United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant's motion for
summary judgment (Dkt. No. 112). Having thoroughly considered
the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court
finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion
for the reasons explained herein.
was employed by Defendant as a Project Engineer 5 in
Huntsville, Alabama. (Dkt. No. 114 at 2.) In September 2014,
Plaintiff began a temporary travel assignment with
Defendant's 777X subsystems team in Everett, Washington
and worked on the Electrical Load Management System
(“ELMS”). (Dkt. Nos. 57 at 3, 113-1 at 4, 114 at
2.) Plaintiff primarily worked in Everett in 2014 and 2015
but reported directly to two senior managers in Huntsville:
John Jones until January 9, 2015, and Dane Richardson from
January 9 until the end of Plaintiff's employment. (Dkt.
No. 119 at 1-2.) Plaintiff's day-to-day work on the ELMS
project was overseen by two managers, Anthony De Genner and
David Demars, who reported to Richardson about
Plaintiff's work performance. (Id. at 2.)
March 3, 2015, Richardson met with Plaintiff for a scheduled
salary review, during which Plaintiff was given a salary
notice based on his performance in the prior year. (Dkt. Nos.
113-2 at 8-9, 119 at 2.) Richardson relied on Jones's
2014 performance ratings for the salary review. (Dkt. No.
113-2 at 8-9.) Plaintiff asserts that, during the salary
review, Richardson made several negative comments about
Plaintiff's age. (Dkt. No. 140 at 7; see Dkt.
No. 140-19) (email from Plaintiff to himself with notes about
the salary review).
2015, Richardson sent Plaintiff an email concerning
Plaintiff's reimbursement requests for meals and alcohol
while traveling after Plaintiff charged $84 for alcohol on
his company credit card in one day and expensed a $110 meal
without providing an itemized receipt. (Dkt. Nos. 113-4, 119
at 3.) Defendant's Huntsville facility maintains a meal
and alcohol reimbursement policy that limits employees to
expensing one glass of wine or one beer as part of
reimbursable meal costs, and requires employees to provide an
itemized receipt and separate the cost of alcohol from the
cost of food on an expense report. (Dkt. Nos. 113-3 at 3, 119
at 2-3.) On a later business trip, Plaintiff submitted
receipts for four alcoholic drinks in a single meal and for
at least $72.91 in expenses for a hotel minibar, which
violated the meal and alcohol reimbursement policy. (Dkt. No.
119 at 3.) Although Richardson provided similar notifications
to at least three other employees during his time as a
manager at the Huntsville facility, Plaintiff was the only
one to violate the policy a second time. (Id.)
Defendant's human resources department recommended that
Richardson suspend Plaintiff for one day without pay for his
repeated violations of the reimbursement policy.
(Id.) In September 2015, Richardson elected to issue
Plaintiff a written warning, known as a corrective action
memo (“CAM”). (Id. at 3-4; Dkt. No.
113-8 at 12.)
30, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a complaint to Defendant's
ethics department, alleging that Richardson had made negative
age-related comments to Plaintiff during his salary review;
he later amended it to assert that Richardson had retaliated
against Plaintiff by issuing the CAM. (Dkt. Nos. 57 at 9,
113-6 at 4, 113-7, 113-8.) Defendant investigated
Plaintiff's claims and concluded that Plaintiff's
claims were unsubstantiated. (Dkt. Nos. 113-6 at 13, 113-8.)
Plaintiff's appeal of Defendant's determination was
denied. (Dkt. No. 113-6 at 13-14.)
August 28, 2015, Plaintiff filed an age discrimination
complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”). (Dkt. Nos. 57 at 9, 140 at
13.) On June 1, 2016, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a right to
sue letter that notified him that the EEOC was unable to
conclude that Defendant had violated the relevant statutes
and was closing its file on Plaintiff's claims. (Dkt. No.
140-36 at 2.)
October 21, 2015, Richardson asked De Genner and Demars for
feedback on Plaintiff's work performance in preparation
for Plaintiff's 2015 year-end performance evaluation.
(See Dkt. Nos. 113-16, 119 at 4.) De Genner and
Demars agreed that Plaintiff's technical skills met or
exceeded expectations but were critical of Plaintiff's
abilities to communicate and work with others. (Dkt. No.
