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Holtz v. Skanska U.S.A., Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

October 28, 2014

JONATHAN E. HOLTZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SKANSKA U.S.A., INC., MAJA EGNELL, and THOMAS CRANE, Defendants.

ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

ROBERT J. BRYAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on September 15, 2014. Dkt. 20. The Court has considered the file, including the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion. Because material issues of fact exist regarding Defendants' claims, the Court should deny summary judgment, except as to defendant Thomas Crane.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Jonathan Holtz filed claims for age and gender discrimination against Skanska USA, Inc. ("Skanska"), his former supervisor Maja Egnell, and his former supervisor Thomas Crane under the Washington Law Against Discrimination ("WLAD"), RCW 49.60. Dkt. 1. Filed on October 17, 2013, in Clark County Superior Court, the action was removed to this Court on November 13, 2013, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Id. On September 15, 2014, Defendants filed this Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. 20. Plaintiff responded with his Memorandum in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 28) on September 29, 2014, and Defendants replied on October 16, 2014 with their Reply in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 35).

II. RELEVANT FACTS

Plaintiff worked for defendant Skanska and its predecessor companies for seventeen years. Dkt. 28 at p. 1. Skanska, one of the largest construction companies in the U.S., is the U.S. subsidiary of Skanska AB, based in Sweden. Dkt 24. Plaintiff has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Civil Engineering and a Master's Degrees in Business Management and Civil Engineering/Construction Management. Dkt. 28 at p. 1. From 2004 until his termination in August 2013, Plaintiff was Skanska's Senior Director of Learning. Dkt. 20 at p. 2. Plaintiff's duties included developing core training curricula and classes; teaching training courses; providing training for new performance management systems; managing training committee meetings; managing his department's budget; determining training needs for employees; and assisting with the development of a new learning management system. Dkt. 20 at p. 3. Some dispute exists regarding whether Plaintiff had additional duties outside of these listed. See Dkt. 35 at p. 3; Dkt. 29 at p. 6; Dkt. 37-1 at pp. 5-11.

In 2011, Skanska began developing a new learning management system. Dkt. 20 at p. 3. Skanska employee Ola Grenner was project manager for the development of the new learning management system. Id. Because Plaintiff was Senior Director of Learning, Mr. Grenner worked with Plaintiff in developing the new learning management system. Id. Mr. Grenner stated in his deposition that he had "a constant struggle" with Plaintiff's performance, which he communicated to Plaintiff's supervisor, Maja Egnell after she became Plaintiff's supervisor in January 2013. Id. Although Mr. Grenner indicated in his declaration that he discussed staying focused on the project's priorities with Plaintiff, Plaintiff stated in his declaration that he was unaware of the depth of Mr. Grenner's concerns. See id. at p. 5; Dkt. 29 at p. 3.

Similar to Mr. Grenner, although Ms. Egnell stated in her declaration that she was frustrated by Plaintiff, she only communicated her frustration to him a few times. Dkt. 24 at p. 2; Dkt. 29 at p. 3. Ms. Egnell claims in her declaration that she counseled Plaintiff regularly in 2013 about focusing on one assignment at a time. Id. While Plaintiff admitted that Ms. Egnell "chastised" him once about sending out a meeting agenda prematurely, he denied in his declaration that he received any counseling about job performance. Dkt. 29 at p. 3. Ms. Egnell stated in her deposition that she was offended by Plaintiff once during a discussion when Plaintiff compared her to an assassin played by Lucy Liu in the "Kill Bill" movies. Dkt. 22-1 at p. 14. Ms. Egnell stated in her declaration that, in a conversation with Plaintiff, Plaintiff referred to Skanska's performance management process as a "waste of time" and said that the only reason people do performance reviews is to avoid getting fired. Dkt. 24 at p. 2; see also Dkt. 22-1 at p. 16. In his deposition, Plaintiff admitted that these incidents occurred. Dkt. 22-1 at pp. 14-16. Despite these incidents, Plaintiff received satisfactory or above satisfactory performance reviews in all but three out of twenty-eight areas in February 2013, six months before he was terminated. Dkt. 34-2 at p. 6. The three areas Plaintiff received less than satisfactory reviews in were listed as "Development Areas." Id. Plaintiff received the maximum bonus every year possible. Dkt. 29 at p. 3.

