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Hannah v. Sandia Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

December 13, 2017

RAY HANNAH, Plaintiff,
v.
SANDIA CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         On March 17, 2017, Defendant Sandia Corporation (“Defendant” or “Sandia”) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 43). The Court, having considered the briefs, evidence, applicable law, and otherwise being fully advised, concludes that Defendant's motion should be granted and this case dismissed.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Prior to his termination, Plaintiff Ray Hannah worked for Sandia for 14 years without any prior discipline. Pl.'s Undisputed Fact (“UF”) ¶ 28, ECF No. 53. Mr. Hannah was over 40 years old during the time Sandia employed him. Def.'s UF ¶ 1, ECF No. 43. He worked in a department that required a security clearance. See Dep. of Sara Selan 51:10-22, ECF No. 53-11.

         A. Conflict with Brian Brane

         Starting around 2012, one of Mr. Hannah's co-workers, Brian Brane, began harassing him about his age and work performance. Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 13, ECF No. 53-1. Nearly every day Brian Brane would say something about what Mr. Hannah was or was not doing. Dep. of Ray Hannah 49:16-24, ECF No. 43-1; id. 40:17-19, ECF No. 53-6. Over a couple years, Mr. Brane specifically mentioned Mr. Hannah's age at least three or four times. Id. 47:6-9, ECF No. 53-6. In one instance, after Brian Brane checked some parts Mr. Hannah had inspected, he told the engineer that he found some faulty parts, that Mr. Hannah did not know what he was doing, that Mr. Hannah should not be allowed to inspect, and that he was too old. Id. 40:3-13. Another time, when some co-workers were going to play basketball at lunch, one of the guys asked Mr. Hannah if he would play, to which Mr. Hannah said, “No. That's for young guys.” Id. 47:12-48:2. Brian Brane responded, “Ah, he's too old, he couldn't even do it, he couldn't even walk over to the court.” Id. 48:5-8. On another occasion when Mr. Brane was training someone, Mr. Brane said, “Ray takes forever, he has to sit down and do the job because he's so old.” Id. 48:12-15. Mr. Hannah never heard anyone else at Sandia say anything about his age. Id. 45:15-19.

         Brian Brane was also unpleasant, bossy, and nosy with other co-workers, including an older worker named Julian. See Dep. of Toni Pifer 10:9-11:21, 27:4-28:1, ECF No. 53-7; Dep. of Ray Hannah 58:4-59:21, ECF No. 53-6. Mr. Brane was particularly terrible to Mr. Hannah, causing him trouble, such as hiding parts so Mr. Hannah had difficulty finding them to make him look bad. See Dep. of Toni Pifer 11:25-16:8, ECF No. 53-7. Mr. Brane would also talk poorly about Mr. Hannah to engineers and supervisors. See id.

         The approximately three times Mr. Brane made a comment to Mr. Hannah about his age, Mr. Hannah reported it to his immediate supervisor, James Lucero. See Dep. of Ray Hannah 49:19-50:22, ECF No. 43-1; Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 3, ECF No. 53-1. Mr. Hannah said he did not appreciate Brian Brane talking about how old he was and complaining about his age, particularly when Brian would discuss his age with other people. Dep. of Ray Hannah 50:17-51:5, ECF No. 43-1. James Lucero kept assuring Mr. Hannah he would do something about it, but he never did. Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 13, ECF No. 53-1; Dep. of Ray Hannah 51:9-19, ECF No. 53-6.

         As a result of an inspection issue about which Mr. Brane complained, Mr. Hannah had lost his qualification to inspect parts. See Dep. of Ray Hannah 39:20-40:22, ECF No. 53-6; Pl.'s Ex. 6, ECF No. 53-8 at 1 of 5. In May 2013, Ray Hannah met with his Union Steward, Debbie LaPierre, to set up a meeting with Mr. Lucero and Human Resources (“HR”) about his conflicts with Brian Brane and their failure to retrain or re-qualify him to do parts inspections. See Pl.'s Ex. 6, ECF No. 53-8 at 1 of 5. She offered to file a grievance on his behalf claiming discrimination and hostile work environment, but Mr. Hannah wanted her to wait to give Mr. Lucero time to act on the personnel issues. Pl.'s Ex. 6, ECF No. 53-8 at 1 of 5; Dep. of Deborah LaPierre 27:18-28:6, 49:17-51:10, ECF No. 53-2. During a June 2013 meeting between James Lucero, Mr. Hannah, and Ms. LaPierre, Mr. Lucero stated that Muhammad El, Mr. Hannah's manager, and engineer Ryan Haggerty wanted to fire Mr. Hannah, but Mr. Lucero told them Mr. Hannah had done nothing wrong. Pl.'s Ex. 6, ECF No. 53-8 at 1-2 of 5. Mr. Lucero said he was happy they were going to HR because it might alleviate some of the pressure he felt from Mr. El and Mr. Haggerty. Id. Ray Hannah and Debbie LaPierre attempted three times to set up a meeting with Muhammad El, but he cancelled each meeting without explanation. Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 15, ECF No. 53-1.

