The opinion of the court was delivered by: MATHEW KENNELLY, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Dwight A. King has sued the Secretary of Transportation under
the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967,
29 U.S.C. §§ 623(a) & (d); id. § 626(b), claiming that his employer, the
Federal Aviation Administration, failed to promote him because of
his age and in retaliation for a previous charge of age
discrimination that he had filed. The Secretary has moved for
summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants
The FAA hired King in 1968 at the Chicago Air Route Traffic
Control Center in Aurora, Illinois. In 1995, King bid for a
supervisory position, was denied, and made an administrative
charge of age discrimination. In January 1997, the agency
concluded that no discrimination had occurred.
In 1998, when King was 53, he bid for promotion to Supervisory
Air Traffic Control Specialist Operations Supervisor. Forty-three
applicants applied for the positions. Thirty-five, including
King, made the best-qualified list. The applicants were rated and
ranked by a panel, and each of them was asked the same questions in an oral
According to the FAA, Dianne Bebble, an Assistant Air Traffic
Manger who had been assigned to the Aurora facility in 1997, made
the final selections for promotion in early 1999. Bebble has
stated by way of affidavit that she used the best-qualified list,
supporting documents, the results of the interviews, supervisory
recommendations, and her personal knowledge of the candidates.
First and second-level supervisors at the Chicago Center provided
Bebble with recommendations for particular candidates.
Bebble says she was looking for candidates who were familiar
with the Chicago operation and had exhibited the potential to be
strong supervisors through qualities such as leadership and
people skills. She selected the candidates she believed had the
highest potential to be effective supervisors. She wanted people
who had the ability to confront situations when necessary; were
well respected by their peers and upper management; had a
willingness to learn and improve, the ability to lead, the
ability to recognize and address poor performance; and supported
FAA programs and policies.
With regard to King, Bebble stated in her affidavit that:
Mr. King's overall interview was "good." As with Mr.
Meyers [another candidate], his response to the
Traffic Management question was only OK, despite the
fact his position at the time was in Traffic
Management. However, where Mr. Meyers addressed
supervisor interaction with Traffic Management, Mr.
King did not. This was part of the question. Mr. King
received 2 recommendations (the same as Mr. Mercker
[another candidate] and less than all other
selectees). There were two written justifications for
the recommendations. They commented on Mr. King's
experience, maturity and ability to deal with people.
No mention was made of how he previously performed as
a temporary supervisor. Mr. King was not recommended
by the supervisors in Traffic Management for whom he
Bebble Affid. ¶ 21. Nine candidates were selected for promotion. These included
both Mercker and Meyers, who are referenced in the passage from
Bebble's affidavit quoted above, but not King. According to
defendant, though King was a qualified candidate who had a good
interview and considerable experience, based on the combination
of the various factors considered by Bebble, she made the
judgment that "other candidates were better qualified. See id.
The ages of the nine persons originally selected for promotion
ranged from 35 to 45. After one selected candidate declined the
promotion, a replacement candidate, Dennis Jarnecke, age 54, was
selected in his place. King points out that eight of the nine
persons originally selected were more than ten years younger than
he, relying on this as evidence that the agency discriminated
against him based on his age. King contends that the selection of
Jarnecke as a replacement was a sham to avoid a possible claim by
King also contends the FAA denied him the promotion in
retaliation for filing the 1995 discrimination charge. He says
that after he filed that charge, his subsequent scores on
promotional bids dropped from a perfect 36 out of 36 to scores as
low as 7 out of 36. King does not argue, however, that the drop
in scores prevented him from being promoted in 1999. Rather, he
contends that persons who were aware of his prior discrimination
charge were involved in the selection process and determined not
to promote him due to that prior charge.
Under Rule 56(c), a court may grant summary judgment only if
there are no genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). An issue is considered
"genuine" if a reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of
the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, we must view the facts in a light
favorable to King, the non-moving party in this case, drawing
reasonable inferences in his favor. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.
A. Age discrimination claim
To succeed on a claim of age discrimination, King must show
that the adverse employment action taken against him would not
have occurred but for his age. E.g., Miller v. Borden,
168 F.3d 308, 312 (7th Cir. 1999). King can meet his burden either with
direct evidence of discrimination or by proceeding under the
indirect burden-shifting method ...