United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
K. Majzoub United States Magistrate Judge
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN United States District Judge.
Gerard Watrobski initiated this action on May 5, 2016,
asserting that the Defendant, FCA US, LLC, discriminated
against him in contravention of the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §
621. See Dkt. No. 1.
Defendant moved for summary judgment on April 3, 2017. Dkt.
No. 46. The Plaintiff responded to that motion, and the
Defendant filed a reply brief in support. See Dkt.
Nos. 51, 52, 54. Then, on September 14, 2017, United States
Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub ordered additional discovery
in deciding motions to compel. See Dkt. No. 60.
Accordingly, this Court amended the Scheduling Order and
permitted the Plaintiff to file a supplemental response to
the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. See
Dkt. Nos. 61, 66. The Court also allowed the Defendant to
file a supplemental reply brief in support of the summary
judgment motion. See Dkt. Nos. 61, 69.
before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment . The motion is fully briefed. The Court will
decide the motion without a hearing pursuant to Eastern
District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons
detailed below, the Court will GRANT the Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment . The Court holds that as a
matter of law the Plaintiff cannot make a prima facie case of
age discrimination, demonstrate pretext for the
Defendant's justification for terminating his employment,
April 1, 1977, Plaintiff joined FCA US, LLC to work in its
Information Intellectual Properties Department. Dkt. No. 1,
p. 4 (Pg. ID 4). He remained in that department until FCA
terminated his employment on July 1, 2015. Id. At
the time of his firing, Plaintiff was sixty-two years old.
Dkt. No. 51, p. 4 (Pg. ID 541). 1. Direct Evidence of
Discrimination Plaintiff claims to present both direct and
circumstantial evidence of age discrimination. As to the
former, he offers comments made by FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne
on the CBS show 60 minutes. Id. at p. 9 (Pg. ID
546). Specifically, Steve Kroft of 60 minutes says that
“[t]o change the management structure, [Marchionne]
combed through the company and found 26 young leaders who
would report directly to him.” Dkt. No. 46-10, p. 6
(Pg. ID 520). Marchionne replies that these leaders were not
on a management “fast track, ” and instead many
“were buried inside an incredibly hierarchical
similarly cites former FCA Chief Information Officer Scott
Sandschafer's comments, allegedly made at a town hall.
Dkt. No. 51, p. 9 (Pg. ID 546). Watrobski testified that
Sandschafer discriminated against older workers by saying,
“[b]oy, you know, they mistook me for an Intern.
That's how young I look. You know, we need a young
looking and a young - young ideas in this corporation.”
Dkt. No. 52-2, p. 10 (Pg. ID 604).
other hand, to establish circumstantial evidence of
discrimination, Watrobski maintains that FCA effectively
adopted a policy to remove older workers. See, e.g.,
Dkt. No. 51, p. 9 (Pg. ID 546). In support he references
several employees that FCA allegedly fired and replaced with
younger workers. See id.
he contends that his performance evaluations, including
discipline resulting therefrom, do not accurately portray his
performance. Dkt. No. 66, pp. 1-2 (Pg. ID 794-95). For
example, he cites testimony from Robert Ford, a senior FCA
officer who was several levels of seniority removed from
Plaintiff. Id.; see also Dkt. No. 66-1, pp.
7-8 (Pg. ID 807-08). Ford testified that Plaintiff was a
“problem-solver.” Dkt. No. 66-1, pp. 7-8 (Pg. ID
also argues that his performance was satisfactory during
periods where FCA alleges the opposite. Dkt. No. 66, p. 3
(Pg. ID 796). According to the Plaintiff, his assertions are
bolstered by a pay raise he received in early 2014, which was
based on his 2013 performance review. Id. A review
that FCA contends showed his performance was unsatisfactory.
See Dkt. No. 46-4.
record details Plaintiff's performance at FCA from 2013
to 2015. Andrew Gross was Plaintiff's direct supervisor,
and Gross completed all of Plaintiff's performance
evaluations during this time frame. See Id. On
Plaintiff's 2013 annual performance review, he received a
“needs improvement” score of 4. Id. at
p. 4 (Pg. ID 473). Because of this score, Gross placed
Watrobski on a performance improvement plan
(“PIP”). Id. The PIP lasted from
February 2014 to June 2014. Dkt. No. 46-5, p. 4 (Pg. ID 478).
Watrobski successfully completed the plan, as he
significantly improved his leadership skills, namely through
coaching other team members. Id. at p. 6 (Pg. ID
2014 annual review, Plaintiff received another medium score.
Dkt. No. 46-6, p. 3 (Pg. ID 487). There, Gross determined
that Watrobki's “resistance to change and
continuing reliance on the status quo have resulted in a
Leading Change rating of Low. [Plaintiff] should take the
recent success he had with improving his Leading People
behaviors and make a similar effort in 2015 to Improve his
Leading Change behaviors.” Id.
2014 performance review prompted Gross to force Watrobski on
a second PIP, this time from March 5, 2015 to June 3, 2015.
Dkt. No. 46-7, p. 2 (Pg. ID 491). Gross was concerned with
Plaintiff's performance at all three stages of this PIP.
Id. at pp. 2-4 (Pg. ID 491-93). At the beginning,
Gross determined that Plaintiff was not completing activities
required by the PIP, including verifying the successful
completion of projects. Id. Midway through the PIP,
Gross concluded that “[Plaintiff] has missed two
deadlines for this PIP, ” and that “[Plaintiff]
is in real danger of not having a successful conclusion to
this PIP.” Id. at p. 4 (Pg. ID 493). Finally,
Gross found that Watrobski did not satisfy the PIP.
Id. at p. 5 (Pg. ID 494). He noted that, among other
things, Watrobski had continuously failed to carefully read
and respond to communications with business partners and team
members, which led to unnecessary confusion. Id.
recommended to FCA that Watrobski be fired because of this
failed PIP and Watrobski's annual performance reviews.
Dkt. No. 52-4, p. 4 (Pg. ID 630). FCA then fired Watrobski
effective July 1, 2015. Id.
contends that he was replaced by a third-party contractor,
Jawahare Babu Hare Dos (“Babu”). Dkt. No. 51, p.
6 (Pg. ID 543). Babu was in his thirties when the Plaintiff
left FCA. Dkt. No. 52-3, pp. 3, 11 (Pg. ID 625).
worked with Babu from 2009 until Watrobski's termination
six years later. Dkt. No. 46-2, p. 22 (Pg. ID 418). Plaintiff
also admits that he and Babu had overlapping duties.
Id. For instance, Plaintiff explained that Babu
“was doing what I told him to do. He was doing tasks
that I would have done, but I handed it off to him so I could
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