The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLANCHE MANNING, District Judge
Plaintiff Gary Reese contends that his former employer, General
Electric Company ("GE"), discriminated against him in violation
of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et
seq., by laying him off and failing to transfer him after his
position was eliminated. GE's motion for summary judgment is
before the court. For the following reasons, GE's motion is
The following facts are drawn from the parties' Local Rule 56
submissions and are undisputed unless otherwise noted.
A. GE's Policies and Procedures
According to GE, it maintains and enforces an equal employment
opportunity ("EEO") policy entitled "Fair Employment Practices."
This policy requires it to "recruit, hire, train, compensate,
promote and provide other conditions of employment without regard
to a person's race, color, religion, national origin, sex
(including pregnancy), sexual orientation, age, disability,
veteran status or other characteristic protected by law."
GE asserts that it uses an internal application procedure
through which it posts available positions in a corporate
database, and that all GE employees have access to the database.
With respect to evaluations, the GE employees complete
self-evaluations and are also evaluated by their managers. As
part of this process, the employees and their managers establish
objectives on an annual basis. The form that encompasses the
result of the evaluation is referred to as an "EMS" form. The EMS form and any statements of career interest
contained therein is not a substitute for the posting process.
GE maintains a Special Early Retirement Option ("SERO") policy
to benefit eligible employees affected by layoff, plant closing,
or other types of job loss. Employees are eligible for SERO if,
among other things, they are: (1) subject to a permanent job loss
event, such as layoff; (2) are at least age 55 but younger than
age 60 on the date of job loss; and (3) have at least 25 years of
pension qualification service on the date of job loss.
Employees who elect SERO are treated as regular retirees
pursuant to the GE pension and other benefits plans, despite the
fact that they otherwise would not be old enough to retire.
Accordingly, employees who elect SERO receive: (1) their full
earned pension; (2) the supplement of $14 per month for each year
of pension benefit service until age 62; (3) a special supplement
of $350 per month until age 62, at which time the employee
qualifies for reduced social security benefits; (4) benefits
based on the employee's Personal and Voluntary Pension Accounts;
and (5) the same medical, dental, life insurance, and other
benefits that employees who retire at age 60 receive. SERO is an
option that eligible employees affected by job loss must elect.
An employee who elects SERO effectively retires from GE and,
thus, is not considered for available positions after the
B. Reese's Employment With GE
1. Reese's Positions with GE
Plaintiff Gary Reese is currently 56 years old. In 1967, GE
hired Reese to work at Knolls Power Laboratory as a technician.
In 1974, Reese entered GE's technical marketing program and was
trained in sales. After completing the program, Reese performed
various functions at different divisions within GE. In 1994, GE
reorganized the sales force in its Oak Brook office and selected
Reese for a sales position. In September of 1994, GE established
an industrial account team in order to build relationships with
major industrial customers. GE selected Reese to be an industrial
account manager. Between 1996 and 1997, GE focused on globalizing its business
and, accordingly, renamed the industrial account manager position
"global account manager" ("GAM"). Reese occupied this position
for the remainder of his employment with GE, despite subsequent
restructuring and account changes. As a GAM, Reese's
responsibility was to target global accounts and develop
executive-level relationships with Fortune 100 companies with the
objective of securing national account purchasing agreements to
supply the companies with products for their facilities
worldwide. Specifically, Reese's role was to form relationships
with the senior executives and managers of the accounts for which
he was responsible in the hopes of influencing GE's sales with
the account. Field sales employees were responsible for
developing relationships with the accounts' local plants.
In 1994, when GE selected Reese to be a GAM, it assigned him to
the Baxter, Abbot Labs, Inland Steel, Amoco, and Motorola
accounts. In or around 2000, GE identified opportunities for data
centers and thus assigned the GAMs to data center customers to
learn the business. The data centers were within the
telecommunications industry, in which GE sought to become more
proactively involved. For several years, Reese was geographically
deployed (meaning that he was assigned to a particular geographic
region) and his primary accounts were Sprint and Motorola, both
of which are in the telecommunications sector.
2. GE's Reorganization of Its GAMs From Regional to Target
Markets and Reese's Assignment to the Telecommunications Sector
In April of 2002, David Griffith was promoted to General
Manager of the Global Accounts Team. When Griffith assumed
responsibility for the team, all of the GAMs were geographically
deployed. Shortly after Griffith assumed his new position,
between April and May of 2002, the Global Accounts Team began
discussing ways to reenergize the team and help grow business,
and Griffith decided to reorganize the GAMs around target
markets, one of which was telecommunications.
In 2002, Sherry Sakagawa, a college student who was a summer
intern at GE, conducted a study indicating that there were
opportunities in the wireless telecommunications market. GE did not rely on Sakagawa's report regarding the
telecommunications market in deciding to target the sector.
Instead, GE already did business with several telecommunications
firms and, thus, decided to target telecommunications. According
to Reese, GE had Sakagawa create her report to justify GE's
planned reorganization, which placed Reese in a position marked
As early as May 3, 2002, Griffith informed Reese that, pursuant
to the reorganization, he was going to be exclusively assigned to
GE's telecommunications accounts. Griffith selected Reese for
this position because Reese already had been targeting Sprint and
Motorola for several years and had been in charge of these
accounts. Pursuant to the reorganization, Reese also was assigned
the AT&T and MCI WorldCom accounts.
The reorganization of the Global Accounts Team into target
markets was completed on October 31, 2002. Well before this,
however, in May 2002, Griffith was transitioning Reese and giving
him opportunities to increase his knowledge and involvement in
the telecommunications sector. Reese believed that the
telecommunications industry represented a large opportunity for
GE, and testified at his deposition that he was not given a
chance to develop the telecommunications market, since he was
forced out three months after the effective date of the
3. Elimination of Reese's Position
In early 2003, GE's first quarter sales projections were poor.
As a result, Michael Pilot, then Vice President of Sales, decided
to reduce head count throughout GE's sales departments. Pilot
thus told Griffith to eliminate a position from the Global
Account Team, but entrusted to Griffith ...