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Meyer v. Callery Conway Mars HV, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 5, 2015

JOHN H. MEYER, Plaintiff,
v.
CALLERY CONWAY MARS HV, INC., t/d/b/a HERR-VOSS STAMCO, INC., Defendant.

OPINION

MARK R. HORNAK, District Judge.

This case centers on allegations that John Meyer was unlawfully discharged by his employer because of his age. The Defendant employer says that Meyer was lawfully fired because he directed the repair of a machine in a way that could have injured or killed others. Now before the Court are Defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 29) and its motion to exclude evidence pertaining to damages (ECF No. 33). In connection with its motion requesting the exclusion of evidence, the Defendant also asks for an award of attorney's fees as a sanction. ECF No. 33 at 16, ¶ 50. Because a jury could conclude that the Defendant applied a discriminatory "double standard" in choosing to fire the Plaintiff, the motion for summary judgment will be denied. The Defendant's motion to exclude Plaintiffs evidence pertaining to damages will be granted in part. The Defendant's request for an award of attorney's fees for Plaintiff's discovery misbehavior will be granted in part.

I. BACKGROUND

John H. Meyer ("Meyer") was born on January 4, 1957. ECF Nos. 31 & 40 at ¶ 2. Callery Conway Mars HV, Inc., t/d/b/a Herr-Voss Stamco, Inc. ("Herr-Voss"), is a corporation specializing in the construction of precision leveling equipment. Id. at ¶ 3. Meyer started to work as a "C" machinist for Herr-Voss in 1975. Id. at ¶ 4. He held various positions with Herr-Voss throughout the next seventeen years. Id. at ¶¶ 5-7. On October 9, 1992, Meyer left his position with Herr-Voss in order to pursue self-employment in the construction industry. Id. at ¶ 8. At the time of his resignation, Meyer was working as a maintenance technician. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8.

After roughly twelve years away, Meyer pursued another employment opportunity with Herr-Voss. ECF Nos. 31 & 40 at ¶¶ 9-10. On September 6, 2004, he received and accepted an offer to work as a 5" mill operator at Herr-Voss' Mill Rolls facility in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Id. at ¶ 10. Meyer was promoted to the position of machine shop supervisor on October 12, 2005. Id. at ¶ 12. As a part of that promotion, he received a twenty percent increase in his pay. Id. at ¶ 14. Meyer was transferred to Herr-Voss' facility in Callery, Pennsylvania. Id. During the next three years, Meyer's pay was incrementally increased based on merit. Id. at ¶ 15. On June 1, 2009, Meyer was promoted to the position of plant manager. Id. at ¶ 16. His pay was increased by ten percent in order to account for the additional responsibilities that he had assumed. Id. at ¶ 18. Meyer also received additional pay increases in 2010 and 2011. Id. at ¶ 21.

This case centers on a problem in May 2012 with one of the Defendant's products, the Voss Enhancing Leveler ("VEL") machine. ECF No. 31 at ¶ 22. Bill Streed ("Streed"), a 6" CNC operator who reported to Meyer, discovered that the third VEL machine manufactured by Herr-Voss had an oversized key slot. ECF Nos. 31 & 40 at ¶ 29. That defect, if left uncorrected, would have rendered the VEL machine unfit for use. Id. at ¶ 30. Streed notified Meyer of the defect in April 2012. Id. at ¶ 29. Meyer sent the key slot to Herr-Voss' welding shop and instructed a subordinate to weld the key slot in a manner that would allow it to be "remachined." ld. at ¶ 36.

Meyer's immediate supervisor was Wally Markle ("Markle"), who served as Herr-Voss' production manager. ECF Nos. 31 & 40 at ¶ 43. Markle noticed that the key slot was in the welding shop and inquired as to why it was there. ld. at ¶¶ 43-44. Meyer responded to Markle's inquiry by stating that the key slot had been incorrectly "machined" and needed to be fixed. ld. at ¶ 45.

During the relevant period of time, James McKenna ("McKenna") served as Herr-Voss' President of Coil Solutions. ECF No.1 at ¶ 9. Mark Menego ("Menego") was the lead engineer working on the VEL project. ECF No. 31 at ¶ 47. At 4:32 P.M. on Tuesday, May 1, 2012, Menego emailed McKenna the following message:

Found out this afternoon that the shop had a problem machining the key slot on one of the yoke ends for one of the VELs.
As I understand it the machine tool lost position and the key slot was off by.011"
Nobody from engineering or the VEL Team were notified of this!
The shop decided to weld the key slot so they could remachine it, photos attached.
I am not in favor of this repair.
Given the load that this connection carries I have major concerns about using a piece repaired in this manner.
Had we been given notice, we could have considered other alternatives and saved the piece.
However, as it stands now, the part should be scrapped.