113-16 at 2-3.) Plaintiff had exhibited rude and abrasive
behavior toward other employees and did not change his
behavior after De Genner and Demars brought up the issue with
him, and had previously sent other employees aggressive and
demeaning emails and messages. (See Dkt. Nos. 113-1
at 5, 113-9-113-12, 113-14 at 2, 113-15 at 2-3, 115 at 2, 116
at 2, 117 at 2, 118 at 2.) Plaintiff's interpersonal issues
extended to his interactions with Defendant's suppliers
for the ELMS project. (Dkt. Nos. 116 at 2, 118 at 2.)
Richardson relied on De Genner and Demars's input in
formulating Plaintiff's 2015 year-end performance
evaluation. (Dkt. No. 119 at 5.) Plaintiff's 2015
performance evaluation reflects that he met expectations in
the business goals category, but only met some or did not
meet expectations in several performance values categories,
including communication, customer satisfaction, and people
working together. (Dkt. Nos. 113-17 at 2-6, 119 at 5.)
October 2015, Demars was informed that the 777X ELMS
project's budget would be reduced by approximately 20
percent beginning in March 2016, which necessitated a
reduction in staffing on the project. (Dkt. No. 117 at 3.)
Plaintiff's temporary assignment with the 777X ELMS
project was eliminated, in part because “persistent
travel” assignments, such as Plaintiff's, are more
expensive than standard positions that do not involve
frequent travel. (Id.) Plaintiff was scheduled to
return to Defendant's Huntsville facility. (Id.)
On November 10, 2015, Plaintiff was issued the 2015
performance evaluation by Richardson. (Dkt. No. 57 at 11.)
was scheduled to return to work at the Huntsville facility
full-time, but there was insufficient work available for
Project Engineer 5 employees, Plaintiff's position. (Dkt.
No. 119 at 5.) Because of the work deficit, Defendant
determined that it was necessary to declare a “surplus
of one” for Project Engineer 5 positions, which
triggered Defendant's reduction in force
(“RIF”) process in January 2016. (Id.;
Dkt. No. 114 at 2.) Defendant's RIF process is a
standardized process used when Defendant must eliminate a
position due to either budgetary constraints or a surplus or
redundancy in the workforce. (Dkt. No. 114 at 2.) During the
RIF process, all affected employees are graded by their
managers on a point scale based 40 percent on the
employee's year-end performance management evaluation
scores and 60 percent on their manager's rating of them
on several core competencies. (Id.) During the
scoring process, each affected employee's manager works
with Defendant's human resources department and a Skills
Captain, who is generally a management-level employee who
does not directly supervise any of the affected employees.
(Id. at 2-3.) When the affected employees'
scores are computed, the managers meet to finalize the rating
for each employee, and the employee with the lowest
cumulative score is selected for layoff. (Id. at
process for Plaintiff's position was conducted in January
2016 and included 33 employees in the Project Engineer 5
classification, including Plaintiff. (Id. at
Plaintiff received a score of 61 out of 100, which was the
lowest out of the affected employees. (Id.; Dkt. No.
113-18 at 4.) Plaintiff was selected for layoff and issued a
60-day notice of termination on or around January 21, 2016.
(Dkt. No. 114 at 4.) At least 14 other employees considered
during the RIF process were older than Plaintiff but were
retained. (Id.) During the ensuing 60-day period,
Richardson worked with other employees of Defendant to
attempt to find Plaintiff alternative employment with
Defendant. (Dkt. No. 119 at 6.) Plaintiff was unable to
obtain a new position at Defendant during the 60-day window
and his employment was terminated on March 25, 2016. (Dkt.
No. 114 at 4.)
brings a variety of claims against Defendant, including for
age discrimination and retaliation in violation of state and
federal law, and wrongful discharge in violation of public
policy. (See Dkt. No. 57 at 12-26.) Defendant moves
for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims arising under
the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et
seq., the Washington Law Against Discrimination
(“WLAD”), Wash. Rev. Code §§ 49.60
et seq., and his claim of wrongful discharge in
violation of public policy. (Dkt. No. 112 at 2.)
Summary Judgment Legal Standard
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In making such a determination, the Court
must view the facts and justifiable inferences to be drawn
therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 255 (1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is
properly made and supported, the opposing party “must
come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial.'”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).
Material facts are those that may affect ...