United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Jardin sued his former employer Defendant CoxCom, LLC d/b/a
Cox Communications New England ("Cox") for
age-based employment discrimination. Before the Court is
Cox's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 11. Because
the Court finds that the material facts are not in dispute,
summary judgment is appropriate. Those undisputed facts,
interpreted through the law of age discrimination, are in
Cox's favor; as such, the Court GRANTS Cox's motion.
Jardin drove a Cox-branded vehicle as a facilities
technician, performing maintenance work inside and outside
the company from 1996 until 2015. During the course of his
employment, Mr. Jardin maintained satisfactory standing and
Cox never reprimanded him for any misconduct. On July 9,
2015, Cox terminated him for egregious misconduct as set
forth in Cox's Corrective Action Policy, specifically for
clumping trash in the parking lot of one of Cox's
customers. Mr, Jardin was 53 years old when he was
terminated; Cox employed at least 195 other individuals who
were Mr. Jardin's age or older.
Jardin argues that he began to have issues at work when Todd
Andrukiewiez became interim facilities supervisor and Odell
Anderson assumed the role of facilities manager in February
2015. Immediately after Mr. Andrukiewiez started as interim
supervisor and five months prior to Mr. Jardin's
termination, in two different department meetings, Mr.
Andrukiewiez referred to Mr. Jardin as a "weird old
man." When Mr. Jardin responded, "Why do you keep
doing this?" Mr. Andrukiewiez apologized. Mr. Jardin
also asserts that Mr. Andrukiewiez gave him fewer projects
and assignments and required him to do corporate tracer
training, but sent two younger individuals before or instead
of Mr. Jardin. His pay and benefits remained the same and
he worked the same amount of overtime hours.
2015, Cox received a complaint from one of its customers,
Pawtucket Public Access, that someone had dropped trash out
of a Cox' branded vehicle onto its premises. Cox then
began an investigation. After viewing two surveillance
videos, Cox made a preliminary determination that Mr. Jardin
was likely responsible for dumping the trash at Pawtucket
Public Access. On July 9, 2015, Mr. Andrukiewiez, Mr.
Anderson, and a Cox Human Resources Manager, William Roccio
interviewed Mr. Jarclin. During the interview, as well as in
his deposition, Mr. Jardin admitted to dropping the trash on
the customer's premises and failing to pick it up, but
asserted that he did not intentionally litter. Based on this
admission, Cox terminated Mr. Jardin for "egregious
misconduct" under its Corrective Action Policy.
his termination, Mr. Jardin filed suit against Cox alleging
employment discrimination based on age under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et
seq. (1967) ("ADEA"), the Rhode Island Civil
Rights Act, R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-112-1 et seq.
(1990) ("RICRA"), and the Rhode Island Fair
Employment Practices Act, R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-1 et
seq. (2013) ("RIFEPA"). In response, Cox has
moved for summary judgment.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court can grant summary judgment only when it finds that no
genuine dispute as to the material facts of the case exists
and that the undisputed issues give rise to an entitlement to
judgment as a matter of law. See Wilson v. Moulison N.
Corp., 639 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2011). The Court must and
will view evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in his
three statutes cited in Mr. Jardin's complaint provide
essentially the same protection against discrimination at
work based on age. See Neri v. Ross Simons, Inc.,
897 A.2d 42, 48 (R.I. 2006) (the law underlying the
state's statutory claims is based largely on federal
caselaw interpreted and applying federal law under the ADEA
so the applicable caselaw for all three counts is the same).
The ADEA makes it unlawful for employers to "discharge
any individual 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)
(1967). Similarly, the RICKA and RIFEPA prohibit employers
from discriminating against individuals with respect to
terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of
"race, color, religion, sex . . . age, or country of
ancestral origin." R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-112-1
(1990); R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7 (2012).
United States Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Green set forth a burden-shifting method to aid in the
analysis. 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Analyzing an employment
discrimination case can be challenging due to its subtleties;
employment discrimination rarely comes with "smoking
gun" evidence or eyewitness testimony. Under the
McDonnell Douglas framework, a plaintiff must
establish a prima facie case. The First Circuit has held that
proving a prima facie case in a discrimination action is
"not onerous," Smith v. Stratus Comput,
Inc., 40 F.3d 11, 15 n.4 (1st Cir. 1994). "If the
plaintiff successfully bears this relatively light burden, we
presume that the employer engaged in impermissible [ ]
discrimination." Id. at 15 (citing Texas
Dept. of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254
(1981)). The burden then shifts to the employer, who must
then state a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its
decision; if the employer is successful, the inference of
discrimination then disappears. The plaintiff is then
required to show that the employer's stated reason is a
pretext for discrimination. See Kosereis v. Rhode
Island, 331 F.3d 207, 212 (1st Cir. 2003). "The
'ultimate touchstone' of the McDonnell
Douglas analysis is whether the employer's actions
were improperly motivated by discrimination. Evidence that
the employer's stated reasons for its actions are
pretextual can be sufficient to show improper motive, and
hence, allow the plaintiff to survive summary judgment."
Kosereis, 331 F.3d at 213-14 (internal citations
Prima Facie Case ...