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Sommerville v. Schenker, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 28, 2017

SCHENKER, INC., Defendant.



         Plaintiff Stephen Sommerville filed a complaint alleging that his former employer, Defendant Schenker, Inc. ("Schenker"), violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), the Michigan Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act ("ELCRA"), and the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). ECF 1. On May 12, 2017, Schenker filed a motion for summary judgment. ECF 21. The Court reviewed the briefs and finds that a hearing is unnecessary. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f). For the reasons below, the Court will grant Schenker's motion.


         Stephen Sommerville worked for Schenker, and its predecessors, for more than thirty-five years. In January 2013, Schenker offered Sommerville the position as a Global Account Manager ("GAM"). ECF 21-2, PgID 126; ECF 21-4, PgID 190. For several months, Sommerville fulfilled his responsibilities in his old role as an International Services Manager and for his new role as a GAM, until he assumed full responsibility of his role as a GAM in April 2013. ECF 21-2, PgID 126. For about one year as a GAM, Sommerville reported to Rhonda Janzewski. Id. In May of 2014, Schenker hired Randall Creel. Creel's responsibilities included supervision of Sommerville and Schenker's other GAMs: G.K. Girish and Tim Horton.

         On July 3, 2014, Sommerville notified Schenker that he required a medical leave of absence after a scheduled hernia surgery. On July 7, 2014, Schenker's leave of absence administrator confirmed Sommerville's leave for July 8-16, 2014 and subsequently extended his leave until July 21, 2014. Sommerville returned to work on July 22, 2014.[1]

         In October 2014, Schenker tasked Daniel Bergman-Senior Vice President, Key Account Management and Sales for the Region Americas-with reducing the number of positions in the company. ECF 21-16, PgID 289. Schenker terminated Sommerville's position on November 7, 2014 citing the company's reduction in workforce. ECF 21-9, PgID 207.[2] Bergman testified that he relied upon data from the Key Account Management database and the GAM's future sales opportunities, in particular the "best and few" data from Schenker's database. The database generates "best and few" data based on the GAM's inputs of future business opportunities with the highest potential to materialize into future business for Schenker. After the termination of Schenker's GAM position, Schenker transferred the Lear account to Creel. Later, Horton assumed the responsibilities of the Lear account.


         The Court may grant summary judgment "if the movant shows 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). A fact is "material" for purposes of summary judgment if proof of that fact would establish or refute an essential element of the cause of action or defense. Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984). A dispute over material facts is “genuine” "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In order to show that a fact is, or is not, genuinely disputed, both parties are required to either "cite[] to particular parts of materials in the record" or "show[] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. 60 Ivy St. Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987).


         Somemerville's complaint alleges age discrimination in violation of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the ELCRA, Mich. Comp. Laws § 37.2101, and retaliatory termination in violation of the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.

         The Court will analyze the claims primarily under a burden-shifting framework. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973); see, e.g., Donald v. Sybra, Inc., 667 F.3d 757, 762 (6th Cir. 2012) (recognizing application of McDonnell Douglas to FMLA claims). First, the plaintiff must make a prima facie showing. Once that is established, the defendant must offer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. If a reason is shown, the plaintiff then carries the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant's proffered reason is merely a pretext. At each stage, the Court must consider whether there is sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact. Jackson v. VHS Detroit Receiving Hosp., Inc., 814 F.3d 769, 776 (6th Cir. 2016).

         I. Age Discrimination Claims

         Age-discrimination prevention statutes bar employers from discharging or discriminating against employees based on age. 29 U.S.C. § 623; Mich. Comp. Laws. § 37.2202. Discrimination may be shown by either direct or indirect evidence. Direct evidence is evidence that, "if believed, requires the conclusion that unlawful discrimination was at least a motivating factor in the employer's actions." Lautermilch v. Findlay City Schs., 314 F.3d 271, 275-76 (6th Cir. 2003). Because there is no direct evidence, the Court must apply the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework.[3]Geiger v. Tower Auto., 579 F.3d 614, 621 (6th Cir. 2009). And Sommerville relies upon circumstantial evidence to support his age discrimination claims. Therefore, the Court will analyze both federal and state law claims under McDonnell Douglas's burden-shifting approach.[4]

         Sommerville presents two events as evidence of age discrimination: the termination of his GAM position and Schenker's failure to provide him an opportunity to ...

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