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September 14, 2004.

WILLIAM J. RYAN, Plaintiff,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT GETTLEMAN, District Judge


Plaintiff William J. Ryan filed the instant lawsuit against his former employer, S-B Power Tool Company ("SBPT"), alleging that SBPT discharged him in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 623 (Count I) and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"), 775 I.L.C.S § 5/1-101 (Count II).*fn1 Plaintiff was fifty two years old at the time he was terminated. Defendant has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 56, arguing that plaintiff has failed to rebut defendant's asserted non-discriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff's employment. Defendant also argues that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the IHRA claim. For the reasons stated herein, the court denies defendant's motion as to Count I, and grants defendant's motion as to Count II. FACTS*fn2

SBPT designs, manufactures, and markets high-quality power tools. Plaintiff was hired by defendant as an engineer in May 1988, and held a number of positions with defendant until his termination on August 15, 2001. Plaintiff received several promotions during his employment with defendant, and was offered a bonus in or about December 1991 to continue his employment with defendant. From 1998 through the time of his termination, plaintiff worked at the SBPT Chicago headquarters as a manager of advanced development and computer aided design ("CAD"). In this position, plaintiff was responsible for overseeing new product designs and managing the CAD drafting process using an engineering software system.

  Plaintiff received an overall performance rating of commendable on his on job performance reviews in January 1997 and January 1998, which was the second-highest of five possible ratings at that time. In January 1999, plaintiff received an overall rating of fully satisfactory, which was the middle of five possible ratings at that time.*fn3

  In late 1999, SBPT adopted the "New Product Development Process" ("NPDP"), which aimed to improve the new product development process by integrating the marketing and engineering groups within the company. Under the NPDP the marketing department assumes a larger role in the development of new products by researching the needs and preferences of power tool consumers and users before products are designed. Marketing then shares its findings with the engineering department, which evaluates whether the new tools and features can be developed cost effectively by SBPT.

  In January 2000, Egbert Schneider ("Schneider"), a vice president of engineering, was transferred to SBPT's Chicago headquarters to oversee the advanced development department in which plaintiff worked. Schneider was thirty nine years old at the time of his transfer. In June 2000 Ann Dow ("Dow") was named director of advanced development. Dow was in her mid-thirties at the time, and has a background in marketing, not engineering. Plaintiff reported to Dow, with dotted-line responsibility to Schneider. Dow and a team of SBPT employees developed an abbreviated version of the general NPDP protocol for implementation specifically in the Advanced Development department.

  From early in his employment with SBPT plaintiff worked primarily in an IT capacity, managing digital images and other CAD data for the advanced development department, rather than focusing on engineering projects. Some time in early 2001, plaintiff was given responsibility for at least two engineering projects related to the development of two new products, (1) the soft grip, and (2) the laser arbor. Plaintiff admits that he had not done the work of a project engineer for twelve or thirteen years, and was more familiar with IT work. He claims that defendant made the projects more difficult by removing engineers from his team.

  According to plaintiff, the changes in personnel and the implementation of the NPDP caused confusion regarding job responsibilities and the reporting structure, created tension within the advanced development department, and interfered with his efforts to complete his work. To this end, in addition to his deposition, plaintiff submits the affidavit of Barry Jacobs ("Jacobs"), an engineer who worked in the advanced development department in 2000 and 2001 as a member of plaintiff's project team. Defendant responds that any confusion was caused by plaintiff himself, and that plaintiff resisted the implementation of the NPDP and did not adjust to the changes in the advanced development department.

  In January 2001 plaintiff's annual review was administered by Dow for the first time, as she had been his supervisor for less than a year. Plaintiff received a below expectations rating in two of the six performance goals, and an overall below expectations rating. Dow wrote in the section of the review titled "Associate Development Needs/Plan" that plaintiff needed to be a more "active manager," "develop a more open dialog and explain his thoughts better to avoid misunderstanding of his intentions," and "respond appropriately to questions and not in a defensive manner." Plaintiff disputes several of the negative comments on the review, as well as the overall rating. Plaintiff contends that this was the first unsatisfactory review he received while working at SBPT, and that Dow was unqualified to review his job performance. He also alleges that Dow told him on several occasions, prior to the review, that he was innovating and doing a good job.

