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RAY v. NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORPORATION

January 16, 2004.

GERALD RAY, Plaintiff, v., NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation qualified by the State of Illinois, Defendant


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on Defendant Northrop Grumman Corp.'s ("Northrop") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

  Northrop is a global aerospace and defense company that operates a manufacturing plant in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Plaintiff Gerald Ray ("Ray"), who is African-American, began working for Northrop as a technician in 1983. By 1989, Ray had been promoted no less than three times, attaining the position of "general supervisor" in Northrop's TWT Test and Packaging Assembly Group ("Packaging and Page 2 Assembly"). As such, Ray possessed managerial authority over two lower ranked supervisors. By 1996, as a result of layoffs and downsizing, Ray still supervised workers in Packaging and Assembly but no longer had any supervisors reporting to him. By that time Arvid Johnson, who is white, had become Ray's boss by assuming responsibility over Packaging and Assembly as well as two other groups. One of the three groups under Johnson's control was the Microelectronics Group ("Microelectronics").

  In 1997, Johnson offered Ray a position in Microelectronics and Ray discussed the transfer with the group's manufacturing manager, Eric Schaudt, who is white, and who also encouraged Ray to join the group. Based on Schaudt's invitation and Ray's desire to avoid a potential downsizing in Packing and Assembly, Ray accepted a position in Microelectronics. Ray retained his pay level and title as "general supervisor" but would report to Schaudt who in turn reported to Johnson. When he joined Microelectronics, Ray was given a supervisory position over two units within the group while Schaudt retained direct authority over four different Microelectronics units. It is disputed whether Ray's duties in this new role were commensurate with those of a "general supervisor" or whether his responsibilities were in line with the lesser-grade positions of "supervisor" or "technical supervisor." In any event, in 1999 Page 3 Johnson voluntarily left Northrop and his responsibilities over Microelectronics and other groups were assumed by Dave Zelinske, who is white.

  In 2000, Northrop reclassified job titles at its Rolling Meadows facility and all general supervisors, including Ray, became "managers of manufacturing." By this time, Ray's duties had not changed but he now was responsible for at least twenty-seven employees, compared to the twenty employees he supervised when he initially transferred to Microelectronics. Ray still reported to Schaudt, but Ray would occasionally fill in for Schaudt when he was absent from work. This arrangement continued until April 2001, when Schaudt accepted a special assignment causing him to leave the Microelectronics group.

  That same month, Zelinske initiated a reorganization of employees under his supervision, which encompassed employees of various levels of managerial authority. Zelinske assigned Tim Turner, who is white, to staff the position vacated by Schaudt. The parties dispute whether this constituted a promotion or lateral transfer for Turner, However, prior to this move, Turner was a group manger who, like Schaudt, reported directly to Zelinske while there was a layer of managerial authority, Schaudt, between Zelinske and Ray. According to Zelinske, when deciding who to staff the vacancy created by Schaudt, he wanted to minimize the cadre of managers immediately under his supervision. Zelinske contends that for this reason he did not consider Ray or any Page 4 other employee not already directly reporting to him to replace Schaudt. When Ray questioned Zelinske why he had not been in contention to fill Schaudt's position, Zelinske responded that he never considered Ray to have the responsibilities of a manager, regardless of his job title.

  As part of Zelinske's reorganization, in April 2001, Ray was rotated from Microelectronics to the Circuit Card Assembly Group ("CCA") and a CCA supervisor switched into Microelectronics. According to Zelinske, the reorganization was motivated by his desire to cross-train his supervisors so as to avoid stagnation, increase productivity, and improve their skills and versatility. Zelinske claims to have transferred Ray to CCA because Ray had never worked in CCA or any other Northrop manufacturing group and because the CCA supervisor, Dave Ure, who is white, had never worked in Microelectronics. Zelinske asserts that exposing Ray and Ure to different aspects of the organization would increase both supervisors' skill sets and make Northrop more competitive. As part of this cross-training reorganization, two other supervisors from different groups, who were both white, also rotated assignments. As a result of the switch, Ray retained his job title and salary but now reported to CCA head Carl Krueger, who is white. From the time he joined CCA in April 2001, until January of 2002, Ray's duties and the number of employees reporting to him remained the same. Page 5

  In September or October of 2001, Zelinske was told by his superiors to implement a ten percent reduction in force in the manufacturing and depot departments at the Rolling Meadows facility. It is disputed whether this directive took Zelinske by surprise or if he had advance knowledge of the layoffs. In any event, Zelinske instructed his managers to reduce their hourly employee workforce in each group by ten percent and eliminate one supervisor in each group. Zelinske gave CCA head Krueger the responsibility and discretion to decide which of the two supervisors reporting to him would be laid off. The two supervisors under Krueger were Ray and John Solarz, who is white. Zelinske did not provide Krueger with specific criteria for selecting which supervisor to retain.

  Krueger chose to retain Solarz and discharge Ray. Krueger believed that Solarz had more experience in manufacturing areas, particularly those that were predicted to be in demand in future years. Krueger also felt that Ray had not taken the initiative to learn the CCA area to which he had been assigned earlier that year, even after Krueger had suggested that Ray do so. Furthermore, Krueger noted that Ray had assigned work to subordinates that Krueger thought Ray should have done himself, Krueger was also dissatisfied that, contrary to his requests, Ray had not spent enough time on the production floor and had not been accessible to his subordinates. Ray was not the only supervisor laid off as two other supervisors, who were white, were also fired as a result Page 6 of Northrop's reduction in force. Ray was terminated from Northrop on March 11, 2002,

  On December 13, 2002, Ray filed the present lawsuit, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"). Ray claims that he was denied a promotion, demoted, and ultimately terminated on account of his. race. Northrop now moves for summary judgment as to all counts of Ray's complaint.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). On summary judgment the moving party must identify "those portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, Page 7 but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby., Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 ...


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