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Baughman v. Cheung Enterprises, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 2, 2014

JUNE K. BAUGHMAN, Plaintiff,


SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

In this employment discrimination action, Plaintiff, a former employee of Defendant, alleged that she was discriminated against because of her age and disability when her employment was terminated, which she contends was in violation of both the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Presently before the court are Defendant's motions in limine (Docs. 39, 41, 43), wherein Defendant contends that Plaintiff should be precluded from presenting certain evidence because the evidence is either irrelevant and/or prejudicial ( see Doc. 44), unable to be presented in an admissible form and/or is unfairly prejudicial ( see Doc. 42), or was untimely disclosed ( see Doc. 40). For the following reasons, Defendant's motions will be denied.

I. Background

Because the court writes primarily for the parties and because the facts of the record have been summarized by this court in a separate memorandum ( see Doc. 31), the court will only recite the facts essential to this memorandum.

A. Facts

In 2005, Plaintiff, June Baughman, who at all times relevant to this litigation was a member of the class of individuals protected against age-based discrimination in the workplace, was hired as a crew trainer by Defendant, Cheung Enterprises, [1] to work in a McDonald's restaurant located within the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff was employed in this capacity until her employment was terminated on April 2, 2012.

Dora Matei ("Matei") became manager of the McDonald's restaurant in October 2011. (Doc. 24, ¶ 25.) Soon after Matei became manager, she met with staff to discuss store needs and employee performance, which included reports that the overnight shift, of which Plaintiff was a part, was not fulfilling its cleaning and restocking duties. ( Id. at ¶ 26; Doc. 26-3, p. 11 of 40.) Plaintiff, who was one of only a few individuals over the age of forty employed by Defendant, received performance warnings due to her inability to complete certain duties, which prompted Matei to reschedule Plaintiff from the overnight shift to the morning weekend shift. The schedule change failed to correct the problems, and Matei testified that she told Plaintiff that her employment would be terminated if her performance did not improve. Although Plaintiff never received any written warnings for her performance and disputes each issue deemed unsatisfactory on her performance review, she never challenged or expressed any disagreement with her "below standards" ratings.

Relevant to the matter sub judice, Plaintiff testified during her deposition that she heard from Ester Bair, [2] a manager at the McDonald's, that there was a "hit list" of five or six of the older employees that Defendant directed Matei to "get rid of." (Doc. 26-1, p. 55 of 183.) Plaintiff testified that she heard that she was included on this list. ( Id. at p. 56 of 183.) At the time of Plaintiff's deposition, at least four of those allegedly included on the hit list were no longer employed by Defendant. ( Id. at p. 56 of 183.)

Plaintiff's unsatisfactory performance was brought up during a meeting with several managers regarding the restaurant's needs for improvement, and several other managers voiced concerns similar to those of Matei. (Doc. 26-3, p. 18 of 40.) Based on Plaintiff's failure to improve, Matei decided that Plaintiff needed to be disciplined in the form of being suspended. ( Id. at p. 18 of 40.) Matei discussed her plan to suspend Plaintiff with Eric Whatmore ("Whatmore"), the assistant manager at the restaurant, to which he suggested that Matei terminate rather than suspend Plaintiff's employment. (Doc. 26-3, pp. 18-19 of 40; see also Doc. 24, ¶ 54.)

Subsequently, Plaintiff met with Matei and Whatmore at approximately 2:00 p.m. on April 2, 2012, at which time Plaintiff was informed that her employment was terminated due, in part, to Plaintiff's inability to multitask. (Doc. 24, ¶ 53; Doc. 26-1, pp. 90-91 of 183.) In her deposition, Plaintiff's recollection of this conversation was less than complete but confirmed that Matei stated her opinion that Plaintiff was not performing her job. (Doc. 26-1, p. 92 of 183.) Although Plaintiff testified that she did not agree with Matei's assessment, she admitted that she did not argue or challenge Matei on this point. ( Id. at p. 92 of 183.) Plaintiff testified that she could not point to an instance where Matei fabricated an issue regarding Plaintiff's performance. ( Id. at p. 84 of 183.) Rather, Plaintiff conceded that she was not reaching the performance levels set by Matei. ( Id. at p. 85 of 183.)

Sometime between April 2, 2012 and April 6, 2012, Matei authored an Employee Action Form that documented the April 2, 2012 meeting. (Doc. 24, ¶ 57.) The Employee Action Form explained that Plaintiff "was terminated... do [sic] to her poor performance... [Plaintiff] also knows that because of her age and health essue [sic] she cant [sic] perform [her] job with 100% anymore." (Doc. 26-1, p. 141 of 183 ("Original EAF").) Plaintiff testified that "[her age or health] came up because [Matei] told [her that she] should retire and take it easy like [Matei's] grandmother." ( Id. at p. 102 of 183.) Although she did not know Plaintiff's exact age (Doc. 26-3, p. 21 of 40), Matei knew that Plaintiff was older than forty and admitted that she recognized that Plaintiff was an older individual during the meeting. ( Id. at p. 20 of 40.) Matei adamantly denied telling Plaintiff that her employment was terminated due to Plaintiff's age. ( Id. at p. 24 of 40.)

At some point, Matei brought the Original EAF to Dorothy Cheung ("Mrs. Cheung") for proofreading. ( See id. at p. 25 of 40.) After reading the Original EAF, Mrs. Cheung questioned the basis for Matei's inclusion of "age and health" in the explanation. (Doc. 26-4, p. 12 of 36.) After discussing the issue with Matei, Mrs. Cheung determined that Matei "was just thinking of [Plaintiff] as her own grandmother and [thought she] should just be at home... [not] work[ing] so hard every day." ( Id. ) During her deposition, Mrs. Cheung admitted that she was concerned of Matei's inclusion of Plaintiff's "health and age issue" in the explanation for termination because "that was not the reason why [Plaintiff] was terminated." ( Id. at p. 14 of 36.) Mrs. Cheung directed Matei to complete an Employee Action Form that properly reflected the basis for Matei's terminating Plaintiff's employment and to omit the language that raised Mrs. Cheung's concerns. ( Id. at pp. 14-15 of 36.) A revised Employee Action Form ("Revised EAF") was drafted, indicating that Plaintiff "was terminated for poor performance." (Doc. 26-4, p. 32 of 36.) Plaintiff never received a copy of the Revised EAF. ( Id. at p. 26 of 40.)

II. Procedural History

Plaintiff initiated this action on June 6, 2013, by filing a two-count complaint alleging that she was subject to discrimination and disparate treatment on the basis of her age and disability when her employment was terminated on April 2, 2012, which she contends was in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 ("ADEA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213 ("ADA"). (Doc. 1.) The case was placed on a standard case management track, in which the discovery period was to end on February 3, 2014. (Doc. 11.) On July 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed her initial disclosures, disclosing five witnesses that she may use at trial to support her claims. (Doc. 39-1, pp. 1-2 of 5.) On January 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion for enlargement of time for discovery, which was granted, extending the time for discovery until March 3, 2014. ...

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