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Wingo v. Thyssenkrupp Materials NA

October 23, 2008

ROBERT G. WINGO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THYSSENKRUPP MATERIALS NA, INC. D/B/A COPPER AND BRASS SALES DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-Yeghiayan United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge

This matter is before the court on Defendant Thyssenkrupp Materials NA, Inc., d/b/a Copper and Brass Sales, Inc.'s ("CB") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant CB's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Robert G. Wingo ("Wingo") alleges that he worked for CB as a warehouse clerk for twenty-four years. Wingo contends that throughout his career he received awards and bonuses from CB for his performance. Wingo alleges that in 2007, CB began disciplining him for violations that Wingo claims were minimal. Wingo claims that he was disciplined for minor manufacturing errors, while other younger employees at CB were not disciplined for such errors. Specifically, Wingo alleges that he was suspended for one day in October 2007, for failing to discover a mistake made by one of his fellow employees. Wingo claims that, in contrast, CB did not substantially discipline the employee that actually committed the error. Wingo also alleges that in November 2007, he was suspended for three days for a minor infraction involving an inadvertent "key punch error." (Compl. Par. 17). Wingo claims that, following his three-day suspension, he began to document on his own production log work performed by other employees and the errors committed by other employees on his own production logs. However, Wingo claims that his supervisors at CB accused him of taking credit for other employees' work on his production logs. Wingo's supervisors also allegedly accused him of documenting work on his production logs that he had only worked on, but had not completed. Wingo alleges that the manner in which he completed his production logs was consistent with the manner in which he had kept the production logs throughout his career at CB and was consistent with the way that other employees, who were not disciplined, kept their production logs. Wingo also claims that he provided CB with evidence that he had eventually completed the work documented in his production logs on later shifts. However, Wingo claims that, on December 3, 2007, CB terminated his employment for "falsifying company records/documents." (Comp. Par 20). Wingo claims he was replaced by a substantially younger employee who was twenty-two years old. Wingo brought the instant action alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. CB has moved for summary judgment.

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). In seeking a grant of 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 non-moving 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, 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" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, 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 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transp. Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

CB has moved for summary judgment on Wingo's ADEA claim arguing that Wingo was terminated for violating clear company policy and that Wingo has no evidence of age related animus on CB's part. To succeed on an ADEA claim, a plaintiff must show that his age "'actually motivated the employer's decision'" and "'had a determinative influence on the outcome'" of the employment action taken against the plaintiff. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.Com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007)(quoting Schuster v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 327 F.3d 569, 573 (7th Cir. 2007)(internal quotation marks omitted)). A plaintiff bringing an ADEA claim can seek to defeat a defendant's motion for summary judgment under either the direct method of proof or the indirect method of proof. Id.

I. Direct Method of Proof

Under the direct method of proof, a plaintiff must establish a discriminatory motivation through direct or circumstantial evidence. Rudin v. Lincoln Land Cmy. Coll., 420 F.3d 712, 719-20 (7th Cir. 2005). Direct evidence of discrimination would constitute "an admission by" the defendant that the adverse employment action was taken "on the basis of" the plaintiff's membership in a protected class. Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 610 (7th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff can also present circumstantial evidence under the direct method of proof, but such evidence must be sufficient to create "'a triable issue of whether the adverse employment action of which [the plaintiff] complains had a discriminatory motivation.'" Rudin, 420 F.3d at 721 (quoting Wallace v. SMC Pneumatics, Inc., 103 F.3d 1394, 1397 (7th Cir. 1997)). The Seventh Circuit has also indicated that one way that circumstantial evidence can create a triable issue is if there is a "'convincing mosaic of discrimination against the plaintiff.'" Paz v. Wauconda Healthcare and Rehabilitation Centre, LLC, 464 F.3d 659, 666 (7th Cir. 2006)(quoting Walker v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Wis., 410 F.3d 387, 394 (7th Cir. 2005)). When considering the evidence in its entirety in a light most favorable to Wingo, there is not a "convincing mosaic" of evidence that would permit a reasonable trier of fact to infer that CB terminated Wingo's employment on the basis of his age. Paz, 464 F.3d at 666. Therefore, Wingo must proceed under the indirect method to defeat CB's motion for summary judgment.

II. Indirect Method of Proof

Wingo contends that he can proceed under the indirect method of proof. Under the indirect method, a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Hemsworth, 476 F.3dat 492. If a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to present a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the action. Id. If the employer presents such a reason, the ...


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