  On April 5, 2001, Dow sent plaintiff an e-mail following an apparent mix-up regarding the testing of a new product. Dow wrote, in part, "Bill, this is the second example of how we need to be talking more as a team (the first was the disconnect on the laser modules that you were ordering) — you need marketing feedback, which is why I'm here." Dow administered a second review of plaintiff's job performance in July 2001. At the time of the review, plaintiff had not presented reports to Dow or Schneider on the soft grip project or the laser arbor project. According to defendant, both reports were originally earlier, deadlines were missed, and plaintiff was ultimately given until August 3, 2001, to complete both projects. Plaintiff admits that he missed deadlines on the two projects, but contends this was due in part to changes in his engineering team, and that Dow and Schneider gave plaintiff conflicting or incomplete statements of their expectations regarding reporting on the projects.

  Plaintiff received a below expectations rating in four of the eight performance goals, a fully satisfactory rating on the other four goals, and an overall below expectations rating on the July 2001 review. Dow noted in the review that plaintiff needed to be more accountable for his team's actions, and that the current environment "creates no consequences for missing deadlines." Dow added that "Team is still in R&D mode vs. project mode." Dow also repeated her criticisms from the January 2001 review that plaintiff needs to be an "active manager," develop a more open dialog, explain his thoughts better, and respond appropriately to questions. As a result of the July 2001 review, plaintiff was placed on an eight-week notice that there would be zero tolerance of, (1) non-adherence to the IAD process and support documentation, and (2) missing schedules.*fn4 The notice was signed by Dow and Schneider. Plaintiff disputes the accuracy of several of the individual ratings and comments in the review, as well as the calculation of the overall rating.

  After his July 2001 review, plaintiff was instructed to complete three deliverable reports within the next few weeks. Plaintiff claims that Dow and Schneider failed to provide him with necessary information regarding the projects for at least a week, which delayed his work. Plaintiff submitted reports to Dow and Schneider on the soft grip and laser arbor projects in late July or early August. Defendant argues, based on reviews of the projects by Schneider and two other engineers employed by defendant, that the proposals contained several erroneous engineering assumptions, "had no value," and were "awful." Plaintiff was asked to give an oral presentation of at least one of the proposals to Schneider, which defendant alleges was equally unsatisfactory. Plaintiff contends that the proposals were sound, and submits the affidavit of another engineer, Barry Jacobs, in support of his claim.

  Plaintiff claims that Dow and Schneider made comments to him in July or August 2001 that he perceived to be motivated by age animus. Plaintiff alleges that in July 2001, after plaintiff's report on his projects was poorly received by Schneider, Dow remarked to plaintiff that she was surprised at Schneider's reaction and that if she had known they wanted her to "clean house" she would not have taken the position. Plaintiff also claims he confronted Schneider about his perceived unfair treatment and his negative review, and Schneider responded that plaintiff was "better in former times." On August 15, 2001, Dow and Schneider informed plaintiff that he was terminated. After plaintiff's termination, Dow oversaw product development and managed plaintiff's former subordinates in the advanced development department.

  Plaintiff names several older employees who suffered adverse employment decisions made by Dow and/or Schneider in 2000 and 2001. Al Kunz ("Kunz"), age fifty five and a senior project manager in marketing, received a favorable expectations review on May 25, 2000, from Dow, but in June 2000, Dow gave Kunz a corrective action plan and Kunz was placed on notice. Gregg Mangialardi ("Mangialardi"), age fifty one and a director of engineering, received an overall rating of below expectations in a review of his job performance by Schneider in January 2001. Mangialardi was subsequently demoted to a Project Leader in April 2001. Leon Bujalski ("Bujalski"), age sixty, was given a below expectations review ...

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