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Culver v. Comcast Cable Communications Management, LLC

United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, Southern Division

May 19, 2015

GREG A. CULVER, Plaintiff,


JANET T. NEFF United States District Judge

Pending before the Court is Defendant Comcast’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt 45) in this age discrimination case stemming from the termination of Plaintiff’s employment on the ground that he violated Defendant’s conduct policy prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. Plaintiff has filed a Response opposing the motion (Dkt 50), and Defendant has filed a Reply (Dkt 49). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Defendant’s motion.

I. Facts

The parties have stipulated to the facts as follows for purposes of the motion for summary judgment (Dkt 45):

1. Plaintiff worked for Comcast (and its predecessors) from March 22, 1982 to November 9, 2012. (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., pp. 10-11.) He was last employed as a Technical Operations Manager, overseeing the Richland and Muskegon facilities. (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., pp. 84-87; Ex. 2, Anderson Dep., p. 46.) He generally spent three days a week working out of the Richland facility and two working out of Muskegon. (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., pp. 84-90.)

2. Plaintiff was the top manager present on a day-to-day basis in the Richland facility (no other manager was located in Richland) where he oversaw three supervisors and about 30 Technicians. (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., pp. 84-90; Ex. 2, Anderson Dep., pp. 61, 68, 137.)

3. Comcast maintained policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment in the workplace, which included making sexually suggestive jokes or derogatory sexual comments. (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., pp. 95-96; Ex. 3, Handbook; Ex. 4, Code of Conduct.) Under Comcast’s policies, management level employees had additional responsibilities, including, setting the right example and creating an open and safe working environment. (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., pp. 98-99; Ex. 4, Code of Conduct, p. 7.) Plaintiff was trained in accordance with Comcast’s anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policies. (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., pp. 96-98; Ex. 5, Plaintiff’s Anti-Harassment Training.)

4. Comcast terminated Plaintiff’s employment on November 9, 2012. (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., p. 78.) Comcast initially promoted Brian Armstrong to Plaintiff’s vacated position. (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., pp. 173; Ex. 2, Anderson Dep., pp. 134-135.) Soon thereafter, Comcast reorganized and Francis McNamara took over responsibility for the Richland office. (Ex. 2, Anderson Dep., pp. 134-135; Ex. 7, McNamara, pp. 15-17.)

5. At the time of his discharge, Plaintiff was 50 years old (date of birth: 12/9/1961), Armstrong was 34 (2/19/1978), and McNamara was 43 (7/20/1969). (Ex. 1, Culver Dep., p. 9; Ex. 6, Armstrong I-9; Ex. 7, McNamara Dep., p. 5.)

II. Summary Judgment 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). The court must consider the evidence and all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Burgess v. Fischer, 735 F.3d 462, 471 (6th Cir. 2013); U.S. S.E.C. v. Sierra Brokerage Servs., Inc., 712 F.3d 321, 327 (6th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).

The moving party has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Jakubowski v. Christ Hosp., Inc., 627 F.3d 195, 200 (6th Cir. 2010). The burden then “shifts to the nonmoving party, who must present some ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). “There is no genuine issue for trial where the record ‘taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.’” Burgess, 735 F.3d at 471 (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus., Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). “The ultimate inquiry is ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.’” Sierra Brokerage Servs., 712 F.3d at 327 (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).

III. Discussion

Plaintiff alleges age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), Mich. Comp. Laws § 37.2101 et seq. The analytic framework and evidentiary burdens for Plaintiff’s claims are the same under either statute for purposes of this motion. See Geiger v. Tower Automotive, 579 F.3d 614, 621-22, 626 (6th Cir. 2009); Hughes v. Gen. Motors Corp., 212 F. ...

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