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Kim v. Hospira, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

May 30, 2017

YOUNG H. KIM, Plaintiff,
v.
HOSPIRA, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT PITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court in the above-styled cause is Defendant Hospira, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment, (Dkt. 21), and Plaintiff Young H. Kim's response thereto. (Dkt. 23).[1] Having considered the parties' submissions, the factual record, and the relevant law, the Court finds that the motion should be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         This case involves alleged age and national-origin discrimination in employment. Plaintiff was an employee of Defendant Hospira, Inc. (“Hospira”) until his employment was terminated in May 2015. Plaintiff is Korean-American and was sixty-nine years old at the time of his termination. Though not entirely clear, Plaintiff's principal allegations appear to be that he was wrongly blamed for mistakes made by someone else at his work. Management at Hospira then allegedly gave him a “final written warning” for the errors despite insufficiently investigating who committed them. On two later occasions, Plaintiff was sent home early by managers after they again accused him of making mistakes. On the second such occasion, he was instructed not to return to work until requested by Hospira. It appears he was not asked to return to work before his employment was terminated on or around May 15, 2015. Plaintiff alleges that the real reasons for his termination were his age and national origin, in violation of federal law prohibiting age and national-origin discrimination in employment.[2]

         Hospira filed its motion for summary judgment on May 4, 2017. It argues that Plaintiff lacks evidence to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and that he also lacks evidence suggesting that Hospira's reasons for his terminations were pretextual. Plaintiff responded on May 17, 2017, generally denying certain arguments put forth by Hospira. Plaintiff attached no evidence to his filing.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure only “if the movant shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is genuine only 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, 254 (1986). “A fact issue is ‘material' if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.” Poole v. City of Shreveport, 691 F.3d 624, 627 (5th Cir. 2012).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of “informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “[T]he moving party may [also] meet its burden by simply pointing to an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 544(5th Cir. 2005). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to establish the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87(1986); Wise v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 58 F.3d 193, 195 (5th Cir. 1995). After the non-movant has been given the opportunity to raise a genuine factual issue, if no reasonable juror could find for the non-movant, summary judgment will be granted. Miss. River Basin Alliance v. Westphal, 230 F.3d 170, 175 (5th Cir. 2000). The court will view the summary judgment evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Rosado v. Deters, 5 F.3d 119, 123 (5th Cir. 1993).

         DISCUSSION

         In cases like the present one, where a plaintiff relies on circumstantial evidence to substantiate an employment discrimination claim, courts employ the burden-shifting framework set out in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Sandstad v. CB Richard Ellis, Inc., 309 F.3d 893, 896 (5th Cir. 2002). Under this framework, the plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. Machinchick v. PB Power, Inc., 389 F.3d 345, 350 (5th Cir. 2005). The elements of the plaintiff's prima facie case may vary depending on the circumstances. Reed v. Neopost USA, Inc., 701 F.3d 434, 439 (5th Cir. 2012). Once the plaintiff makes this initial showing, the burden of production shifts to the employer to show that it had a legitimate and non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Id. The burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to make an ultimate showing of discrimination by establishing either (1) that the employer's stated reason was a pretext for discrimination, or (2) that the employer's reason, while true, was only one reason for the adverse action, with discrimination remaining a “motivating factor.” Black v. Pan Am. Labs., L.L.C., 646 F.3d 254, 259 (5th Cir. 2011).

         Hospira argues that Plaintiff has no evidence to establish a prima facie case of discrimination or that its legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating Plaintiff's employment was pretextual. The Court will consider each of Plaintiff's two claims in turn.

         1. Age Discrimination

         To make a prima facie showing of discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., the plaintiff must show: (1) that he was discharged; (2) he was qualified for the position at issue; (3) he was within the protected class at the time of discharge; and (4) he was either (i) replaced by someone outside the protected class; (ii) replaced by someone younger, or (iii) otherwise discharged because of his age. Machinchick, 398 F.3d at 350.

         Hospira asserts that Plaintiff has no evidence to substantiate the fourth element. Plaintiff has not alleged-or provided evidence to substantiate-that he was replaced by someone younger or otherwise outside the protected class. In fact, he has suggested that he is unaware of Hospira's hiring practices after his termination. (See Kim Dep., Dkt. 21-2, at 135:20-23). Additionally, Hospira points to portions of Plaintiff's deposition in which he asserts that he was treated less favorably than younger coworkers but disclaims knowledge of whether their disciplinary histories were similar to his own. (See Id. at 88:9-89:19). Plaintiff did not respond to this point in ...


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