769 F.2d 1215 (7th Cir. 1985), 84-2692, Matthews v. Allis-Chalmers

Docket Nº:84-2692.
Citation:769 F.2d 1215
Party Name:Dean A. MATTHEWS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ALLIS-CHALMERS, a corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:August 05, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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769 F.2d 1215 (7th Cir. 1985)

Dean A. MATTHEWS, Plaintiff-Appellant,


ALLIS-CHALMERS, a corporation, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 84-2692.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 5, 1985

Argued April 26, 1985.

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Gerald C. Moton, Homewood, Ill., for plaintiff-appellant.

Nina G. Stillman, Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholz, Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellee.

Before ESCHBACH and FLAUM, Circuit Judges, and FLOYD R. GIBSON, Senior Circuit Judge. [*]


Dean A. Matthews appeals from the district court's 1 grant of summary judgment along with an award of costs to his former employer, Allis-Chalmers. Matthews had brought suit against Allis-Chalmers alleging that the company had violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. Secs. 621-634 (1982), in terminating him in 1982. The district court, 614 F.Supp. 11, held that Matthews had failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. We affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment.

I. Facts

Allis-Chalmers hired Matthews as a designer in 1957. During his employment with Allis-Chalmers Matthews held the titles of chief engineer, project engineer, and product engineer, and was always on salary. On two occasions, in February 1975 and October 1981, Matthews was demoted from chief engineer positions to product engineer.

In 1982, at the time of his termination, Matthews was serving as a product engineer and reported to Richard Killeen, chief engineer of the Product Development Department. Because of a serious decline in business in the early 1980s, Allis-Chalmers was forced to let go of a number of employees for economic reasons. As a result of one such reduction in force, Killeen discharged Matthews on November 12, 1982. At the time Matthews was fifty-four years old, four months short of his fifty-fifth birthday when he would have been eligible for early retirement benefits. Thirteen other employees were also terminated on November 12, six of whom were also over forty years old. Of the 221 salaried employees terminated by Allis-Chalmers between January 4, 1980 and December 30, 1983 as a result of economic reductions in force, eighty were forty years of age or older.

After filing charges of age discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Matthews filed this suit on November 3, 1983. The parties engaged in pretrial discovery and submitted depositions,

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affidavits, and other documentary evidence to the court. The district court entered an order granting Allis-Chalmers' motion for summary judgment, and awarding costs against Matthews, on September 5, 1984. Matthews now appeals to this court, asking that the district court's September 5, 1984 order be reversed.

II. Propriety of Grant of Summary Judgment

This court has held that the burden of proof formula set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), a Title VII case, applies in cases under the ADEA. See La Montagne v. American Convenience Products, Inc., 750 F.2d 1405, 1409 n. 1 (7th Cir.1984); Huhn v. Koehring Co., 718 F.2d 239, 243 (7th Cir.1983); Kephart v. Institute of Gas Technology, 630 F.2d 1217, 1222 (7th Cir.1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 959, 101 S.Ct. 1418, 67 L.Ed.2d 383 (1981). Under that formula, a plaintiff has the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of age discrimination. If he succeeds, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a valid reason for the employment decision. Once the employer states a valid justification for the firing, the employee must prove that the justification was a mere pretext for discrimination; that is, but for the employee's age he would not have been fired. Parker v. Federal National Mortgage Association, 741 F.2d 975, 978-79 (1984) (quoting Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 1093, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981)); Huhn, 718 F.2d at 242.

