Thompson v. CSX Transp., Inc.

Decision Date31 January 2022
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 3:20-0699
Citation582 F.Supp.3d 355
Parties Darrell A. THOMPSON, Plaintiff, v. CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., a Florida corporation, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia

Anthony Brunicardi, II, Kirk Auvil, Walt Auvil, The Employment Law Center, Parkersburg, WV, Gregory G. Paul, Pro Hac Vice, Morgan & Paul, Pittsburgh, PA, for Plaintiff.

Cameron G. Kynes, Pro Hac Vice, Thomas R. Brice, McGuire Woods, Jacksonville, FL, Melissa Foster Bird, Nathan R. Hamons, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, Huntington, WV, Elizabeth M. Thomas, McGuire Woods, Pittsburgh, PA, for Defendant.



Pending before the Court is Defendant CSX Transportation Inc.’s Motion for Summary Judgement. ECF No. 31. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED .


Plaintiff Darrell A. Thompson (Plaintiff) was hired by Defendant in 2006 as a Plant Manager in the Barboursville Bridge Shop. Pl.’s Dep. , ECF No. 32-3, at 20–21. The Bridge Shop manufactures parts and structures for bridges across Defendant's railway system. Id. at 23. Plaintiff was the sole manager responsible for managing seventeen employees at this location. Id. at 23–24; Sparks’ Dep. , ECF No. 32-7, at 80. Plaintiff reported to the Assistant Chief Engineer of Structures, Ed Sparks (Sparks), from 2012 until 2017. Pl.’s Dep. , ECF No. 32-3, at 21. Plaintiff then reported to Jacob Metcalf (Metcalf). Id. at 23. When Plaintiff first started at the Bridge Shop in 2006, senior foremen, clerks, and other employees were employed there. Sparks’ Dec. , ECF No. 32-9, ¶ 4. However, over the years, these senior employees retired. Plaintiff became the most tenured employee at the Bridge Shop, having worked for Defendant for fourteen years. Both Sparks and Metcalf reference this "generational shift" in communications regarding Plaintiff's performance. See Sparks’ Dep. , ECF No. 32-7, at 143–44, see Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 7 (email from Metcalf referencing the "generational shift").

Every year Plaintiff received a performance rating. The following reflects those ratings:

Year Performance Score
2012 3.3 out of 4
2013 3.2 out of 4
2014 Sometimes Achieved Expectations
2015 Achieved Expectations
2016 Exceeded Expectations
2017 Achieved Expectations
2018 Sometimes Achieved Expectations
2019 Sometimes Achieved Expectations

Sparks’ Dep. , ECF No. 32-7, at 49. A "Sometimes Achieved Expectations" review represents a score of a two out of five. Id. at 48. Sparks testified that any time an employee failed to meet expectations, this would be a negative review. Id. at 51.

In February of 2019, Plaintiff was counseled on and received a poor performance warning. Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 10–11; Metcalf's Dec. , ECF No. 32-10 ¶ 3. This document outlined five points of concern, including: 1) poor communication; 2) lack of accountability regarding quality issues and miscues; 3) a sense of confusion and disarray at the shop; 4) lack of presence on the shop floor; and 5) daily attendance, shop schedule, and shop practices issues. Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 10–11. Two or three weeks before he received this poor performance review, Plaintiff alleges that Sparks visited the Bridge Shop and questioned Plaintiff about his age and his plans for retirement. Pl.’s Dep. , ECF No. 32-3, at 34–35; see Pl.’s Compl. , ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 8–11.

Following the performance warning, Defendant documented several issues with Plaintiff's performance. Metcalf received feedback indicating that Plaintiff continued to fail to hold the Bridge Shop employees accountable for miscues, which was identified as an area of improvement in the performance warning. Metcalf's Dec. , ECF No. 32-10, ¶ 4. Plaintiff was also notified of issues with painting procedure by the Bridge Shop that were supposed to have already been eliminated. Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 29–30. Plaintiff did not timely follow up with the answers requested about the painting issue, and Sparks had to reach out again to Plaintiff. Id. at 29. Further, several employees at the Bridge Shop wrote a letter raising concerns about communications between the employees and the management at the Shop. Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 41–42. Both lack of communication and accountability concerning quality issues were areas of improvement identified by the February 2019 performance warning. Id. at 10.

In July 2019, Metcalf visited the Bridge Shop and discovered that employees were smoking inside a temperature-controlled paint-storage facility. Metcalf's Dec. , ECF No. 32-10, ¶ 6; Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 8–9. Metcalf had specifically indicated in the performance warning that employee entitlement and setting clear expectations were areas of improvement for Plaintiff. Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 10.

