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John J. Kelly v. United States Steel Corp

August 1, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McVerry, J.


Presently pending before the Court is DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 36), with Brief in Support (Doc. No. 39), Reply Brief (Doc. No. 57) and Appendix. Plaintiff has filed a Brief in Opposition (Doc. No. 45) to the motion and Sur-Reply Brief (Doc. No. 61). The parties have developed the evidentiary record and filed Defendant's Concise Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 38), Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Concise Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 47) and Plaintiff's Counterstatement of Undisputed Material Facts. The motion is ripe for disposition.

After careful consideration of U.S. Steel's motion, the filings in support and opposition thereto, the memoranda of the parties, the relevant case law, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that genuine issues of material fact remain. For the reasons that follow, U.S. Steel's motion will be denied.

Factual Background

Kelly began working for U.S. Steel in 1988 as an internal auditor and held various analyst positions in the company until 2001, when he moved to a managerial position with a subsidiary of U.S. Steel. (Doc. No. 47). When the subsidiary merged with U.S. Steel's Real Estate Department, Kelly became the Manager of Real Estate Accounting with a primary job function to manage accounting processes. (Doc. No. 47; Kelly Aff. ¶ 6; Beecher Aff. ¶ 8). While holding this position, Kelly reported to Tom Beecher, Director of the Real Estate Accounting Department. It is undisputed that prior to retiring from U.S. Steel, Beecher recommended to his supervisor, Nick Harper, that Kelly replace him as Director. (Doc. No. 47; Kelly Dep. p. 17, 19; Harper Dep. p. 6, 42). It is also undisputed that prior to Beecher's retirement, Kelly had no reported problems with his performance, and had received good reviews throughout his twenty (20) plus years with U.S. Steel. (Doc. No. 47).

In April 2009, thirty-nine (39) year-old Laurie Recchia was selected to succeed Beecher as Director of Real Estate Accounting, rather than fifty-two (52) year old Kelly. (Doc. No. 47). Even though it is not an issue in this litigation, Kelly believes that age was a motivating factor for this decision, as his supervisor had recommended him for the position and his experience, management skills, and technical skills were superior to those of Recchia. Kelly maintained his position as Manager of Real Estate Accounting and reported directly to Recchia on accounting issues. Id.

On June 24, 2009, three months after she became Director, Recchia met with Kelly allegedly to address concerns she had about his performance. Id. On November 23, 2009, Recchia and the Real Estate Department's Human Resource Manager, Maria Lamb, met with Kelly and advised him that he was going to be placed on a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP"). Id. On February 19, 2010, Recchia and Lamb again met with Kelly and told him that he was discharged because he had not met the requirements of the PIP. Id. Clay Reigel, thirty-five (35) at the time, subsequently took over the task of managing accounting processes. Id.

Procedural Background

On August 9, 2010 Kelly filed a charge of age and sex discrimination against Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The charge was cross-filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PRHC") on August 25, 2010. Kelly filed the instant action in this Court on February 11, 2011, in which he asserts claims for termination due to his age under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §621, et seq. ("ADEA") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951, et. seq. ("PHRA"). In Kautz v. Met-Pro Corp., 412 F.3d 463, 465 (3d Cir. 2005) the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit determined that PHRA claims are to be analyzed according to the same standard as ADEA claims, therefore the following analysis applies to both of the Plaintiff's claims.


I. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is only appropriate 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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Therefore, the court's task is not to resolve disputed issues of fact, but to determine whether there exist any factual issues to be tried. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49 (1986); see also Josey v. John R. Hollingsworth Corp., 996 F.2d 632, 637 (3d Cir. 1993) ("Summary judgment is precluded if a disputed fact exists which might affect the outcome of the suit under the controlling substantive law.") An issue of material fact is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson., 477 U.S. at 248.

In order to be entitled to summary judgment, the moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); see also Conoshenti v. Public Service Electric & Gas Company, 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004). When the moving party has met this burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). The mere existence of some evidence favoring the non-moving party, however, will not defeat the motion. There must be enough evidence with respect to a particular issue to enable a reasonable jury to find in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359, 363-64 (3d. Cir. 2005).

In evaluating the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. See Matreale v. New Jersey Dept of Military & Veterans Affairs, 487 F. 3d 150, 152 (3d Cir. 2007). Final credibility determination on material issues cannot be made in the context of a motion ...

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