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O'Connor v. Cymer, LLC

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 7, 2018

MICHAEL O'CONNOR, Plaintiff,
v.
CYMER, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID C. NYE U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Cymer, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. 33. Having reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court will decide the Motion without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons outlined below, the Court finds good cause to GRANT the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. BACKGROUND

         O'Connor began working for Cymer as a Field Service Specialist in 1996 in San Diego, California. Three years later, Cymer transferred O'Connor to Boise, Idaho, to work as a Field Service Engineer (“FSE”) at Micron Technology Inc. In this position, O'Connor serviced Cymer's lasers in use at Micron's facilities. Through a contract with Micron, Cymer was required to service its lasers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and to keep its equipment in service and operational 99.5% of the time. For most of his tenure in Boise, O'Connor was Cymer's only FSE on-call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Through the years, O'Connor progressed at Cymer from an FSE 1 to an FSE 4-the highest level FSE. Cymer also gave O'Connor annual pay raises and bonuses.

         In July 2012, David Robertson became O'Connor's manager. Cymer had employed Robertson since 1991. When he became O'Connor's manager, Robertson began reviewing the performance of Cymer's lasers at Micron. He thought O'Connor was not properly maintaining the lasers, was not meeting the requirement to keep the equipment in service and operational 99.5% of the time, and that repairs were taking longer than expected. O'Connor disagrees with Robertson's assessment of his performance. In his 2012 and 2013 performance reviews, Robertson rated O'Connor's overall performance as a 3.2 and 3.26 respectively; under Cymer's rating system, any rating between at 3.00 and 3.99 indicated that the employee was meeting expectations. In addition, O'Connor notes that, despite Robertson's alleged concerns about his performance, Robertson gave him merit-based raises and merit-based bonuses in 2013 and 2014 for his performance in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

         Around April 2014, Robertson began scheduling phone calls with O'Connor to discuss his performance. O'Connor asserts these calls were unnecessary because there was no problem with his performance and Robertson was simply “picking on” him.

         At some point in 2013 or 2014, O'Connor contacted Dawn Vinson, a member of Cymer's Human Resources Department, and reported that that Robertson was harassing him. O'Connor maintains that, over the course of several years, Robertson made hundreds of disparaging comments about O'Connor's longevity of service and income, told O'Connor he needed to find a new position, and asked O'Connor about his timeline for leaving Cymer. O'Connor also asserts Robertson repeatedly and often described the new, young field service technicians as “supermen.” In June 2014, O'Connor contacted Vinson and stated that he wanted to file a harassment claim against Robertson. O'Connor asserts Vinson discouraged him from filing the claim. It is not clear whether O'Connor went through with this claim and it does not appear that Vinson ever produced a written report regarding O'Connor's complaints. Vinson did, however, discuss O'Connor's allegations with Robertson, who denied them.

         On August 5, 2014, Robertson put O'Connor on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”). Vinson reviewed the PIP before Robertson gave it to O'Connor and discussed with Robertson his concerns and expectations regarding O'Connor's performance. O'Connor was required to complete the PIP in 90 days. Robertson gave O'Connor the PIP the day before he was scheduled to go on a two-week vacation, of which Robertson was aware. In addition, Robertson was scheduled to go on vacation immediately after O'Connor's return. O'Connor maintains Robertson told him to “read [the PIP] and weep, ” and that he would never receive another favorable performance review.

         The PIP outlined examples of O'Connor's alleged deficient performance. O'Connor maintains these examples are “demonstrably false.” O'Connor complained to Vinson about the false statements in the PIP and, on October 1, 2014, he provided some notes, emails, and “oracle service reports” to Vinson in an attempt to disprove Robertson's statements. Vinson investigated and discussed the allegations in the PIP with both Robertson and O'Connor. O'Connor asserts that Vinson told him she was removing all the false statements from the PIP. O'Connor then believed there was no foundation for the PIP and that he was no longer bound by the PIP. Accordingly, on October 31, 2014, O'Connor sent an e-mail to Robertson, copying Vinson, saying, “I will no longer attend nor talk to you about anything to do with this PIP. You know why --.” Cymer maintains that Vinson and Robertson made clear to O'Connor that he was still bound by and required to complete the PIP, and that completion of the PIP was a condition of his continued employment. Cymer asserts that, because O'Connor refused to participate in the PIP or discuss the PIP with Robertson, on November 5, 2014, Vinson and Robertson terminated O'Connor's employment with Cymer. O'Connor was 52 years old at the time of his termination. O'Connor believes Vinson and Robertson terminated him because of his age. He notes that the PIP was the first discipline he had experienced in his 18 years at Cymer, he did not think his employment depended on completing the PIP, and Robertson and Vinson jumped straight to termination instead of utilizing a progressive discipline plan.

         Following O'Connor's departure from Cymer, Randy Tisdale performed O'Connor's duties until Cymer hired another FSE. Tisdale, who was born on February 26, 1962, is three weeks younger than O'Connor, who was born on February 2, 1962. In March 2015, Cymer hired Peter Tomchak as an FSE 2 in Boise to replace O'Connor. Tomchak was born on April 6, 1970. Thus, he was 44 years old when he replaced O'Connor.

         O'Connor filed this case on December 12, 2016. He then filed an Amended Complaint in May 2017. Dkt. 22. O'Connor asserts claims of age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and the Idaho Human Rights Act (“IHRA”).[1] In August 2017, this case was transferred to the undersigned. On January 12, 2018, Cymer filed the pending Motion for Summary Judgment. It is now fully briefed and ripe for decision.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper “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). This Court's role at summary judgment is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Zetwick v. Cty. of Yolo, 850 F.3d 436, 441 (9th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). In considering a motion for summary judgment, this Court must “view[] the facts in the non-moving party's favor.” Id. To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the respondent need only present evidence upon which “a reasonable juror drawing all inferences in favor of the respondent could return a verdict in [his or her] favor.” Id. (citation omitted). Accordingly, this Court must enter summary judgment if a party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The respondent cannot simply rely on an ...


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