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Owen v. STMicroelectronics Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

May 29, 2018

CHARLES OWEN
v.
STMICROELECTRONICS, INC.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND

          KAREN GREN SCHOLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This Order addresses Defendant STMicroelectronics, Inc.'s ("STM") motion for summary judgment [54], For the following reasons, the Court denies STM's motion for summary judgment.

         I. THE AGE DISCRIMINATION ALLEGATIONS

         Charles Owen began working for STM in 2007. STM hired him on a temporary basis to perform general in-house counsel duties while the employee who normally fulfilled those duties, Jackie Nguyen, was on assignment in China. Owen's duties included drafting and negotiating commercial contracts, licensing agreements, technology agreements, and real estate leases. He also reviewed non-disclosure agreements ("NDAs"). Owen's position ended in 2008 when Nguyen returned from China.

         In April 2013, Bruce Quill, an employee in STM's human resources department, contacted Owen about returning to the company. STM was seeking a temporary employee to review NDAs, as the paralegal normally responsible for that job had left STM. Owen accepted the position. His main duties were reviewing NDAs and maintaining a spreadsheet tracking the NDAs, Owen primarily worked with Terry Blanchard during this time. Owen received no negative feedback on his performance.

         That same year, Owen learned that a full-time, permanent corporate counsel position (the "Senior Position") had opened up because Jackie Nguyen left STM. He also learned that STM planned to hire an attorney to replace the paralegal responsible for reviewing NDAs (the "Junior Position"). Owen expressed interest in the Senior Position to Quill, STM's General Counsel, and Blanchard. STM's General Counsel indicated that Blanchard would be the ultimate decision maker. Blanchard told Owen that, while he was qualified for the position, STM did not want "someone with so much experience that they would be inflexible." PL's App. 28.

         Blanchard drafted the posted job advertisement for the Senior Position, which stated that "[t]he right candidate will have strong academic and employment credentials[, ]" that STM was seeking a licensed attorney "with about 10 years of experience, " and that big firm and in-house counsel experience were "preferred." Def.'s App. 10. Ultimately, STM did not choose Owen for the Senior Position. STM instead selected Sean Barrett. Barrett was 36 years old at the time, had an undergraduate degree from McGill University and a law degree from Georgetown University, had nine years of legal experience at large law firms and as in-house counsel, and had worked on a variety of complex corporate transactional matters. When Owen sought and was rejected for the position, he was 64 years old.

         STM hired Adam Hoffman for the Junior Position. Soon thereafter Owen's position at STM was eliminated because the legal department was fully staffed. On or about June 4, 2014, Owen filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission - Civil Rights Division.

         II. THE COURT DENIES SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Courts "shall grant summary judgment 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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). In making this determination, courts must view all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its belief that there is no genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         When a party bears the burden of proof on an issue, he "must establish beyond peradventure all of the essential elements of the claim or defense to warrant judgment in his favor." Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Cir. 1986). When the nonmovant bears the burden of proof, the movant may demonstrate entitlement to summary judgment either by (1) submitting evidence that negates the existence of an essential element of the nonmovant's claim or affirmative defense, or (2) arguing that there is no evidence to support an essential element of the nonmovant's claim or affirmative defense. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-25. Once the movant has made this showing, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact so that a reasonable jury might return a verdict in its favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., A15 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). Moreover, "[c]onclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions" will not suffice to satisfy the nonmovant's burden. Douglass v. UnitedServs. Auto. Ass'n, 79 F.3d 1415, 1429 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc). Factual controversies are resolved in favor of the nonmoving party '"only when an actual controversy exists, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.'" Olabisiomotosho v. City of Hous., 185 F.3d 521, 525 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting McCallum Highlands, Ltd. v. Washington Capital Dus, Inc., 66 F.3d 89, 92 (5th Cir. 1995)).

         B. Age Discrimination

         Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), it is unlawful "to fail or refuse to hire .. . any individual. . . because of such individual's age." 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). Plaintiffs seeking to prove age discrimination can rely on either direct or circumstantial evidence. See, e.g., Machinchick v. PB Power, Inc.,398 F.3d 345, 350 (5th Cir. 2005). Because Owen is relying on circumstantial evidence, the Court evaluates his claim under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. See Goudeau v. Natl Oilwell Varco, L.P., 793 F.3d 470, 474 (5th Cir. 2015); see also Conboyv. Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P.,140 Fed.Appx. 510, 2005 WL 1515479, at *3 (noting that the Fifth Circuit has "plainly recognized that [the McDonnell Douglas framework] has equal applicability in the context of an ADEA action."). Under this framework, Owen must first establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. Goudeau, 793 F.3d at 474. To do so, he must show that: "(1) he was not hired for the position that he sought; (2) he met the requisite qualifications for the position; (3) he was over the age of forty at the time that he was not hired; and (4) an individual who was not a member of the protected class, or ...


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