         On June 20, 2013, Mr. Hannah and Ms. LaPierre met with Matt Montanes in HR to complain about Mr. Hannah's ongoing problems with Brian Brane, and Mr. Hannah reported it could be because of his age. See Dep. of Ray Hannah 60:2-61:17, ECF No. 53-6; Dep. of Deborah LaPierre 53:13-54:10, ECF No. 53-2; Pl.'s Ex. 6, ECF No. 53-8. Mr. Montanes said he would talk to James Lucero and Muhammad El, and he wanted until August to get things moving in the right direction. Pl.'s Ex. 6, ECF No. 53-8 at 2 of 5. However, he never spoke to either supervisor or escalated the matter to an investigation. Dep. of Matt Montanes 23:15-25, 26:2-8, ECF No. 53-9. Sandia's policy on a harassment-free workplace required Matt Montanes to report allegations of discrimination to the EEO group or ethics group for investigation. Dep. of Sara Selan 65:24-71:19, ECF No. 53-11. He nonetheless did not do so. See Dep. of Matt Montanes 23:2-25, ECF No. 53-9. On October 31, 2013, Mr. Hannah and Ms. LaPierre met again with Mr. Montanes and Keith Singer from HR during which Mr. Hannah “briefed Keith on what has been going on with inspection and his engineer, Ryan Haggerty.” Pl.'s Ex. 6, ECF No. 53-8 at 3 of 5.

         B. Jury Duty

         Mr. Hannah was called for jury duty for a three-week period beginning May 5, 2014. Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 3, ECF No. 53-1. He spoke to James Lucero before it started, and Mr. Lucero told Mr. Hannah that he cleared his calendar of assignments for the three-week period. Id. Mr. Hannah replied that he had hurt his back some weeks prior and asked if he had jury duty for part of a day, would he need to report to work for a few hours or just go home. Id. Mr. Lucero responded that he should use his discretion and at the end of the jury duty period they would have the opportunity to go through records and straighten out his time. Id. Sandia had a policy that allowed for a 30-day period to correct time cards. Id. ¶¶ 5, 10.

         On May 15, 2014, Mr. Hannah left a voicemail message for Mr. Lucero, stating that he was required to report to jury duty on May 16, 2014. See Def.'s UF ¶ 2, ECF No. 43; Voicemail dated May 15, 2014, ECF No. 44. Mr. Hannah did not report to work on May 16, 2014, and he charged his time to jury service, receiving full pay for that day. Decl. of James Lucero ¶ 8, ECF No. 43-1; Report of Investigation, ECF No. 43-2 at 8, 16 of 25. Mr. Hannah did not serve on jury duty on May 16, 2014. Report of Investigation, ECF No. 43-2 at 8-14 of 25. Mr. Hannah was experiencing back pain, but he did not have adequate sick leave, so he decided to report to Mr. Lucero that he was out on jury duty, with the intention of later correcting which days he was out for back pain and which days he reported for jury duty. Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶¶ 5-6, ECF No. 53-1. By the time he would meet to correct the timesheets, Mr. Hannah would have accumulated an additional ten hours of sick leave that he could have used. Id. ¶ 6.

         On May 16, 2014, Mr. Lucero learned from another employee that jurors were not required to report to work on Friday, so he reported his concerns, along with Mr. Hannah's voicemail message, to Keith Singer, who in turn referred the matter to Sandia Corporate Investigations. See Decl. of James Lucero ¶ 9, ECF No. 43-1; Report of Investigation, ECF No. 43-2 at 8 of 25. Sarah Renfro conducted the investigation on behalf of Sandia. Dep. of Sarah Renfro 12:8-20, ECF No. 43-2.

