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Andersen v. Mack Trucks, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 30, 2015


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Presently before the Court is Defendants Mack Trucks, Inc. and Volvo Group North America, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 20.) For the following reasons, the Motion will be granted.


A. The Parties

1. Plaintiff Bruce Andersen

Plaintiff Bruce Andersen was born in 1947. (Andersen Dep. 15, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. A, ECF No. 22-1.) He graduated from The Pennsylvania State University (" Penn State" ) in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. (Andersen Dep. 33.) After graduation, Plaintiff worked as an Auditor for Johnson Atwater & Company, a public accounting firm located in New York City, for nine months. ( Id. at 58-59.) In 1971, Defendant Mack Trucks, Inc. (" Mack Trucks" ) hired Plaintiff as a Junior Tax Accountant. ( Id. at 64-65.) In 1976, Plaintiff was promoted to the position of Tax Accountant. ( Id. at 67.) In 1985, he was promoted to the position of Manager of Corporate Payroll. ( Id. at 68-69.) In this position, Plaintiff managed the payroll for all salaried employees and supervised a staff of five employees. ( Id. at 69-70.) In 1991, he was promoted to the position of Manager of Payroll. ( Id. at 71.)

As Manager of Payroll, Plaintiff supervised an additional five employees. ( Id. at 71-72.) Plaintiff effectively assumed all payroll duties of Mack Trucks, including supervising the payroll for the bargaining unit, which was comprised of 12,000 employees. ( Id. at 71.) In this capacity, Plaintiff gained experience using collective bargaining agreements. ( Id. at 243.) Specifically, Plaintiff received copies of each new collective bargaining agreement and reviewed the agreements to ensure that the payroll programs " were changed as required to accurately pay people." ( Id. at 243-44.) In addition, Plaintiff was able to use those collective bargaining agreements to respond to issues raised by the bargaining unit employees who worked for him. ( Id. at 244.)

As Manager of Payroll, Plaintiff sought out and assumed additional responsibilities, including managing building services, office services, food services and travel. ( Id. at 73.) In 1996, Plaintiff attended a twelve-week course at Muhlenberg College and, as a result, became certified as a Professional in Human Resources. ( Id. at 35-36.)[1] In August 1998, Plaintiff took a

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course called " Effective Interviewing" at the Mack Institute. (2001 Performance Results 4, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. D, ECF No. 23.) In 1999, Plaintiff " was personally involved in the renegotiation of the Jackson Cross facilities contract," " attended Labor Relations training for supervisors to improve his skills," and attended a course called " Action Plan Development" at the Mack Institute. ( Id. ; 2000 Performance Expectation Process 4, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. E.) In 2000, his job title became Manager of Payroll/Administrative Services. (2000 Performance Expectation Process 1.)

In 2003, Plaintiff was promoted to a human resources management role, Human Resources Business Partner (" HRBP" ). (Andersen Dep. 74, 83.)[2] At the time that he was promoted, Plaintiff had already performed many of the core responsibilities, and possessed many of the core competencies, of that position. (Andersen Dep. 84.) The core responsibilities included providing employment-related advice and counseling to employees and managers, ensuring compliance with employment-related company policy and practice, and adhering to federal and local regulatory guidance. ( Id. at 84-86.)[3] The core competencies included understanding basic business and accounting principles, coaching payroll supervisors in handling department issues, facilitating change, delegation, directing, inspiring leadership, mentoring, fostering diversity, and people development. (Andersen Dep. 87-89.)

As a HRBP, Plaintiff worked with bargaining unit employees and " the bargaining unit committee people." ( Id. at 262-63.) Specifically, Plaintiff worked as a " mentor" to the employee activities committee and ensured that " they included their people in [the employee committee]

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because it was supposed to be . . . a cross-section of business, and it was activities that benefited[sic] all employees." ( Id. at 263-64.) While Plaintiff never worked in labor relations, " sporadically," " there were times when the bargaining unit committee people would come to [him] and ask [him] a question" when other personnel in the labor relations department were not available. ( Id. at 265.)[4] From December 2006 to his termination date in 2009, Plaintiff reported to Lesley Billow. (Andersen Dep. 189.)[5]

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2. Defendants Mack Trucks, Inc. and Volvo Group North America, LLC

Mack Trucks is a manufacturer and distributor of heavy-duty trucks. (Apr. 7, 2010 Ltr. 2.) AB Volvo Group is a Swedish corporation. ( Id. ) It is a holding company that has corporate headquarters in Sweden (Volvo Trucks) and in North America (Volvo Trucks North America). (Heflin 30(b)(6) Dep. 9.)[6] In 2001, AB Volvo acquired Mack Trucks. (Apr. 7, 2010 Ltr. 2.) In 2008, Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks North America merged into a single entity called Volvo Trucks North America (" Volvo" ). (Heflin 30(b)(6) Dep. 15.)

