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Hile v. Instron

June 27, 2006

DANIEL HILE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INSTRON DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Stewart Cercone United States District Judge

Electronic Filing

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Daniel Hile ("Hile" or "Plaintiff") filed a complaint in this action alleging a violation of his rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 PA. STAT. § 951 et seq. Plaintiff contends that his employment with Instron ("Instron" or "Defendant") was wrongly terminated because of his age. Plaintiff is seeking back pay, front pay, and compensation for lost fringe benefits as well as compensatory damages for humiliation, embarrassment and loss of self esteem. He is also requesting reasonable attorney's fees and liquidated damages.

After the close of discovery, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In support of its motion, Defendant filed a memorandum of law and statement of undisputed material facts. Plaintiff has responded, and the motion is now before the Court.

II. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Instron*fn1 is a corporation in the business of selling and servicing materials and structural testing equipment and is located in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Declaration of Daniel D. Ewing, III, Appendix Exhibit A. In July 1998, Instron purchased SATEC Systems, Inc. ("SATEC"). Plaintiff worked for SATEC since 1969 and was fifty-six (56) years old when the company was acquired by Instron on August 1, 1998. Defendant's Statement of Material Undisputed Fact ("SMUF") ¶¶ 1 & 2. While at SATEC, Plaintiff received reviews in 1985 and 1987 indicating his ability to work well with older model computers, but also indicating his difficulty working with newer computer models. SMUF ¶¶ 29 & 30. Upon Instron's acquisition of SATEC, Hile and other SATEC employees became Instron employees. SMUF ¶ 2. The SATEC employees were automatically placed at Instron without evaluation of their skill set. The placement was designed to ensure that employees continued to earn a salary comparable to that which they earned at SATEC. SMUF ¶ 6. Plaintiff was employed by SATEC as a Field Service Engineer ("FSE") and was automatically placed as a Senior Field Service Engineer ("SFSE") with Instron. SMUF ¶ 3.

Instron informed employees that the terms of their employment would be reviewed on an annual basis. SMUF ¶ 7. During the first few years following the acquisition, all former SATEC employees continued to operate as an independent group, managed by Tony Purcell ("Purcell"). SMUF ¶ 8. By 2001, SATEC was fully integrated into Instron's operations. Id.

Purcell left Instron and Sean Wright ("Wright") was hired to assume supervision of the FSEs, and SFSEs including Hile. SMUF ¶ 16.

Wright supervised employees ranging in age from forty nine (49) to fifty-nine (59).*fn2

During his time with Instron, Wright accompanied each of his SFSEs and FSEs on service calls with clients. SMUF ¶ 20. During that time period, Wright commended Plaintiff for his work on older machines, but also noted that Hile's ability to install new machines was deficient, as were his basic skills with newer computers. SMUF ¶¶ 21 & 22. Plaintiff addressed his need for further training in the "Continuous Improvement" section of his 2002 performance appraisal. He stated, "I am planning to retire when I am age sixty-two (62) in February 2004. Everything is getting too complex for me to learn anything else." SMUF ¶ 36. Plaintiff acknowledged that Wright told him to get more training in February 2003, but he failed to do so. SMUF ¶ 39. As of January 2004, Plaintiff acknowledged that he never informed Wright he had obtained the additional training suggested in his 2002 evaluation. Plaintiff asserts that he did not obtain further training because Wright never informed him of the specific skills areas he needed to strengthen. Plaintiff's Statement of Material Fact ("PSMF") ¶ 44.

On January 30, 2004, Wright met with Hile to review his 2003 performance evaluation. A decision was made by Wright's supervisor, John Durkin, ("Durkin") and Dan Ewing, ("Ewing"), Vice President of Human Resources, to reclassify Hile as a Field Service Engineer. Wright informed Hile of this decision and Hile abruptly left the meeting. SMUF ¶ 53. ThoughWright attempted to resume the meeting, Hile refused to return, claiming that the meeting had ended. SMUF ¶ 54; PSMF ¶ 54. When informed that the meeting was not over and that he should return, Hile refused to do so. SMUF ¶ 54.

Ewing and Durkin, acting as decision-makers, determined that Plaintiff's conduct during the performance review constituted subordination. SMUF ¶¶ 55 & 56. On Saturday January 31, 2004, Wright sent Plaintiff an email informing him that he would be "written-up" for insubordinate behavior and that a subsequent occurrence of insubordination would result in a one-week paid suspension. SMUF ¶ 59.

On February 3, 2004, Wright noticed damage to Plaintiff's company owned vehicle. SMUF ¶ 60. When questioned, Hile informed Wright that the car had been damaged one (1) month prior, and he intended to fix the damage himself. Wright instructed Hile to report the damage to the vehicle within twenty-four (24) hours, but Hile failed to do so. SMUF ¶ 66. Wright consulted Durkin and Ewing to determine if any action should be taken against Plaintiff. Durkin and Ewing independently agreed that Hile's failure to report the vehicle damage constituted a second occurrence of ...


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