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English v. Truck Pro, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 11, 2018

ROGER E. ENGLISH, Plaintiff,
v.
TRUCK PRO, LLC and HEAVY DUTY PARTS, INC., a corporation, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KIM R. GIBSON JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Presently pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 27) filed by Defendants Truck Pro, LLC and Heavy Duty Parts, Inc. (collectively "Truck Pro").[1] This Motion has been fully briefed (ECF Nos. 28-30, 34-43) and is ripe for disposition.

         This case arises from Plaintiff Roger E. English's ("Mr. English") allegations that Truck Pro discriminated against him because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1) ("ADEA") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 42 Pa. Stat, and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 955(a) et secj. ("PHRA") when his employment with Truck Pro was terminated. (See ECF No. 1.) In the instant Motion for Summary Judgment, Truck Pro argues that Mr. English has failed to produce direct evidence to support his claims of age discrimination and failed to satisfy the burden-shifting elements of the so-called McDonnell Douglas framework. See generally McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).

         For the reasons that follow, this Court disagrees with Truck Pro, and its Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 27) is DENIED.

         II. Jurisdiction and Venue

         This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the federal claims alleged in Count I and Count III of the Complaint pursuant to Section 7 of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 626(c)(1), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343(a)(4). (See ECF No. 1 ¶ 1.) This Court also has subject matter jurisdiction over the supplemental state law claims brought under the PHRA in Count II and Count IV of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. (Id.)

         Because a substantial part of the events giving rise to Plaintiffs' claims occurred in the Western District of Pennsylvania, venue is proper in this district pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). (See generally ECF Nos. 1, 29, 34, 42.)

         III. Relevant Procedural History[2]

         Mr. English initiated this suit by filing his Complaint on January 10, 2017 (ECF No. 1), to which Defendants responded by filing their Answer on April 13, 2017. (ECF No. 7.) Mr. English's Complaint is organized into four counts: (1) a claim that Truck Pro, LLC violated the ADEA by firing Mr. English, (2) a claim that Truck Pro, LLC violated the PHRA by firing Mr. English, (3) a claim that Heavy Duty Parts, Inc. violated the ADEA by firing Mr. English, and (4) a claim that Heavy Duty Parts, Inc. violated the ADEA by firing Mr. English.

         However, as both parties agree (see ECF No. 28 at 3; ECF No. 35 at 3), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and this Court have previously determined that age discrimination claims under both the ADEA and PHRA are interpreted identically. See Willis v. UPMC Children's Hosp. of Pittsburgh, 808 F.3d 638, 643 (3d Cir. 2015) ("Since this Court has determined that the interpretation of the PHRA is identical to that of federal anti-discrimination laws, including the ADEA, we present a single analysis for Willis's claims under both statutes."); Milliron v. Pilot Travel Centers, LLC, Civil Action No. 3:06-262, 2009 WL 2579200, at *6 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 20. 2009) (Gibson, J.) (citing Kautz v. Met-Pro Corp., 412 F.3d 463, 466 n.l (3d Cir. 2005)). Therefore, despite the organization of Mr. English's Complaint into four counts, this Court will collectively analyze all four claims because all four claims involve the same underlying facts and law and were brought against two co-defendants in substantively identical positions.

         Most pertinent here, Truck Pro filed its instant Motion for Summary Judgment, Memorandum in Support thereof, Concise Statement of Material Facts, and Appendix of Exhibits on March 16, 2018. (ECF Nos. 27-30.) On April 16, 2018, Mr. English filed his Response to the Concise Statement of Material Facts of the Defendant and Plaintiff's Responsive Concise Statement, his Memorandum of Law in Opposition, and an Appendix thereto. (ECF Nos. 34-40.) Lastly, Truck Pro filed its Reply Brief, Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Concise Statement of Material Facts, and a Supplemental Appendix of Exhibits on April 30, 2018. (ECF Nos. 41-43.)

         IV. Relevant Factual History

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.[3] The Court includes additional material facts in its analysis infra Part VI where appropriate.