ECF No. 32-5 at 9-10. McKenna forwarded Menego's message to Meyer and Markle the next morning, asking that they explain who was responsible for the incorrect repair decision and provide the applicable "replacement cost in material and labor." ld. at 9.

In a response sent to McKenna on the morning of May 3, 2012, Meyer acknowledged that he had made the decision after discussing it with Markle and his "staff." ECF No. 32-5 at 8. Meyer further stated that "final machining" would be conducted "to return the part to the drawing dimensions." Id.

McKenna quickly responded to Meyer's message by emailing him the following instructions:

Do not put back up on the mill. You are NOT authorized to determine the proper fixes for machining errors without consulting the responsible engineer.

Id. A few hours later, Markle notified McKenna that the total cost of replacing the defective VEL machine would be $7, 312.80. Id.

Kip Mostowy ("Mostowy"), the President and Chief Executive Officer ("CEO") of Herr-Voss, learned of the situation while speaking with McKenna. ECF No. 32-2 at ¶ 14. Menego later informed Mostowy that Meyer's attempted repair of the VEL machine "could have had severe and dangerous consequences." Id. at ¶ 18. The conversation left Mostowy with the impression that Meyer had violated certain policies that Herr-Voss had in place to ensure the safety of its workers and customers. ld. at ¶¶ 21-26. Mostowy ultimately decided to terminate Meyer's employment with Herr-Voss. Id. at ¶¶ 27-28.

At the time of Meyer's discharge, Craig Burkhart ("Burkhart") served as Herr-Voss' Human Resources Manager. ECF Nos. 31 & 40 at ¶ 71. Kathleen Kaper ("Kaper") was Burkhart's assistant. Id. at ¶ 72. The messages exchanged between Menego, McKenna, Meyer, and Markle were forwarded to Burkhart on the morning of May 7, 2012. ECF No. 32-1 at 63. McKenna, who forwarded the email chain to Burkhart, added a notation reading, "For your file." Id. On May 8, 2012, Burkhart and Kaper met with Meyer and informed him of his discharge. ECF Nos. 31 & 40 at ¶ 72. During the encounter, Meyer expressed his disagreement with the tennination decision and stated that he would speak with an attorney about the matter. ld. at ¶ 73.

Meyer was fifty-five years old at the time of his termination. ECF Nos. 31 & 40 at ¶ 2. Herr-Voss says that he was replaced by Larry Bennett ("Bennett"). ld. at ¶ 82. Bennett, who was born on April 10, 1961, was fifty-one years old when he assumed Meyer's prior duties. ld. at ¶ 84.

Meyer filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on May 30, 2012, alleging that Herr-Voss had violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") by discharging him because of his age. ECF No. 32-1 at 66-68. At that time, Gregory Santillo ("Santillo") served as Herr-Voss' Director of Engineering and Sales. ECF No. 59 at 24.

McKenna forwarded the earlier email chain to Santillo at 1: 16 P.M. on June 26, 2012. ECF No. 32-1 at 63. In a response emailed to McKenna at 3:54 P.M. that same day, Santillo stated as follows:

To expand on Mark Menego's below email; the subject key slot is vital to the structural integrity of the machine. The force that is on the key slot is ½ million pounds and the frame weighs 60, 000 lbs. If that area had a failure the frame would be in an uncontrollable state and would free falL This would present a very hazardous safety situation.

ld. Menego died at some point after Meyer's discharge.[1] ECF No. 59 at 22-23; ECF No. 60 at 52-53.

On October 29, 2012, the EEOC dismissed Meyer's charge of discrimination and provided him with written notice of his right to sue Herr-Voss under the ADEA within ninety days. ECF No.1 at ¶ 6(B). Meyer commenced this civil action against Herr-Voss on January 22, 2013, asserting claims under both the ADEA and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") [43 PA. STAT. § 951 et seq.]. ECF No. 1. Herr-Voss moved for summary judgment on March 14, 2014. ECF No. 29. On April 7, 2014, Herr-Voss filed a motion requesting the exclusion of evidence concerning the damages suffered by Meyer as a result of ...


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