Shannahan v. B.F. Goodrich Aerospace Co.

Decision Date06 January 1998
Docket NumberNo. 1:96-CV-993.,1:96-CV-993.
Citation993 F.Supp. 1107
PartiesPatrick SHANNAHAN, Plaintiff, v. B.F. GOODRICH AEROSPACE CO., Landing Gear Division, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio

Michael Terrence Conway, Strongsville, OH, for Patrick Shannahan.

Stephen C. Sutton, Millisor & Nobil, Kenneth B. Stark, Duvin, Cahn & Hutton, Cleveland, OH, for B.F. Goodrich Aerospace Co., Landing Gear Division.


GWIN, District Judge.

On March 27, 1997, Defendant B.F. Goodrich Aerospace Landing Gear Division filed a motion for summary judgment [Doc. 29]. Plaintiff filed his response on July 3, 1997 [Doc. 41]. The Court decides whether Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for summary judgment against Plaintiff is granted. There is no dispute as to the material facts. The following constitutes the Court's findings and conclusions pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52.

I. Facts and Issues

In this case, Plaintiff makes claim against his former employer, Defendant B.F. Goodrich Aerospace Landing Gear Division. In his complaint, Plaintiff has alleged that (1) he was constructively discharged because of his Irish national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; (2) he was wrongfully discharged in breach of a contract founded on a theory of promissory estoppel; and (3) he was defamed by Defendant by virtue of the distribution of signs published by an unknown person(s) identifying Plaintiff as an "Authentic Irishman."

A. Facts

In May 1995, Plaintiff applied for employment as a maintenance supervisor with Defendant. The Plaintiff applied in response to an advertisement placed by Defendant in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.1

Thereafter, Plaintiff was interviewed on two occasions. During the first interview, Plaintiff met with three division managers: (1) Ernie Jones ("Jones"); (2) Ajit Patra ("Patra"); and (3) Dale Simpson ("Simpson"). In individual meetings with these men, Plaintiff discussed his qualifications for the position and completed an employment application. That application clearly advised Plaintiff of his right to voluntarily leave Defendant's employment at any time and, likewise, clearly advised Plaintiff of Defendant's corresponding right to terminate him at any time. The application said:

I understand that this application and any other Company documents are not contracts of employment, and anyone who is hired may voluntarily leave employment, and may be terminated by the employer at any time and for any or no reason. I understand that any oral or written statements to the contrary are expressly disavowed.2

On June 7, 1995, Plaintiff met with Defendant's representatives for a second interview.3 Following those interviews, Defendant B.F. Goodrich extended Plaintiff Shannahan an offer to work as a Second Shift Maintenance Supervisor. The Plaintiff accepted the offer. To confirm their understanding, Jones sent a letter confirming his acceptance. In that letter, Defendant verified that Plaintiff would receive an annual salary of $45,248.00 and again confirmed Plaintiff's at-will employment status by stating: "The quotation of salary is for convenience only and does not imply a commitment of employment for any specific period of time."4 The Plaintiff began working on July 15, 1995, and reported directly to Patra, Manager of Facilities and Maintenance.

As a Second Shift Maintenance Supervisor, Plaintiff Shannahan's job duties included coordinating the repair of equipment with production supervisors, assisting in trouble-shooting, and overseeing the preventive maintenance of Defendant's manufacturing equipment. The United Auto Workers Local 2333 represented the nine maintenance employees Plaintiff Shannahan supervised. Plaintiff recognized that in a union environment, fostering positive labor relations was an important part of his job.5

In the first week of January 1996, Plaintiff scheduled the maintenance employees who would be working overtime on Sunday, January 7, 1996.6 After Plaintiff made his selection of the employees to work on that day, Bob Williams ("Williams"), a first shift electrician approached Plaintiff to discuss the overtime assignment. According to Plaintiff, Williams requested that Plaintiff assign an additional first shift electrician to work Sunday overtime. In response, Plaintiff stated that he was authorized only to assign one electrician and that he was "tired of hearing [Williams] cry about the overtime, and that if he was upset about the decision that [Plaintiff] was limited to, then [Williams] should write a grievance." In turn, Williams insisted that Plaintiff adhere to the terms of the contract or else Williams would take the matter to higher management.