B. STEP, the Economic Downturn and Plaintiff's Termination


In 2008, Defendants announced an organizational restructuring of the truck operations in North America. This restructuring was referred to as the STEP Initiative (" STEP" ). ( See Billow Dep. 78; STEP E-mails, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. X, ECF No. 28.) In August 2008, Defendants announced plans to shut down Mack Trucks' headquarters in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Apr. 7, 2010 Ltr 2.) Pursuant to STEP, the headquarters, and most of Mack Trucks's work force, would be relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, the location of Volvo's North American headquarters. ( Id. ) At the time that STEP was announced, there were 980 Mack Trucks employees in Allentown. ( Id. )

Defendants initially anticipated that positions would be available for any employee who was willing to relocate to the Greensboro headquarters. ( See Billow Dep. 223 (" [T]he STEP program itself carried with it the promise for people who were interested in moving to Greensboro to apply for jobs in Greensboro and be hired there." ).)[7] Because most of Plaintiff's and Palopoli's Client Groups were remaining in Allentown as a result of STEP, Billow chose to leave both of their positions in Allentown. (Billow Dep. 110-11, 223.)[8]

Conversely, because most of the Client Groups that Miller was assigned to were moving to Greensboro as a result of STEP, Billow decided to move Miller's position to Greensboro. (Billow Dep. 117-21.) Employees who were asked to relocate because of STEP were given until the end of 2008 to accept relocation or be terminated. ( Id. at 112.) Miller did not want to move to Greensboro because of a personal situation--she was the sole caretaker for her mother, who was ill and could not move.

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( Id. at 120; Miller Dep. 26; Byrd Dep. 101-02.)[9] However, Miller told Billow that if her mother's condition changed, she would reconsider relocating to Greensboro. (Miller Dep. 26.) Defendants did not immediately terminate Miller. (Billow Dep. 121.) She was permitted to continue working from Allentown because she had a " special assignment to support the STEP program to its end." ( Id. )[10] Billow agreed to keep the Greensboro opportunity available to Miller until her end date in late 2010. (Billow Dep. 122.) In addition, Miller was permitted to continue providing human resources services to her Client Groups that had relocated to Greensboro from Allentown. (Sholl Dep. 33; Miller Dep. 31-32.) Miller did not encounter any difficulties in servicing these Greensboro-based Client Groups from Allentown. (Miller Dep. 33.)[11] By June 2010, Miller's personal situation had not changed. (Billow Dep. 130.) Billow determined that it was time to allow Miller to " close . . . out" STEP and to train a new person to fill that position. ( Id. ) Miller was terminated from Defendants' employment on September 30, 2010.[12]

Janet Russell ultimately took Miller's position. (Billow Dep. 127.) Russell was forty-seven years old at the time. ( See Pl.'s Resp. Ex. GG, ECF No. 33-1 (stating 1963 as Russell's year of birth).) Prior to taking Miller's position, Russell had worked in Defendants' service center and had interacted with Miller's Client Groups. (Miller Dep. 34-35.)

2. The Economic Downturn

As STEP was being implemented, the economy in 2009 continued to deteriorate, which adversely affected Defendants' business. (Andersen Dep. 212.) Sales revenue from Mack Trucks and Volvo North America operations " decreased drastically." (Apr. 7, 2010 Ltr. 3.) As a result, Defendants sought to reduce costs further, including the number of employees in its

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work force. (Billow Dep. 132, 245.) Defendant sought to have only 200 employees remain in Allentown. (Apr. 7, 2010 Ltr. 2.) In response to a directive to reduce costs further, Billow examined the needs of her Human Resources department and determined that she could reduce an additional position. (Billow Dep. 132-33, 292-93.)

Billow felt that she had the heaviest staffing, and greatest possibility for reduction, in Allentown because she had fewer employees per HRBP there than in any other location. ( Id. at 134-35.) In making her decision as to how to reduce her force, Billow " look[ed] first at what assignment that person had, and second at what skill sets [she] needed to retain." ( Id. at 310.) At the time that Billow decided to eliminate one position, half of the Allentown employees were represented by a union (bargaining unit employees), and half were not represented by a union (nonbargaining unit employees). (Billow Dep. 133.)[13] Billow differentiated Plaintiff's position from Palopoli's by noting that " [t]hey had totally different jobs." ( Id. at 161.)[14] Billow believed that Palopoli " could easily maintain that role and some of the day-to-day issues that would arise from the non-bargaining unit group" without additional training. ( Id. at 133, 178.)[15] Such day-to-day issues included general questions and requests from employees concerning vacation, trainings, career development, job postings, and applications. (Billow Dep. 257.) Billow believed that eliminating Plaintiff's position and transferring his minor day-to-day human resources duties to Palopoli only required a slight modification of Palopoli's job duties. ( Id. at 158-59.) Her primary responsibility would remain labor relations, and her job title would remain the

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same. ( Id. at 141.) Any remaining strategic human resources duties could be transferred to Sholl, " a much more seasoned" executive-level HRBP who was located in Greensboro. ( See id. at 133-34 (noting that " any necessary escalation of issues were to be escalated to an HR business partner with more seniority and experience who is already based in Greensboro" ), 138-39, 247-48, 256.)

By contrast, Billow believed that it " would have been a difficult task" for Plaintiff to " familiarize himself with the labor contract sufficiently to administer those contracts," in addition to the human resources duties he already had. (Billow Dep. 328-29.) Billow explained that " [l]abor relations is a highly specialized field and [Plaintiff] could have taught himself that, but . . . it would have taken longer than a six-month period to transfer those skills and have him be adequate as a stand-alone in a facility. . . ." ( Id. at 329.) She believed that Plaintiff " had limited to no experience in administering contracts in the past, so it would have been a stretch not only to learn the content of the protocol and how to administer those ...

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