In November of 2019, Sparks sent an email to Plaintiff expressing concerns about costs with the Bridge Shop. Id. at 26. Sparks also visited the Bridge Shop in November and noted that Plaintiff closed himself off in his office with the blinds shut, which Sparks took to reflect his lack of presence on the shop floor, as was identified in the performance warning. Sparks’ Dec. , ECF No. 32-9, ¶ 8; Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 5.

Then, in January of 2020, Metcalf sent an email to Plaintiff expressing continued frustrations with respect to issues with overtime documented by Bridge Shop employees. Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 28. Maintaining the shop schedule was an area of improvement identified by the 2019 performance warning. Id. at 11. Metcalf also counseled Plaintiff with respect to missing work without providing notice. Metcalf's Dec. , ECF No. 32-10, ¶ 8; Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 27. Additionally, Metcalf noted that he counseled plaintiff regarding misuse of overtime, which was identified in the performance warning. Metcalf's Dec. , ECF No. 32-10, ¶ 7.

In addition to these documented issues with Plaintiff's performance, Defendant hired an auditor to evaluate the Bridge Shop in August of 2019. This evaluation revealed that the shop had no documented process for tasks. Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 33. The performance warning identified "improved processes" as an area of improvement. Id. at 11.

Metcalf detailed these numerous issues with Plaintiff's performance in an email sent to Heather Gravelle (a human resources business partner) and Sparks to initiate Plaintiff's termination. Id. at 7–9. In this email, he reiterates several deficiencies in Plaintiff's performance, including:

• Unaccountability (always having excuses, does not get involved, delegates duties, remains unavailable, has questionable attendance)
• Lack of interest in job (lack of morning production meetings, no production flow, no plan to meet scheduled dates, has foreman provide reports for Friday calls, cannot answer most questions)
• Lack of communication (remains in office or runs errands, does not communicate with team)
• Lack of discipline (shop employees set own production rate/schedule or run their own program, no structure to shop responsibility, multiple problems with payroll and billing, few testing failures only after direct encouragement from superiors)
• Lack of skills (lacks skills to thrive in the shop management setting, fails to apply effort in self-betterment or learning)

Id. at 7–8. The nature of these complaints appeared ongoing. See Pl.’s Dep. , ECF No. 32-1, at 109 (discussing how Plaintiff was non-responsive to project status updates for three consecutive months in 2018), id. at 110 (discussing issues with payroll back in 2018), id. at 113–14 (discussing production issues in 2018). Metcalf's email also summarized some of the documented incidents with Plaintiff that Metcalf noted. This list included:

• When Plaintiff missed work without informing a supervisor
• The payroll issues with overtime
• The numerous complaints Metcalf has received about Plaintiff's lack of communication, to the point that field supervisors did not even attempt to communicate with him, in addition to the Union complaint that highlighted the mishandling of employee issues
• When Plaintiff allowed an impromptu Union meeting during work hours which resulted in a cussing match
Plaintiff's lack of initiation with respect to updating the shop schedule spreadsheet
• When employees were found smoking inside the temperature-controlled paint storage facility, highlighting the sense of entitlement among craft employees
• Lack of housekeeping and organization

Ex. B , ECF No. 32-12, at 8. In addition to the issues Metcalf and Sparks observed, there were incidents at the Bridge Shop where several employees reached out and raised complaints about Plaintiff. Some of these complaints concerned an issue of alleged unfair treatment and harassment of a Mr. Jason Adams by Plaintiff. Pl.’s Dep. , ECF No. 32-1, at 52–61. An investigation of this complaint determined that such complaint was "unsubstantiated," but this investigation revealed communication and relationship issues between Plaintiff and the Bridge Shop employees. See Sparks’ Dep. , ECF No. 32-7, at 175–185.

Plaintiff was terminated on February 19, 2020. Gravelle's Dep. , ECF No. 32-5, at 14; see Pl.’s Dep. , ECF No. 32-1, at 62. Present at Plaintiff's termination were Jacob Metcalf, Diane Esque, and Chris Bowens. Gravelle's Dep. , ECF No. 32-5, at 19.

Plaintiff filed this action for age discrimination on October 19, 2020. Pl.’s Compl. , ECF No. 1.


To obtain summary judgment, the moving party must 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. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court will not "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter[.]" Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Instead, the court will draw any permissible inference from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party....

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT