United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
Corbett O'Meara United States District Judge
the court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment,
which has been fully briefed. Pursuant to L.R. 7.1, the court
did not hear oral argument.
Joanne Alberty, is suing her former employer, Columbus
Township. Plaintiff alleges that she was terminated from her
position as the Assistant to the Columbus Township Assessor
in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
was hired by Columbus Township in 1997 when she was appointed
to the position of Deputy Clerk by Columbus Township Clerk
Patricia Iseler. Subsequently, Plaintiff became the Assistant
to the Township Assessor, working part time at a rate of
$13.50 per hour. From 2002 to 2013, the Township Assessor was
Susan Hansman, who was under contract with the township.
Christy was elected Township Supervisor in 2012. His priority
was to balance the township budget, which had shortfalls due
to falling property values between 2008 and 2012.
See Defs.' Exs. D, E, F. At the March 2013 Board
meeting, Christy anticipated a budget shortfall of $31, 000
for 2013, in addition to a $67, 000 shortfall the previous
year. In addition to other cost-saving measures, Christy
suggested that the Assessing department's expenses should
be reviewed. The Board agreed that the Township
Assessor's contract should be put out for bid, which had
not been done since 2002. Defs'. Ex. G (3/12/13 meeting
minutes). (Unspoken at this meeting was that Christy had a
disagreement with Assessor Hansman's assessment of his
own property value in 2012.) Defs.' Ex. I. Christy
suggested that a change in the Assessor could affect
Plaintiff: “If the Board decides to replace the
assessor they would have to decide what to do with Joanne at
that point.” Id.
same time, Plaintiff was seeking a pay raise, having not
received one in years. She made an oral request to the Board
in February 2013 and a written request in April 2013.
Defs.' Ex. H, I. Also at the April 2013 Board meeting,
Assessor Hansman took issue with the Board's decision to
put her contract out for bid, defending her job performance
and her rate. See also Defs' Ex. I. The Board
did not address the assessor's concerns at the meeting
and also decided to table Plaintiff's request for a raise
until the May meeting.
May meeting, Township Clerk Iseler moved to deny
Plaintiff's pay increase. Assessor Hansman requested that
the Board consider a deal before voting. Hansman suggested
taking $.50 per parcel from her pay to contribute towards a
$1.00 per hour raise for Plaintiff (working 20 hours per
week). The Board tabled a decision until the June meeting.
Defs.' Ex. J.
June 13, 2013 meeting, Trustee Duncan moved for a $2.00 per
hour pay raise for Plaintiff. The motion failed. There was
further discussion about giving Plaintiff some sort of raise.
Without resolving that issue, the Board voted 3-2 to
terminate Assessor Hansman's employment agreement with
the Township “due to budget concerns.” Defs.'
Ex. K. This result was met with hostility from Trustee
Duncan, who said “I could spit on every one of you
guys”; Assessor Hansman, who threatened to sue; and the
township building inspector, who resigned in protest.
Iseler moved to terminate Plaintiff's employment,
“due to budget concerns.” Id. The motion
carried, along the same lines as the vote to terminate
Hansman. At the time of her termination, Plaintiff was 74
years old. Christy moved to set the pay of township clerical
employees at $12 per hour for new hires, with a limit of 15
hours per week. The motion carried.
special meeting on June 25, 2013, the Board considered
proposals for the Assessor position. They had received
applications from Hansman ($13.50 per parcel), Lisa Griffin
($16.53 per parcel) and Peggy Chambers ($11.80 per parcel).
Although her application did not mention an assistant,
Chambers told the Board that she had her own assistant, who
would work for the hours and rate previously approved by the
Board. See Defs.' Exs. L, M. The Board voted to
offer the position to Chambers. Chambers brought her
assistant, Carly Kimmen (age 30), to the township as the
to Hansman, Chambers told her that Christy had approached her
about bidding on the assessor's position. Christy
allegedly told Chambers how much Hansman charged so that
Chambers could be sure to bid lower. See Pl.'s
Ex. 14 (Affidavit of Susan Hansman).
ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer “to fail or
refuse to hire or to discharge . . . or otherwise
discriminate against any individual with respect to his
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,
because of such individual's age.” 29 U.S.C. §
623(a)(1). “To prevail on a claim under the ADEA, it is
not sufficient for the plaintiff to show that age was a
motivating factor in the adverse action; rather, the
ADEA's ‘because of' language requires that a
plaintiff ‘prove by a preponderance of the evidence
(which may be direct or circumstantial) that age was the
“but-for” cause of the ...