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Stinebaugh v. Eldorado Stone

January 11, 2008


Judge John E. Jones III


Plaintiffs Michael Stinebaugh, Linda McCauley, and Bruce Hann bring this so-called "reverse discrimination" action against their former employer, Defendant Eldorado Stone, LLC ("Eldorado"), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951, et seq. ("PHRA"), arising out of discrimination based on race and national origin. Before the Court are Eldorado's motions for summary judgment against each of the individual plaintiffs. (Docs. 30, 32, and 34.) For the reasons that follow, the motions will be granted.


"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen." Henry David Thoreau, Life without Principle (1863). The parties and their counsel may certainly be deemed industrious and enterprising speculators, as the thousands of pages submitted in support of and opposition to the present motions have undoubtedly left a bald spot in some woods.*fn1 Pursuant to the requirement of Local Rule 56.1 that a motion for summary judgment be accompanied by a "short and concise statement" of material facts, Defendant submitted 279 paragraphs of purportedly material facts over 37 pages. The Plaintiffs' "short and concise statement" responds with 60 pages of purported disputes. In almost 100 pages of all-too-frequently immaterial facts and non-genuine disputes, the parties have lost the forest for the trees. What follows is the Court's attempt to prune from the disjointed and unnecessarily voluminous record the undisputed facts material to the present motions.

In accordance with the standard of review governing motions for summary judgment, the following facts, and any reasonable inferences derived therefrom, are viewed in favor of the non-moving parties, the Plaintiffs. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, because a non-moving party may not rely on unsupported allegations to prevent summary judgment, Jones v. UPS, 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000), the Court has interpreted a fact in the Plaintiffs' favor only where they have pointed to evidence beyond the pleadings that establishes at least a genuine dispute as to that fact.

A. The Plaintiffs' Employment

The Plaintiffs are white, non-Hispanic former employees of Eldorado, who allege that Eldorado discriminated against them by treating them less favorably than Hispanic co-workers on the basis of their race and national origin.*fn2 Eldorado, formerly known as L&S Stone, manufactures architectural stone veneer. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ["SUF"] ¶ 1.) Eldorado operates a facility in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, which consists of two physical plants, the "North Plant" and the "South Plant." (SUF ¶ 2.)

Plaintiff Michael Stinebaugh began working at Eldorado in 1997 through a temporary employment agency. (SUF ¶ 28; Stinebaugh Dep. at 12.) A little over a year later, Stinebaugh was hired permanently as a tinter in the North Plant. (SUF ¶¶ 29, 31.) A tinter is a production, or "direct labor", position that paints colors and designs on stone molds. (SUF ¶ 32; Hartmire Dep. at 36; Brisson Dep. at 121-22.) Stinebaugh eventually worked as a mixer operator, another direct labor position, in the North Plant. (Stinebaugh Dep. at 42.) In the summer of 2005, a position opened up in quality control in the North Plant. (Id. at 69-70.) Stinebaugh and others, including at least one Hispanic employee, applied for the position. (Id.) After being interviewed, Stinebaugh was given the position. (Id. at 70.) Stinebaugh began working in quality control, a non-production or "indirect labor" position, on December 6, 2005. (Id. at 41-42.) Eldorado terminated Stinebaugh's employment on January 3, 2006. (SUF ¶ 43.)

Plaintiff Linda McCauley began working at Eldorado in January 2003 through a temporary employment agency. (SUF ¶ 5.) McCauley was the only administrative employee at the North Plant. (SUF ¶ 6.) She assisted with scheduling, payroll, human resources paperwork, inventory, and supply purchasing; answered phones; and provided administrative and clerical support.

(SUF ¶ 8; McCauley Dep. at 21-23-25; Sites Dep. at 17-19, 31; Strine Dep. at 39; Samuel Moreno Dep. at 14.) McCauley's position was an indirect labor position. (Brisson Dep. at 15-16; Coughlin Dep. at 43-44.) Eldorado terminated McCauley's employment on January 3, 2006. (SUF ¶ 24.)

Plaintiff Bruce Hann began working at Eldorado in 1998 through a temporary employment agency. (SUF ¶ 46.) In May 1999, he was hired permanently as a stone puller in the South Plant. (SUF ¶¶ 47, 49.) A stone puller is a direct labor position that removes stone from molds when it is dried. (SUF ¶ 48.) Hann eventually worked as a mixer operator, another direct labor position, in the South Plant. (SUF ¶ 53; Hann Dep. at 16.) In 2003, Hann was transferred to the North Plant when the machine he operated was moved there. (SUF ¶¶ 49-50, Hann Dep. at 13-14.) At the North Plant, Hann operated the mixer and a paver-making machine and also drove a forklift, all direct labor positions. (SUF ¶ 54.)

In approximately December 2005, Hann was given the position of mold supervisor, an indirect labor position. (Hann Dep. at 17.) Eldorado terminated Hann's employment on January 3, 2006. ("Termed Employee List", Doc. 37-16.)

B. Allegations of Discrimination

Plaintiffs allege several examples of discriminatory and disparate treatment, which fall into the following categories:

1. Termination

Plaintiffs' primary allegation of discrimination (and the only one addressed in their briefs opposing summary judgment) is that Eldorado, under the guise of closing the North Plant and eliminating certain positions, terminated the non-Hispanic Plaintiffs and then filled their positions with Hispanic employees. (See Compl. ¶¶ 14(a)-(c), (m).)

