in Scanlon's quota; and 3) the downgrading of Scanlon's performance appraisal. Id. at 2-3. Scanlon, on the other hand, contends that the loss of sales territory and increases in his quota "tend[] to show that the standards and goals set by [William] Lendh, and approved by Lendh's superiors and its Human Resources representatives . . . were objectively unreasonable and unachievable." Scanlon Br. at 2. As to the performance appraisal, Scanlon contends that although other sales representatives also had their performance appraisals downgraded, he was the only sales representative who was ultimately terminated from employment, which tends to show that he was subjected to retaliation. Id. at 3.

  The Court understands that one of Scanlon's theories is that due to the loss of West Virginia and the subsequent increases in his sales quota, it became much more difficult to fulfill the post-complaint requirements set for him by Lendh.*fn2 Scanlon will apparently argue that Lendh was aware of these difficulties and later, as a form of retaliation for the ethics complaint, set goals which were "objectively unreasonable and unachievable" given the constraints under which Scanlon was working.

  The Court finds and rules that evidence of 1) the removal of West Virginia from Scanlon's territory, and 2) increases in his sales quota under Lendh are relevant to providing the background and/or context for allegedly retaliatory job requirements later imposed on Scanlon by Lendh. Scanlon's theory that he was already "under the gun," so to speak, when Lendh imposed additional and unrealistic requirements on him is not illogocal. Therefore, Scanlon will be permitted to introduce evidence that West Virginia was removed from his sales territory, and of increases to his sales quotas during his supervision by Lendh. The Court also finds and rules that the downgrading of Scanlon's performance appraisal may be relevant to whether Scanlon was subjected to retaliation. Scanlon's theory that although others had their performance appraisals downgraded, he was the only one to be placed on a performance improvement plan and/or terminated, which may show Lendh's alleged animosity toward Scanlon, is not implausible. Therefore, Scanlon will be permitted to introduce evidence that his performance appraisal was downgraded.

  B. Scanlon's discussions with co-workers prior to his ethics complaint

  Scanlon informed various co-workers of the substance of Lendh's "Irish-Catholic" comments shortly after the comments were made, but before he reported the incident to the Ethics Hotline. See Honeywell Br. at 4. Scanlon testified at his deposition that he has no knowledge that Lendh or other managers learned of the complaint until after July 12, 2001. Scanlon dep. at 203-05. Honeywell contends that Scanlon's conversations with co-workers regarding Lendh's "Irish-Catholic" comments are not relevant to whether Lendh or others retaliated against Scanlon. Honeywell Br. at 4. Scanlon contends that evidence of his conversations with co-workers is relevant to prove 1) that he was actually offended by Lendh's comments, and 2) that his reaction to Lendh's comments was reasonable under the circumstances.

  The Court finds and rules that evidence of Scanlon's conversations with co-workers regarding Lendh's "Irish-Catholic" comments is not relevant. Scanlon testified that he has no evidence that Honeywell's management became aware of his feelings about the "Irish-Catholic" comments through his co-workers. Moreover, whether Scanlon was actually and/or reasonably offended by Lendh's comments is not germane to whether Honeywell's management retaliated against Scanlon due to the ethics complaint. Finally, even if evidence of those conversations were somehow relevant, the Court finds and rules that the probative value could be no more than marginal, and would be substantially outweighed by the possibility of undue delay and possible confusion regarding ...


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