771 F.2d 1161 (8th Cir. 1985), 84-2303, Holley v. Sanyo Mfg., Inc.

Docket Nº:84-2303.
Citation:771 F.2d 1161
Party Name:Earl HOLLEY, Appellee, v. SANYO MANUFACTURING, INC., Appellant.
Case Date:August 30, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 1161

771 F.2d 1161 (8th Cir. 1985)

Earl HOLLEY, Appellee,

v.

SANYO MANUFACTURING, INC., Appellant.

No. 84-2303.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 30, 1985

Submitted April 9, 1985.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Thomas C. Walsh, St. Louis, Mo., for appellant.

Keith Blackman, Jonesboro, Ark., for appellee.

Before ROSS and JOHN R. GIBSON, Circuit Judges, and MEREDITH, [*] Senior District Judge.

JOHN R. GIBSON, Circuit Judge.

Sanyo Manufacturing, Inc. appeals a judgment entered for Earl Holley on a jury verdict of willful discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. Secs. 621-634 (1982). Holley was discharged in 1982 when Sanyo instituted a plant-wide reduction-in-force at its Forrest City, Arkansas location and combined Holley's position with that of a younger man. We hold that since Holley offered no evidence of age discrimination beyond these facts, he did not make his case under the statute. Therefore, we reverse.

In 1979, Earl Holley went to work for Sanyo Manufacturing, Inc. at its Forrest City, Arkansas plant as a cabinet finishing foreman in the wood products division. In February 1980, he was promoted to general foreman but later that year was downgraded and shifted to the position of finishing coordinator, after the company determined he could not handle the pressures of being a general foreman. In the spring of 1981, Holley took a two-month leave of absence to undergo heart bypass surgery and afterward returned to the same job. In January 1982, Holley was terminated by Sanyo. His supervisor at that time was Wally Ball, who was involved in deciding who should be fired under the reduction-in-force. Wally Ball's brother, Stanley Ball, had been hired and trained by Holley. When Holley was discharged, Holley's position of finishing coordinator was combined with Stanley Ball's position, and Stanley Ball was given the new job.

After his discharge, Holley brought this action against Sanyo, alleging age discrimination. At trial, he testified to his experience in the wood finishing field, his training of Stanley Ball, his conflicts with Wally Ball, and the circumstances surrounding his discharge. Other witnesses for Holley testified to his abilities and experience. There was also testimony that the quality of work on the line Holley was responsible for declined after Stanley Ball took over.

Sanyo presented evidence that Holley's discharge was part of a general reduction-in-force and consequent reorganization of positions. There was testimony that by the end of 1981 the plant was operating at about 20% of capacity. The hourly work force was reduced from 228 in July 1981 to 110 in March 1982. The salaried work force during the same period decreased from 49 to 37. Approximately one-fourth of the salaried work force was laid off in the department in which Holley was employed.

There was testimony that Sanyo selected those to be laid off by considering their work records, seniority, and the need for the work that was performed. There was also testimony that before the termination Sanyo made an analysis of the effects of the layoff on race, sex, and age groups. In Holley's department eight of 31 salaried employees were discharged. Two of these eight were over 40 years old. The discharges caused both the average age of the employees and the percentage of employees within the statutory age-protected class to slightly increase.

After Sanyo's motion for a directed verdict was denied, the jury returned its verdict for Holley, found compensatory damages in the amount of $41,568.23, and found by a preponderance of the evidence that the age discrimination was willful. Based upon this verdict, the district court awarded a like amount for liquidated damages, awarded attorneys' fees in the amount of $7,830.40, and entered judgment

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for Holley. Sanyo's motion for judgment n.o.v. was also denied.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes unlawful the discharge of an employee because of his age 1 but specifically excepts discharge for "good cause." 2 Sanyo argues that Holley was discharged because of a general reduction-in-force dictated by business necessities (which is "good cause") and that he has shown no other reason for his discharge. Thus, Sanyo argues that Holley did not make a submissible case for the jury, and, consequently, that the district court erred in not granting Sanyo's motions for a directed verdict and for judgment n.o.v.

We may find for Sanyo only if "all the evidence points one way and is susceptible of no reasonable inferences sustaining the position" of Holley. Crues v. KFC Corp., 729 F.2d 1145, 1148 (8th Cir.1984) (quoting Dace v. ACF Industries, 722 F.2d 374, 375 (8th Cir.1983) (quoting Decker-Ruhl Ford Sales v. Ford Motor Credit Co., 523 F.2d 833, 836 (8th Cir.1975) ) ). Further, we must assume as true all facts in Holley's favor which the evidence tends to prove and give him the benefit of all reasonable inferences. See Craft v. Metromedia, Inc., 766 F.2d 1205, 1218 (8th Cir.1985). The task before us is, bearing in mind this standard, to adduce the nature of proof required under the ADEA and to evaluate the evidence Holley presented at trial against such requirements.

Because the ADEA grew out of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 3 and because much of the language of the ADEA parallels that of Title VII, 4 we have held that the guidelines of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), a Title VII case, may be applied to ADEA cases. See Halsell v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., 683 F.2d 285, 289 (8th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1205, 103 S.Ct. 1194, 75 L.Ed.2d 438 (1983); Cova v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co., 574 F.2d 958, 959 (8th Cir.1978). McDonnell Douglas lays out a three-step "judicial minuet" in which the burden of production rests first on the plaintiff to establish his prima facie case, then on the defendant "to articulate some legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection," 411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. at 1824, and finally again on the plaintiff to show that the defendant's reasons were pretextual. Id. at 804, 93 S.Ct. at 1825; see Texas...

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