The conversation thereafter escalated to a hostile level. The Plaintiff admittedly states that he raised his voice and told Williams to "get out of [his] face and that he didn't give a "flying f___" about Williams' knowledge of the contract." Before leaving the maintenance area to return to his office, it appears that Plaintiff punctuated the conversation with additional vulgarities, including the statement to Williams that "instead of flopping your jaw, why don't you get up off your dead f___ ass and write the grievance." Offended by Plaintiff's outburst, Williams informed Union officials of the incident.

On January 9, 1996, Local 2333 business representative Joe Cantale, Union steward Tom Leedham, and Williams met with Patra to complain about Plaintiff's conduct toward Williams. Thereafter, Patra met with Plaintiff to discuss the matter.7 After their meeting, Patra informed Plaintiff that he would investigate the matter and get back to him.

On January 15, 1996, after completing his investigation, Patra again met with Plaintiff to discuss his findings, including informing Plaintiff that witnesses had heard him utter profanity.8 Patra told Plaintiff that his use of profanity was unacceptable and that he was to change his management style when dealing with employees.

At the beginning of the first shift the next morning, January 16, 1996, Simpson discovered that several photocopied signs had been hung throughout the Maintenance Department. The signs were printed on 8½" × 11" paper and read as follows:

"Patrick Shannahan"


Irish Man

For Hire

Story Telling & Singing

Dancing & Carrying On

Available All Hours

Experienced Drinking Companion.

Simpson immediately gathered up all of the signs in the department and showed a copy to Patra.9

Thereafter, Patra met with Human Resource Director Jordan to inform him of the discussion with Plaintiff the previous day and to show Jordan a copy of the sign. After some discussion, Patra concurred with Jordan's recommendation that Plaintiff should talk directly with Williams and apologize for directing profanity toward him. Later that afternoon, Patra again met with Plaintiff at which time Patra showed Plaintiff one of the signs that Simpson had collected. Patra stated that he believed that the signs represented an escalation of his altercation with Williams and then suggested to Plaintiff that he "express regrets" or apologize to Williams during a one-on-one meeting. The Plaintiff refused to do so. In response, Patra suggested that they together talk to Jordan.

The three men met in Human Resource Director Jordan's office that afternoon. There, Plaintiff described his version of the event to Jordan. In response, Jordan explained why Plaintiff's use of profanity was improper. The Plaintiff became upset, accusing Patra of undercutting his and fellow supervisors' authority. The Plaintiff then stated that Jordan and Patra were leaving him no choice but to quit. Jordan indicated that they did not want him to resign. Apparently "livid," Plaintiff exited the meeting to have a cigarette.

Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff returned and announced to Jordan and Patra that he had decided to quit, but that he would stay on until they found a replacement for him. In response, Jordan indicated that it was not necessary for Plaintiff to quit and suggested that they plan a further meeting to discuss the matter the following week. Although he was still not willing to apologize to Williams, Plaintiff agreed to meet further.

The next day, Human Resource Director Jordan met with Plaintiff. In this conversation, Jordan told Plaintiff that he had decided to except Plaintiff's resignation. He told Plaintiff that he would be paid through January 24, 1996.10 Upon learning of Jordan's decision, Plaintiff "unloaded" on Jordan about Patra's management style. Thereafter, Jordan informed Plaintiff that the Benefits Manager would assist him in filling out the necessary paperwork in relation to his voluntary separation. This lawsuit was filed several months later.

B. Issues

The court reviews three issues: (1) whether Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim that he was constructively discharged from his employment due to Defendant's alleged discrimination on the basis of Plaintiff's Irish national origin; (2) whether Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim of wrongful discharge as asserted under the theory of promissory estoppel; and (3) whether Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim for defamation arising from the placement the "Authentic Irish Man" sign.

II. Standard of Review

FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c), states the procedure for granting summary judgment. It says in part:

[t]he judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970...

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2 cases
  • Young v. Dayton Power & Light Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • May 14, 2012
    ...fault." Id. (citations omitted). "A claim for defamation requires specific and personalized liability." Shannahan v. B.F. Goodrich Aerospace Co., 993 F.Supp. 1107, 1118 (N.D. Ohio 1998). Courts in this district have stated that "where an employee makes allegedly false or defamatory statemen......
  • Kendrick v. Walgreen Co., Case No. 3:11-cv-404
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • November 19, 2012
    ...fault." Id. (citations omitted). "A claim for defamation requires specific and personalized liability." Shannahan v. B.F. Goodrich Aerospace Co., 993 F.Supp. 1107, 1118 (N.D. Ohio 1998). In this case, Plaintiff makes no effort to support her claim for defamation in responding to Defendants'......

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