The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard F. Cebull U. S. District Court Judge
Plaintiff Daniel Speer was formerly employed in Billings as a Lab Training Coordinator by Defendant United Blood Services ("UBS"). UBS is a division of Blood Systems, Inc. ("BSI"). UBS terminated Plaintiff's employment as of December 31, 2009. Plaintiff alleges claims under Montana's Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act and Montana's Human Rights Act based on alleged violations of age and disability discrimination
Defendant UBS moves for Summary Judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims.
Plaintiff began his employ with UBS in August 1988 as a Lab Technician. In the fall of 2008, Plaintiff was promoted to a temporary lab trainer to train new employees as lab technicians at its Billings location. On November 18, 2008, Plaintiff signed UBS' job description form for a Lab Training Coordinator. In light of this new position, Plaintiff received a raise as well as bonuses. In December 2009, Plaintiff received a letter from Executive Director of UBS Rocky Mountain Region William Henry informing him that his position had been eliminated due to a reduction in force (RIF). On December 31, 2009, Plaintiff's position was terminated. At the time Plaintiff's position was terminated, he was in his mid-fifties and had been with UBS for over twenty years.
Until 2009, Plaintiff had continually received better than average job evaluations and salary increases. On May 21, 2009, Plaintiff received a Letter of Formal Reprimand and Documentation of Written Warning from his supervisor Marni Wild. That letter informed Plaintiff of three instances where he failed to follow UBS Standard Operating Procedures in spite of a verbal warning.*fn1 UBS considered these instances to be a "major violation."
Subsequent to the Letter of Reprimand, Plaintiff requested a FMLA leave of absence due a medical condition (anxiety, depression and stress). The leave started on May 28, 2009 and continued until July 30, 2009. For portions of the days between August 4 and August 29, 2009, Plaintiff took additional leave for the same reasons. During these periods, Plaintiff was still paid in accordance with UBS' short-term disability benefits plan.
Beginning in 2009, UBS designated its Billings, Montana location as a "Center Needing Improvement."*fn2 On September 18, 2009, Plaintiff was informed by UBS' Human Resources Director, Corinna Damm about UBS' corporate decision regarding reduction in force. The decision regarding which employee would be affected by the reduction in workforce was made by UBS' Executive Director William Henry.*fn3 In determining which positions to eliminate, Henry states that he did not utilize any employee's personal information, such as age, or disability.*fn4 Further, no lower managers or supervisors made RIF decisions.*fn5
The RIF criteria that Henry relied on in deciding which positions to eliminate were from BSI's policies and included: (1) unnecessary job titles; (2) unnecessary job duties; (3) inappropriate job titles such as supervisor titles without any direct reports; (4) job duties that could be reasonably assigned within a department; (5) job duties that could be reasonably assigned within the Rocky Mountain Region; and (6) new job titles needing to be added along with a detailed listing of job duties and time details to establish full time equivalents needed to meet the current operational business needs.*fn6
Based on these criteria, one of the positions that Henry identified for reduction was Plaintiff's position as Lab Training Coordinator. Henry avers that this position was the only position of its kind in the entire UBS Rocky Mountain Region and he determined that it should not be a full time position.*fn7 Further, Henry felt that the workload and duties of a Lab Training Coordinator could be effectively performed by other staff and managers and that no additional positions would be needed to cover the workload.*fn8
Between September 2007 and December 2010, 34 UBS employees were terminated. Of those, the majority were under the age of 45 and only one employee had a disability.*fn9 At the time Plaintiff was terminated, there were no laboratory technician positions available.*fn10 However, during the summer of 2009 and while the Plaintiff was on Medical Leave, UBS did hire a new lab technician. In addition, in February 2010, after Plaintiff had been terminated, UBS advertised for a lab technician position at its Billings location.
Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The moving party has the initial burden of "identifying for the court those portions of the materials on file in the case that it believes demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). If the moving party meets its burden, then the opposing party may not defeat a motion for summary judgment in the absence of any significant probative evidence tending to support its legal theory. Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Savage, 611 F.2d 270, 282 (9th Cir.1979).
A party moving for summary judgment who does not have the burden of persuasion at trial, must produce evidence which either: (1) negates an essential element of the non-moving party's claim, or (2) shows that the non-moving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to ultimately carry his burden at trial. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Companies, Inc., 210 F.3d 1000, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). Once the moving party has satisfied its burden, the non-moving party must identify evidence establishing that a dispute as to a particular material fact is genuine. Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The opponent "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. And the opponent "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but must set forth facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
An issue of fact is "genuine" if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable factfinder to find for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248--49. A fact is "material" if it may affect the outcome of the case. Id. at 248. "In considering a motion for summary judgment the court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations, and is required to draw all inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party." Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d ...