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Power v. Lockheed Martin Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 14, 2020

PAUL POWER, Plaintiff
v.
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP., Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          GENE E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge

         Between May 2017 and May 2018, 56-year-old Paul Power was demoted twice after 27 years of employment with Lockheed Martin Corporation. Lockheed Martin claims that Mr. Power's first demotion was due to its decision to reorganize the business unit, and Mr. Power's second demotion was due to his poor performance. Mr. Power says these explanations are pretext for age discrimination. He sued Lockheed Martin under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") for age discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. Lockheed Martin moves for summary judgment.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Lockheed Martin's motion for summary judgment on Mr. Power's age discrimination claim and grants the motion on Mr. Power's retaliation and hostile work environment claims.

         Background

         I. Lockheed Martin Corporation

         Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company. Within Lockheed Martin, LM Space is a business unit that works on advanced technologies such as space flight systems, satellites, and missile defense systems. Within LM Space, Property Management is a department that manages, organizes, and accounts for all tools, equipment, and materials used by the business unit. Property Management undergoes regulatory audits by federal auditors and carries out organizational financial analyses.

         II. Mr. Power's Employment with Lockheed Martin

         A. Early Employment

         Mr. Power began working at Lockheed Martin's predecessor company in 1990 and became a manager in 1995. From 1995 through 2011, he worked in different business sectors and was promoted on several occasions.

         In 2011, Mr. Power became a Property Analyst Senior Manager within Information Systems & Global Solutions, Inc. ("IS&GS"), another Lockheed Martin business area. Property Analyst Senior Manager was a Level 6 leadership position. Mr. Power's responsibilities included asset management, operational management, strategic planning, and management of approximately 25 employees.

         B. Mr. Power Joins LM Space

         In January 2016, Lockheed Martin announced that the majority of IS&GS would divest from Lockheed Martin. In June 2016, former IS&GS property employees, including Mr. Power, were brought into the Property Management group within LM Space.

         Mr. Power carried his Level 6 leadership position over to LM Space. As a Level 6 Property Analyst Senior Manager at LM Space, Mr. Power managed specific areas within Property Management, including capital assets. He reported directly to Byron Ravenscraft, the Manufacturing Engineering Senior Manager who supervised the entire Property Management group.

         C. LM Space Reorganizes the Property Management Group and Mr. Power is Demoted

         In February 2017, after the IS&GS divestiture finalized, LM Space decided to realign its reporting structure and rescope positions within Property Management. Lockheed Martin claims that this realignment was designed to increase efficiency and ensure that positions within Property Management were properly scoped given their responsibilities. Mr. Power, who was 56 years old at the time of the realignment, claims that the real purpose was to place younger individuals in management roles.

         Around that same time, Mr. Power saw a job posting for what he claims was his position: a Property Analyst Senior Manager at LM Space. Lockheed Martin disputes this, claiming that the posting was for the Property Management supervisory position held by Mr. Ravenscraft, not Mr. Power.

         On May 7, 2017, Lockheed Martin hired 38-year-old Nicholas Downing for the open position. Lockheed Martin claims that Mr. Downing, who previously worked for the federal agency responsible for conducting audits of LM Space, was the most qualified candidate. Mr. Power, however, asserts that Kathy Walker, a Director in LM Space and Mr. Power's second-level supervisor, told him that Lockheed Martin selected Mr. Downing because he was "young and full of energy" and because Lockheed Martin wanted a "fresh approach."[1] Power Decl. ¶ 29.

         Thereafter, Ms. Walker informed Mr. Power that he (age 56), Mr. Ravenscraft (age 51), and another Level 6 manager who previously reported to Mr. Ravenscraft, Juanita Meyers (age 60), would have their positions "de-leveled" and be required to report to Mr. Downing. On May 22, 2017, Mr. Power was given the choice between being demoted to a Level 5 Position or having his employment terminated.[2] Mr. Power accepted the demotion. Mr. Ravenscraft and Ms. Meyers also accepted demotions in lieu of termination. Two younger, lower-level managers in LM Space were not demoted and remained in their respective positions after the realignment: Greg Sallee (age 46) remained a Level 5 Property Analyst Manager, and Michael Pukansky (age 48) remained a Level 4 Property Analyst Associate Manager.

         Although Mr. Power's annual salary remained the same and he continued to manage the same employees, Mr. Power asserts that moving down to a Level 5 position greatly affected his potential earnings and future salary.

         D. Mr. Power and Mr. Downing Clash

         Mr. Power and Mr. Downing immediately began to clash. According to Mr. Downing, Mr. Power was underperforming in all areas and was not meeting Lockheed Martin's expectations. Specifically, Mr. Downing asserted that Mr. Power:

• Failed to take ownership of a corrective action plan resulting from a government audit at a site for which Mr. Power was responsible;
• Failed to provide additional information relating to the previous year's annual inventory;
• Failed to provide additional supporting documentation to validate requests to retire assets that were no longer useful or needed;
• Failed to effectively lead the property operations at field sites;
• Failed to attend a meeting with outside auditors in July 2016 without any explanation to Mr. Downing, despite capital assets being Mr. Power's responsibility; and
• Failed to prepare maps, plans, and other processes to improve the business processes after the IS&GS divestiture.

         Mr. Power disputes Mr. Downing's characterization of his work and, for some of these performance issues, disputes the underlying facts. He also claims that Mr. Downing unjustly criticized his performance and treated him in a more hostile and dismissive manner than he treated younger employees.

         In August 2017, Mr. Downing gave Mr. Power the lowest performance review in Mr. Power's career. On August 2, 2017, Mr. Downing and Laura Novak, a human resources representative, met with Mr. Power to discuss his performance review. Mr. Downing believed that Mr. Power failed to embrace the need for improvement.

