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Rush v. Rice Energy

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 1, 2018

ROBERT RUSH, Plaintiff,
v.
RICE ENERGY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT C. MITCHELL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Robert Rush, brings this employment discrimination action pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-34 (ADEA), against the Defendant, Rice Energy. He alleges that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his age when it terminated him from his position as a Senior Construction Foreman on August 25, 2016.

         Presently pending before the Court for disposition is Defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff has filed a brief in opposition and Defendant has filed a reply brief. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

         Facts

         Plaintiff was hired on December 1, 2016 [sic] as a Senior Construction Foreman. Plaintiff's boss, Mark Wainwright, consistently told Plaintiff to keep quiet during meeting and not to offer his opinion or suggestions. During Plaintiff's evaluations, Wainwright discredited Plaintiff's ideas about cost cutting and improvements. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-10.)[1]

         When Plaintiff was hired, he was told that he would receive training on Defendant's policies and procedures. Once Plaintiff was hired, he did not receive any training nor was he allowed to attend meeting where the policies were discussed. Employees that were younger than Plaintiff received training on Defendant's policies and were allowed to attend meetings where Defendant's policies were discussed. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-13.)

         Plaintiff, along with several of Defendant's employees, attended two (2) classes to obtain certification to operate various pieces of equipment. At no time during the classes were the employees and Plaintiff instructed not to operate the equipment. Younger employees that were similarly situated as Plaintiff routinely operated the equipment. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-16.)

         On August 19, 2016, a subcontractor was ineffectively operating a piece of equipment. Plaintiff requested that the subcontractor cease operating and Plaintiff took over operating the piece of equipment. When Plaintiff was done operating the piece of the equipment, the subcontractor alleged that Plaintiff bumped a pipe and almost hit one of the subcontractor's welders. Shortly thereafter, Wainwright telephoned Plaintiff and ordered that the job site be shut down. Wainwright told Plaintiff that he would speak to Plaintiff in more detail on the following Monday. (Compl. ¶¶ 17-21.)

         On Monday, August 22, 2016, Wainwright and Plaintiff met, but Wainwright did not discuss the job site shut down. On Tuesday, August 23, 2016, Vice President John Guoynes called Plaintiff into his office to discuss the job site shut down. After Plaintiff told Guoynes what happened, Guoynes told Plaintiff that he violated company policy, however he did not provide any details. Plaintiff asked if he was terminated and Guoynes stated he was not terminated. (Compl. ¶¶ 22-25.)

         On Wednesday, August 24, 2016, Michael Lauderbaugh, Head of Safety, and Ms. Curigliano[2] called Plaintiff on his cell phone and accused him of violating a company policy that prohibited Defendant's employees from operating equipment. However, Lauderbaugh stated that the safety inspection that had been conducted did not find that the pipe or any personnel were hit during the incident. Plaintiff asked several questions about other employees operating equipment, but Lauderbaugh did not respond. On August 25, 2016, Plaintiff was terminated. (Compl. ¶¶ 26-29.)

         Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed this action on January 31, 2018. Count I (the only claim) alleges that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his age in violation of the ADEA when it excluded him from training that was provided to younger employees, precluded him from operating equipment that younger employees were allowed to operate and ultimately terminated him for allegedly abandoning his position. Federal question jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 623.

         On March 14, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 7), to which Plaintiff responded on April 4, 2018 (ECF No. 15). On April 9, 2018, Defendant filed a reply brief (ECF No. 17).

         Standard ...


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