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Peterson v. Euromarket Designs

December 1, 2006

JARVIS PETERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EUROMARKET DESIGNS, INC., D/B/A CRATE AND BARREL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel United States District Judge

Judge James B. Zagel

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Jarvis Peterson filed a four-count complaint against Euromarket Designs, Inc., d/b/a Crate and Barrel ("C&B"). Currently before me is C&B's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, that motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Mr. Peterson began working for C&B as a corporate driver in November, 1997. At the time he was hired, Mr. Peterson was 62 years old. He continued working there until he was terminated in February, 2004.

While his supervisors generally believed that Mr. Peterson performed his job well, they did talk to him on occasion about issues such as not talking on assignments, exercising discretion regarding what he overheard, and conduct that was at times unprofessional. Human resources ("HR") also counseled him for a potentially discriminatory remark that some co-workers asserted he made.

Throughout his tenure with C&B, Mr. Peterson orally expressed interest in four other positions within the company. He did not submit an application, resume, or any other written expression of interest for these positions. He also did not ask about the process for applying for any of the four positions, the requisite qualifications for any of the four positions, or the job duties of any of the four positions. He maintained his original position -- corporate driver -- throughout his tenure with C&B.

In August, 1998, Mr. Peterson fell down a flight of stairs, and subsequently filed a workers' compensation claim. That claim was paid in full. Mr. Peterson testified in his deposition that he was neither terminated nor threatened with termination after filing that claim.

In March, 2003, Mr. Peterson claims to have suffered an on-the-job injury to his ears. He asserts it occurred after a lifting incident. In December, 2003, he filed a second workers' compensation claim. All of the submitted doctors' bills associated with Mr. Peterson's December, 2003 claim have been paid in full. Mr. Peterson, however, has not further prosecuted the claim.

A few months after filing the second claim, Mr. Peterson was with C&B's CEO, Gordon Segal.*fn1 Mr. Peterson told Segal that he had a "severe" problem with his ears, and that "69 or 70-year old men should not be required to do heavy lifting." Mr. Peterson also suggested that Segal had been communicating with Mr. Peterson's doctor, Dr. Weingarten, about Mr. Peterson. He accused Segal of trying to get Dr. Weingarten to alter Mr. Peterson's diagnosis and treatment. Segal told Mr. Peterson that he had done no such thing, and that he was shocked by the allegation.

Unsatisfied with Segal's response, Mr. Peterson wrote a complaint about Segal's comments and treatment of him and submitted it to HR. During the investigation into Mr. Peterson's complaint, Mr. Peterson told an HR official that he believed Segal was harassing him because of his most recent workers' compensation complaint. The HR official also spoke with the company's Workers' Compensation and Safety Administrator, Jennifer Fruend. Freund reported that Mr. Peterson had also told her that he thought Dr. Weingarten had changed his treatment as a result of his (Weingarten's) friendship with Segal. She also reported that Mr. Peterson had said on prior occasions that he was not afraid of Segal and that he (Peterson) was bigger than Segal.

Some time after this initial conversation, Freund contacted the HR official again to let her know that Mr. Peterson had repeated his accusations about Segal attempting to influence Dr. Weingarten's treatment of Mr. Peterson. This time, however, Mr. Peterson made the comments to people outside the company: to Dr. Weingarten himself and to an adjuster working for C&B's workers' compensation administrator.

The HR official considered these comments to be grossly insubordinate and lacking in sound judgment. Accordingly, she had a meeting with Mr. Peterson on February 11, 2004, in which she told him that he was being terminated due to insubordination to the head of the company.

Mr. Peterson subsequently filed this action. On June 29, 2005, Mr. Peterson filed his First Amended Complaint. His action now consists of five counts; he alleges: (1) discrimination on the basis of sex; (2) retaliation for opposing the sex discrimination to which he was subjected; (3) discrimination on the basis of age; (4) retaliation for opposing the age discrimination to ...


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