In the summer of 2013, while Plaintiff still worked at Skanska, Ms. Egnell decided to reorganize learning and talent management at Skanska. Dkt. 24 at p. 3. Skanska hired an executive search firm to advertise for a position titled Senior Manager, Talent Development & Learning that included all of Plaintiff's duties. Id. at p. 4. Plaintiff and Defendants disagree about whether the advertised position contained duties in addition to those that Plaintiff performed when he was Senior Director of Learning. See Dkt. 35 at p. 3; Dkt. 29 at p. 6; Dkt. 37-1 at pp. 5-11; Dkt. 30 at p. 3; Dkt. 33 at pp. 8-9, 12-15. Ms. Egnell interviewed at least two people, first offering the position to a man named Marco Deraney, who, Ms. Egnell said, "could be approximately 50 years of age." Dkt. 24 at p. 4. Mr. Deraney declined the offer because the salary was not high enough and because it would have added to his commute. Id. at p. 4. Ms. Egnell stated in her declaration that she next offered the position to a thirty-four year old woman named Jamie Diamante who accepted the offer. Id. Ms. Egnell claimed in her declaration that she did not consider Plaintiff for the position because of the comments Plaintiff made that had offended her and his statements he did not believe in employee reviews. Id. at p. 3.

Ms. Egnell stated in her declaration that she spoke with the Chief Human Resources and Communications Officer at Skanska, Thomas Crane, about the need to terminate Plaintiff, and Mr. Crane approved the termination. Id. at p. 3. Ms. Egnell claimed in her declaration that Plaintiff's position was eliminated when the company created the new position. Id. at p. 4. At Plaintiff's mid-term review on August 14, 2013, Ms. Egnell terminated Plaintiff. Id. That same day, Ms. Egnell announced that Ms. Diamante would be starting as Skanska's Senior Manager, Talent Development & Learning. Dkt. 33 at p. 11. Several months later, while briefing a vendor on changes at Skanska, Ms. Egnell referred to Ms. Diamante in an email as Plaintiff's "replacement." Dkt. 33 at p. 15.

Since Skanska terminated Plaintiff, he has officially applied for one job. Dkt. 20 at pp. 17-18. Plaintiff decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Dkt. 29 at p. 4. Plaintiff stated in his deposition that he has not applied to more jobs because "I looked at some other jobs, but they were all - typically the salaries that they're seeking are significantly lower, and it would distract me from my primary objective, which is to get the degree." Dkt. 22-1 at p. 3. Defendants have identified three jobs they found through online searches that Plaintiff qualified for; however, the salary is not listed. Dkt. 21-1. Plaintiff claims that he wants to obtain his Ph.D. because he believes the degree is necessary to obtain a job with the same salary level he had at Skanska. Dkt. 22-1 at p. 3.

III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper only if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of a claim in the case on which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1985). There is no genuine issue of fact for trial where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (nonmoving party must present specific, significant probative evidence, not simply "some metaphysical doubt."). See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). Conversely, a genuine dispute over a material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute, requiring a judge or jury to resolve the differing versions of the truth. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 253 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv. Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

The determination of the existence of a material fact is often a close question. The court must consider the substantive evidentiary burden that the nonmoving party must meet at trial- e.g., a preponderance of the evidence in most civil cases. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254, T.W. Elec. Serv. Inc., 809 F.2d at 630. The court must resolve any factual issues of controversy in favor of the nonmoving party only when the facts specifically attested by that party contradict facts specifically attested by the moving party. The nonmoving party may not merely state that it will discredit the moving party's evidence at trial, in the hopes that evidence can be developed at trial to support the claim. T.W. Elec. Serv. Inc., 809 F.2d at 630 (relying on Anderson, ...


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