         On May 18, 2014, Mr. Hannah left another voicemail message for Mr. Lucero, stating that he “got on a trial, on a jury on Friday and we have to report again Monday, tomorrow at 8:30” so he might possibly be on it a day or two or all week. Decl. of James Lucero ¶¶ 9-10, ECF No. 43-1; Voicemail dated May 18, 2014, ECF No. 44. On Monday, May 19, 2014, Mr. Hannah reported for jury selection and was there all day. See Report of Investigation, ECF No. 43-2 at 8, 14 of 25; Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 7, ECF No. 53-1. Mr. Hannah was not chosen as a juror for the trial. Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 7, ECF No. 53-1. A court administrator told him he should call in the following day before 11:30 a.m. to see if he would be called in to report at 1 p.m. Id. On May 19, 2014, Mr. Hannah left another voicemail for Mr. Lucero telling him he had to go to that trial again tomorrow, it may last to Thursday or Friday, and he would be needed for “two more days at least.” Voicemail dated May 19, 2014, ECF No. 44; Decl. of James Lucero ¶¶ 11-12, ECF No. 43-1.

         Mr. Hannah did not report to work on the morning of Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Report of Investigation, ECF No. 43-2 at 8-9 of 25; Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 8, ECF No. 53-1. Ms. Renfro contacted the courthouse and a representative told her Mr. Hannah was not at the courthouse, so she and another investigator went to Mr. Hannah's home to see if he was there. Report of Investigation, ECF No. 43-2 at 8-9 of 25. Mr. Hannah was home and experiencing back pain. Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 8, ECF No. 53-1. Ms. Renfro asked why he was not at work, to which Mr. Hannah responded that he was in bed because of his back and was waiting to call in to see if he was needed to report for jury service at 1 p.m. Id.

         Mr. Hannah returned to work later that day and asked James Lucero what was going on. Id. ¶ 9. Mr. Hannah informed Mr. Lucero that he was planning to meet with him to straighten out the time at the end of jury service, as he had suggested, and asked if they could do that now. Id. Mr. Lucero replied that, because he was under investigation, he was not allowed to fix his time card. Id. He also falsely told Mr. Hannah that an anonymous caller had reported that he was not at jury duty, even though Mr. Lucero himself had reported him for investigation. See Id. Mr. Hannah did not serve on a jury trial on May 20, 2014. See Id. ¶¶ 8-9; Report of Investigation, ECF No. 43-2 at 14 of 25.

         Mr. Hannah met with Ms. Renfro the next day. Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 11, ECF No. 53-1. During that meeting, Mr. Hannah said he was sorry about lying to Mr. Lucero and again told her about his back pain. Id. In her investigative report, Ms. Renfro concluded that Mr. Hannah violated Sandia policies by mischarging his time and lying to his supervisor. Def.'s UF ¶ 14, ECF No. 43.

         Mr. Hannah admits that the voicemails he left for Mr. Lucero were not truthful and that he admitted that in the investigation. Dep. of Ray Hannah 102:12-20, ECF No. 43-1. Mr. Hannah also admits that the untruthful voicemails he left for his supervisor violated Sandia's policy to Act with Integrity. Id. 116:8-13. Before Sandia made its decision, however, Mr. Hannah repaid Sandia for the time on his time card that he incorrectly reported as time spent at jury duty. Aff. of Ray Hannah ¶ 10, ECF No. 53-1.

         When considering cases of serious potential dispute, including termination of employment, Sandia convenes a “Corporate Review Committee, ” or “CRC, ” to determine discipline. Def.'s UF ¶ 15, ECF No. 43. The CRC is composed of three Sandia executives: (1) the Director of HR, who chairs the CRC, (2) a “line” director in the employee's organization, and (3) a “pool” director who serves as a neutral third party. Id. Sandia maintains a disciplinary database, and as part of the CRC process, the disciplinary process is queried using broad categories of misconduct going back five years, and then a list of the most similar cases is created for CRC to review (the “Comparative Discipline” list). Dep. of Sara Selan 21:1-9, ECF No. 43-2. As part ...


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