The First Circuit in Loeb v. Textron, Inc., 600 F.2d 1003, 1014 (1st Cir.1979), modified the McDonnell Douglas prima facie requirements to fit an age discrimination case, and held that a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case in a claim under the ADEA by showing: (1) that he belongs to the protected age group; (2) that he was performing his job satisfactorily; (3) that he nevertheless was fired; and (4) that his employer sought someone to perform the same work after he left. See also Huhn, 718 F.2d at 243. As the district court noted, however, "[t]he last element has no role in a reduction-in-force case such as this one; by definition, when the employer reduces his work force he hires no one to replace the ones he lets go." In Williams v. General Motors Corp., 656 F.2d 120, 128-29 (5th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 943, 102 S.Ct. 1439, 71 L.Ed.2d 655 (1982), the Fifth Circuit recognized the special nature of reduction-in-force situations and fashioned specific prima facie requirements to be applied in that type of case. The court held that in a job reduction situation, a plaintiff can establish a prima facie case under the ADEA by: 1) showing he was within the protected age group; 2) showing he was adversely affected, either through discharge or demotion; 3) showing he was qualified to assume another position at the time of the discharge or demotion; and 4) producing circumstantial or direct evidence from which a factfinder might reasonably conclude that the employer intended to discriminate in making the employment decision in issue. Id. at 129. See also LaGrant v. Gulf & Western Manufacturing Co., 748 F.2d 1087, 1090-91 (6th Cir.1984); Allison v. Western Union Telegraph Co., 680 F.2d 1318, 1321 (11th Cir.1982).

We agree with the district court that Matthews did not establish a prima facie case because he failed to produce any evidence from which the court could infer that Allis-Chalmers more likely than not fired him because of his age. Matthews provided no evidence, direct or circumstantial, that age in any way entered into the decision to terminate him. Nor do the statistics on salaried employees terminated over a four year period (1980-1983), where eighty of the 221 were in the protected class, show or indicate that the company favored younger workers over older workers. LaGrant, 748 F.2d at 1089. Richard Killeen, Matthews' supervisor who was told to reduce his department by two employees, stated that he made his decision by considering the relative technical competence of, and the administration of that technical competence by the department

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employees. Using these criteria, Killeen rated Matthews the lowest among the four engineers in the department in terms of his contribution to the department. Killeen knew that projects which Matthews had been in charge of had not been completed on schedule or within their budgets, and had serious design problems.

Matthews asks us to draw as reasonable inferences from the evidence that Killeen's stated reasons for retaining Carl Clausen and Paul Artwohl over Matthews were pretextual. Killeen determined Clausen to be a greater asset to the department than Matthews because Clausen had been doing extensive work on cost impact between the engineering and manufacturing engineering departments. Matthews contends that because Killeen had never conducted a formal performance evaluation on Clausen, and because Killeen did not know how long he had been doing the cost impact work before he came to Killeen's group, a reasonable inference can be drawn that Clausen had not done extensive cost impact work, or at least Killeen was unaware of it, when Matthews was targeted for discharge. This court, however, "is not required to evaluate every conceivable inference which can be drawn from evidentiary matter, but only reasonable ones." Parker, 741 F.2d at 980 (emphasis in original). Matthews has simply failed to contradict the facts that Clausen was performing the cost impact work, and that Killeen knew of this work, when the decision to discharge Matthews was made.

As to the retention of Artwohl over Matthews, Killeen concluded that Artwohl would make a greater contribution to the department than Matthews, based on their respective performances in delivering projects on schedule and on budget. In particular, Matthews had been unable to discover and fix design problems on the World Truck Mast, whereas Artwohl had. Although Matthews concedes that Artwohl had discovered the design problems before the termination decision was made, he contends a reasonable inference can be made that Artwohl had not solved the problems until after that decision. In support of this contention Matthews cites an Operations Report dated November 5, 1982, which states that the redesigned tilt anchor crosstie "is being prototyped and will be strained gauged week of 11/8/82," the week in which Killeen decided to terminate Matthews. Killeen stated in his deposition that such testing was performed after the work of Matthews' and Artwohl's department was completed. Thus Matthews has not contradicted the fact that Artwohl had completed the redesign, and that Killeen knew that he had done so before Killeen decided to terminate Matthews.

The remaining evidence does not aid Matthews in his burden to show that age was a factor in the termination decision. Although he contends that he and another former employee, Walter Pivarunas, were terminated because they would soon qualify for early retirement benefits, Matthews supports this contention only with his personal beliefs. Finally, the statistics representing Allis-Chalmers' reductions-in-force do not bolster Matthews' case. Statistics generally are not of significance in age discrimination cases "unless the disparities in treatment are quite large." ...

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