The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer
Presently before the Court is a Motion to Transfer Venue pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), wherein Defendant seeks transfer of Plaintiff's employment discrimination claims from this Court to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. (Docket No. 4). The instant action arises out of alleged age discrimination, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq. (Docket No. 1). For the reasons outlined herein, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.
Plaintiff is a resident of southwestern Pennsylvania. (Docket No. 11 at 2). Defendant is an employee-owned technology solutions company, whose corporate headquarters is located in McLean, Virginia. (Docket No. 4-1 at ¶¶ 3, 6). As part of its business, Defendant maintains several facilities and offices in Virginia and in the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-7). Defendant also maintains a small office sited near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 11).
Plaintiff's action arises from his termination of employment in July 2010. (See Docket Nos. 1 at ¶ 36-55, 17-3, 17-4). In October 2004, Plaintiff was hired by Defendant to be the Director of Proposal Planning and Development. (Docket No. 1 at ¶ 7). During his employment, Plaintiff was permitted to work remotely out of his home. (Docket Nos. 4-1 at ¶ 8, 11 at 2). Under the parties' arrangement, Plaintiff worked out of his home for approximately three weeks per month.*fn1 (Docket No. 4-1 at ¶ 8). In the remaining week, Plaintiff worked at one of Defendant's offices in McLean or Fairfax, Virginia. (See Id. at ¶ 9; Docket No. 11 at 9). For a number of years, Plaintiff reported directly to Defendant's current Chief Operating Officer Stacey Mendler and the parties appear to have had a good working relationship. (Docket No. 1 at ¶¶ 10-26; see also Docket No. 17-7). At some point, Plaintiff was promoted to Vice President of Corporate Development. (Docket No. 1 at ¶ 13).
In late 2009, Defendant hired David Crenshaw as its Senior Vice
President of Strategic Operations. (Id. at ¶ 27). Thereafter, Mr.
Crenshaw became Plaintiff's supervisor in early 2010. (Id. at ¶ 28).
Three months later, at a time when Plaintiff was turning 65 years old
and without warning, Defendant posted an advertisement for Plaintiff's
position on its website. (Id. at ¶¶ 29,
30). Plaintiff learned of the ad through another employee in February
2010 and approached Ms. Mendler regarding the posting.*fn2
(Id. at ¶¶ 31, 32). She was unaware that Plaintiff's position
had been posted and the ad was later removed. (Id. at ¶¶ 32, 35).
Subsequently, on June 30, 2010, Plaintiff was summoned to a meeting in
Virginia with Mr. Crenshaw to discuss work projects.*fn3
(Id. at ¶ 36; Docket No. 17 at 1). At the meeting, the two
men were joined by Kathy Madaleno, Defendant's Human Resources
Director. (Docket No. 1 at ¶ 37). Upon her arrival, Plaintiff was
informed that Defendant was "making changes" and would be soliciting
applications for Plaintiff's position on its website. (Id. at ¶ 38).
Plaintiff was then told by Mr. Crenshaw that he could retire, which
was reiterated by Ms. Madaleno. (Id. at ¶¶ 39, 42). Ms. Madaleno
further stated that Defendant would have no employment position for
Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 41). Instead, Mr. Crenshaw expressed an interest
in one of Defendant's employees who had worked under Plaintiff and was
more than 20 years his junior. (Id. at ¶ 40). No reason was given why
Plaintiff's employment had been terminated. (Id. at ¶ 44).
At the June 30, 2010 meeting, Plaintiff was given a "General Release" and an unsolicited offer of severance pay. (Id. at ¶ 45). Ms. Madaleno instructed Plaintiff that the release needed to be executed and returned within one week. (Id. at ¶ 46). The severance agreement characterized Plaintiff's termination as a resignation. (Id. at ¶ 47). The next day, Mr. Crenshaw sent an email to certain of Defendant's employees which praised Plaintiff's prior work performance, but characterized his departure as voluntary and of his own choosing. (Id. at ¶ 48). After receiving the email, one employee accused Plaintiff of quitting and failing as a leader. (Id. at ¶ 49).
Following Plaintiff's departure, Mr. Crenshaw assumed Plaintiff's job duties and, shortly thereafter, hired a substantially younger and allegedly less qualified employee to take over Plaintiff's former position. (Id. at ¶ 50). On July 6, 2010, in a writing from Ms. Madaleno, Plaintiff was reminded that he had until July 8, 2010 to return the signed release agreement.*fn4 (Id. at ¶ 51). However, Plaintiff advised Ms. Madaleno, via email sent on July 20, 2010, that he would not sign the document. (Id. at ¶ 53). In addition, on July 21, 2010, Plaintiff, also by email, requested an explanation for his termination. (Docket No. 1 at ¶ 55, 56). According to Plaintiff, both of these emails were sent from a location near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (See Docket Nos. 1 at ¶ 55, 17 at 1, 17-2). In response, Defendant provided no explanation beyond "business considerations." (Docket Nos. 1 at ¶ 56).
On July 22, 2010, Ms. Madaleno sent an email to Plaintiff, wherein she stated:
Since you will not sign the General Release your employment with
[Defendant] will end effective tomorrow. Please send back all of your
. equipment an (sic) you will receive a FedEx termination package
tomorrow at your home. (Docket No. 17-3). Plaintiff still did not sign
and return the release. Instead, he received the "termination package"
addressed to his residence in Irwin, Pennsylvania, which included a
termination letter signed by Ms. Madaleno. (Docket No. 17-4). Notably,
the termination letter, which was also dated July 22, 2010, advised
Plaintiff that he would soon be eligible to file for unemployment with
the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. (Id.). Plaintiff
received Defendant's termination package at his home on July 23, 2010.
(See Docket No. 17 at
2). According to Defendant, the decision to terminate Plaintiff's
employment was made in its Fairfax, Virginia office.*fn5
(Docket No. 4-1 at ¶ 16).
On August 6, 2010, Plaintiff, through his legal counsel, sent Defendant and a selection of its senior executives a detailed document and preservation letter, which advised the recipients that litigation under age discrimination laws was reasonably foreseeable. (Docket No. 1 at ¶ 57). In the preservation letter, Plaintiff's counsel identifies 27 individuals whom he believes are custodians of electronically-stored information, which may be relevant to the instant case. (Docket No. 4-2 at 9-10). The majority of these persons both live and work in Virginia, with only a handful, including Plaintiff, residing outside the state. (Id. at ¶ 18; Docket No. 5 at 4).
Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that age was a substantial factor in Defendant's decision to terminate his employment and that such a discriminatory use of his age was willful. (Docket No. 1 at ¶¶ 62-64, 65-68).
Plaintiff commenced the current action by filing his Complaint on January 19, 2011. (Id.). Defendant then filed the instant motion, with brief in support, on February 21, 2011. (Docket Nos. 4, 5). Plaintiff filed his response thereto on March 7, 2011, (Docket No. 11), and the Court heard oral argument on March 11, 2011, (see Docket No. 14). Subsequently, the transcript was prepared, (Docket No. 16), and both parties submitted supplemental briefs in support of their respective positions, (Docket Nos. 17, 18). As the motion is now fully briefed, it is ripe for disposition.