         E. Mr. Downing and Other Lockheed Martin Employees Discuss Placing Mr. Power on a Performance Improvement Plan

         As part of Mr. Power's responsibilities, he was required to sample assets to test Lockheed Martin's internal property impairment controls. Mr. Downing claims that Mr. Power was supposed to sample approximately five percent of all assets.

         On August 10, 2017, Mr. Downing learned that Mr. Power had been sampling less than one percent of all assets when conducting his impairment testing. In Mr. Downing's view, such a small sample was inappropriate because it was too small and would not instill confidence in the external auditors or internal stakeholders.[3] After discovering this fact, Mr. Downing emailed Ms. Novak and Ms. Walker to request that Mr. Power be placed on a formal performance improvement plan ("PIP"). Ms. Novak agreed and sent Mr. Downing sample PIP documents.

         F. Mr. Power's First Age Discrimination Complaint

         The next day, on August 11, 2017, Mr. Power filed a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Mr. Power informed Ms. Walker, Ms. Novak, and Mr. Downing of his filing that same day. On August 14, 2017, Mr. Power also emailed a complaint of hostile work environment to Lockheed Martin's Ethics Analyst Senior Staff. Among other things, Mr. Power complained that Mr. Downing had said that he wanted a "younger perspective" and "younger employee's inputs." Pl.'s Opp'n to Def's Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 17 (Doc. No. 17-4).

         G. Mr. Power is Officially Placed on a Performance Improvement Plan

         On August 16, 2017, six days after Mr. Downing initiated the PIP process and five days after Mr. Power informed Lockheed Martin about his EEOC charge, Lockheed Martin officially placed Mr. Power on a PIP. The PIP set out objectives and provided for a six-month review period. The PIP also stated that further action, up to and including termination, would be taken if Mr. Power did not meet the PIP's objectives.

         H. Mr. Power's Accusations of Retaliation

         On August 23, 2017, Mr. Power complained to Lockheed Martin that his placement on the PIP was made in retaliation for his EEOC charge. Later in October 2017, Mr. Power requested to be removed from the PIP at a weekly PIP meeting, but Lockheed Martin denied his request. At this meeting, after Mr. Downing stated that Mr. Power was failing his PIP, Ms. Novak allegedly mentioned Mr. Power's "other options," referring to his EEOC charge.[4] Power Decl. ¶ 60 (Doc. No. 17-5).

         Mr. Power also accuses Lockheed Martin of taking several additional retaliatory actions against him as time went by. For example, Mr. Power claims that on February 2, 2018, he was falsely accused by Jennifer Beilak, an Ethics Analyst Senior Manager, of knowingly allowing one of his supervisees, Joe Murzyn, to submit false data. Mr. Power claims that the accusations were deemed unfounded after an internal review. Lockheed Martin claims that, although there was insufficient evidence to establish misconduct, the investigator did find facts indicating a lack of adequate supervision.

         I. Mr. Power's Second Age Discrimination Complaint

         Mr. Power filed a second charge of discrimination and retaliation with the EEOC on February 7, 2018 and so informed Ms. Walker, Mr. Rankin, and Mr. Downing.

         J. Lockheed Martin Demotes Mr. Power for a Second Time

         Mr. Power's six-month PIP period closed on February 17, 2018. According to Mr. Downing, Mr. Power failed to achieve the objectives contained in the PIP. He provided Mr. Power his 2017 year-end performance review on March 8, 2018, giving him an overall rating of "Inconsistently Achieved." Pl.'s Opp'nto Def's Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 22 (Doc. No. 17-4); Power Decl. ¶ 72. In response, Mr. Power claimed that his negative review was simply continued age discrimination and retaliation.

         In April 2018, Mr. Downing and Mitch Rankin, a human resources representative who replaced Ms. Novak, met with Mr. Power to discuss the outcome of the PIP and to explain next steps, which included further review by an internal corporate committee called the Administrative Review Committee. The Administrative Review Committee met in May 2018 and concluded that the allegation of Mr. Power's poor performance was substantiated. The Administrative Review Committee removed Mr. Power from leadership and placed him into a Level 4 position with no reduction in pay.

         Mr. Power appealed the Administrative Review Committee's findings to the Executive Review Committee, another internal corporate committee. The Executive Review Committee upheld the decision and Mr. Power was officially transferred to his new Level 4 position (Regulatory Document Analyst Staff) on May 29, 2018.

         III. Procedural History

         Mr. Power filed a third charge of discrimination with the EEOC in May 2018. In June 2018, he filed a complaint against Lockheed Martin in this Court and alleged claims of age discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment under both the ADEA and the PHRA. Lockheed Martin now moves for summary judgment.

         Legal Standard

         A court shall grant a motion for summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is "genuine" if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Under Rule 56, the Court must view the evidence presented on the motion in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, "[u]nsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions are insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev. Ctr., 621 F.3d 249, 252 (3d Cir. 2010).

         The movant bears the initial responsibility for informing the Court of the basis for the motion for summary judgment and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue, the moving party's initial burden can be met simply by "pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. After the moving party has met the initial burden, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuinely disputed factual issue for trial by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute." FED. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-moving party fails to rebut by making a factual showing "sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         Discussion

         In its motion, Lockheed Martin argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on Mr. Power's age discrimination and retaliation claims because Mr. Power cannot establish his prima facie case, all of Lockheed Martin's decisions were made for nondiscriminatory business justifications, and there is no evidence in the record to support a finding of pretext. Regarding Mr. Power's hostile work environment claim, Lockheed Martin asserts it is entitled to summary judgment because Mr. Power cannot prove that he suffered intentional discrimination based on his age or that the claimed harassment was severe or pervasive. Mr. Power opposes, arguing that disputes of material fact exist as to whether Lockheed Martin discriminated ...


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