As noted above, Eldorado's Greencastle facility consisted of two physical plants, the "North Plant" and the "South Plant." (SUF ¶ 2.) The two plants are located in close proximity to each other. (Brisson Dep. at 15.) Michael Coughlin was the manager of the Greencastle facility. (SUF ¶ 67; Coughlin Dep. at 10-11.) Coughlin is white and non-Hispanic. (SUF ¶ 66.) At the time Coughlin took over as manager, the Greencastle operation had high costs and was unprofitable.*fn3 (SUF ¶ 72; Coughlin Dep. 17-18; Brisson Dep. 63-65.) In the fall of 2005, after Coughlin became manager, Eldorado management directed him to reduce costs and labor. (SUF ¶ 76; Coughlin Dep. at 18, 41; Brisson Dep. at 13-14, 70.)

To accomplish these objectives, the decision was made to close the North Plant. (SUF ¶ 70; Coughlin Dep. at 17-18; Brisson Dep. at 13.) Coughlin made this decision because, unlike other Eldorado facilities which have only one plant and one set of employees, the Greencastle facility had duplicative sets of employees in the North and South Plants. (SUF ¶ 73; Coughlin Dep. at 17-18.) Coughlin planned to close the North Plant, consolidate production in the South Plant, and also downsize the workforce in the South Plant. (SUF ¶¶ 79, 88; Coughlin Dep. at 18; Brisson Dep. at 13-14.) Because the company still had existing orders for products made at the North Plant, and to allow time to train South Plant employees who would be retained how to manufacture these products, the North Plant was to be phased out over a period of time, rather than closed abruptly. (SUF ¶¶ 119-120; Brisson Dep. at 14-15.)

Coughlin, in consultation with Director of Human Resources Cheryl Brisson, determined who would be terminated and in what order. (SUF ¶¶ 81, 94, 108; Coughlin Dep. at 18, 43; Brisson Dep. at 25-26.) Administrative and indirect labor positions in the North Plant were eliminated first. (Coughlin Dep. at 43.) These positions were eliminated first because they were pure cost positions, not directly tied to production. (SUF ¶ 97; Brisson Dep. at 16.) In addition, employees in the South Plant were already performing these indirect labor functions. (SUF ¶ 97; Coughlin Dep. at 44; Brisson Dep. at 16.)

The first terminations occurred on January 3 and 4, 2006, at which time Stinebaugh, McCauley, and Hann were terminated along with nine other employees. (SUF ¶¶ 24, 43; Termed Employee List; EEOC Request for Information ["EEOC RFI"], Doc. 37-17 at 2.) Of the twelve employees terminated at that time, five are Hispanic and seven are non-Hispanic.*fn4 (SUF ¶ 133; Termed Employee List; EEOC RFI at 2; Brisson Dep. at 30; Coughlin Dep. at 19-20.) The terminated employees were told their positions were being eliminated. (SUF ¶¶ 135, 138; Brisson Dep. 66-68; Coughlin Dep. at 50-51; EEOC RFI at 2.) Although Eldorado had already made the decision to close the North Plant, the terminated employees were not told of this decision to avoid a premature and mass exodus of employees. (SUF ¶ 130; Coughlin Dep. at 61-62; Brisson Dep. at 29.)

Over the next few months, Eldorado closed the North Plant.*fn5 The number of North Plant employees was reduced via attrition, transfer, and termination. (SUF ¶¶ 106, 124-25; Brisson Dep. at 26-28; Coughlin Dep. at 20, 63.) Both Hispanic and non-Hispanic employees were transferred to other Eldorado facilities. (SUF ¶¶ 102, 124; Brisson Dep. at 27.) About 90-95% of the employees terminated because of the North Plant closure were Hispanic. (Brisson Dep. at 26-27; Coughlin Dep. at 19-20.) At the same time, employees from the South Plant temporarily worked at the North Plant to learn the production processes performed there, which would eventually be performed only in the South Plant. (SUF ¶¶ 102, 126-28; Brisson Dep. at 28; Coughlin Dep. at 63.) Production at the North Plant ceased by September 2006. (Brisson Dep. at 123; Coughlin Dep. at 62.) The North Plant facility is now used only as a warehouse. (Stinebaugh Dep. at 53, 55-56; McCauley Dep. at 173; Hann Dep. at 24).

Despite the closure of the North Plant, the Plaintiffs allege that they were "replaced" by Hispanic employees after their termination. (Compl. ¶ 14(b).)

Stinebaugh states that in the summer of 2006, before production ceased at the North Plant, he visited the facility and observed Sibia Moreno, a Hispanic employee, testing batches of cement, which was one of his former responsibilities in quality control.*fn6 (Stinebaugh Dep. at 58-60.) After Stinebaugh was terminated, Eldorado's quality control manager, Edvin Arana, managed quality control at the North Plant until it closed, using remaining employees from both plants. (Coughlin Dep. at 44, 76-77; Samuel Moreno Dep. at 62-63.) Sibia Moreno was one of the remaining employees that assisted with quality control after Stinebaugh was terminated. (Sibia Moreno Dep. at 10.)

McCauley stated that she was told by another former employee that "a Hispanic gentlemen from Oil City or Washington, D.C." was seen in her office at the North Plant doing her former job. (McCauley Dep. at 171-72, 184-85.) McCauley did not know whether this individual also performed other duties. (Id. at 185.) Samuel Moreno, a Hispanic employee and the production supervisor at the North Plant, performed the scheduling aspect of McCauley's former position after her termination.*fn7 (Samuel Moreno Dep. at 58.)

Hann stated that in March 2006, before the closure of the North Plant, he visited the facility and observed an unidentified Hispanic man performing his former ...

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