         Truck Pro is a heavy-duty truck and trailer parts distributor and servicer. (ECF No. 29 ¶ 1; ECF No. 34 ¶ 1.) Mr. English began working for Heavy Duty Parts, Inc.-which was eventually acquired by Truck Pro, Inc. -in April 1998 as a counter salesman in the Altoona parts store when he was 49 years old. (ECF No. 29 ¶¶ 2-4; ECF No. 34 ¶¶ 2-4.) Throughout his employment, Mr. English either met or exceeded expectations and received pay raises. (ECF No. 29 ¶ 5; ECF No. 34 ¶ 5.) Truck Pro terminated Mr. English's employment on December 4, 2014, when Mr. English was 65 years old. (ECF No. 34 ¶ 2.)

         In October 2013, Truck Pro hired 50-year-old Woodrow Allen ("Mr. Allen") as an additional counter salesman. (ECF No. 29 ¶¶ 6-7; ECF No. 34 ¶¶ 6-7.) After Mr. Allen was hired, the Altoona parts store employed five total employees: one sales manager, one delivery employee, one outside salesman, and two counter salesmen. (ECF No. 29 ¶ 8; ECF No. 34 ¶ 8.) Mr. English and Mr. Allen reported to Store Manager David Harclerode ("Mr. Harclerode"), who, in turn, reported to Regional Manager Bob Langbo ("Mr. Langbo"). (ECF No. 29 ¶¶ 9-10; ECF No. 34 ¶¶ 9-10.)

         In mid-to-late 2014, Truck Pro decided to eliminate one of the two counter salesmen positions; it was the only position with multiple employees at the Altoona parts store. (ECF No. 29 ¶¶ 15-21; ECF No. 34 ¶¶ 15-21.) As discussed further infra, the parties dispute the motivation for hiring Mr. Allen, the reasons for eliminating a position, and the reasons for choosing whether to fire Mr. English instead of Mr. Allen.

         While the characterization of the evaluation and its merits are contested, Truck Pro evaluated Mr. English and Mr. Allen in late 2014. (ECF No. 29 ¶¶ 22-24; ECF No. 34 ¶¶ 22-24.) On November 4, 2014, Mr. Harclerode prepared the first draft of the assessment for both Mr. English and Mr. Allen and sent them to Mr. Langbo. (ECF No. 29 ¶ 24; ECF No. 34 ¶ 24.) Under Mr. Harclerode's assessment, Mr. English received an unweighted rating of 16/25 and Mr. Allen received an unweighted rating of 20/25. (ECF No. 29 ¶¶ 25-26; ECF No. 34 ¶¶ 25-26.) Upon Mr. Langbo's review of the assessments, Mr. Langbo increased both of Mr. English's competency scores to a 4, increasing Mr. English's final unweighted rating to 17/25 and leaving Mr. Allen's unweighted rating at 20/25. (ECF No. 29 ¶¶ 28-29; ECF No. 34 ¶¶ 28-29.)

         Truck Pro contends that Mr. English's position was eliminated because his rating was lower than Mr. Allen's rating. (ECF No. 29 ¶ 32.) However, Mr. English argues that Truck Pro eliminated his position due to his age, which Mr. English suggests is evinced by, inter alia, Mr. Harclerode and Mr. Langbo's differing understanding of the evaluations, Mr. Langbo's alteration to the ratings, the earlier ratings of Mr. English, the timing and circumstances of Mr. Allen's hiring (i.e., hiring an approximately fifteen-year-younger employee to fill an already filled position in a four-employee business location and, then, firing the older employee after the new, younger employee had been trained by the older employee), and comments made to Mr. English by Mr. Harclerode regarding Mr. English's retirement and eligibility for social security retirement benefits. (See ECF No. 34.) Mr. Langbo made the final decision as to who would ultimately be terminated. (ECF No. 34 ¶¶ 62-64; ECF No. 42 ¶¶ 62-64.)

         V. ...


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