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Montoya v. Jacobs Technology Inc

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

June 5, 2018

RAYMOND MONTOYA, Plaintiff,
v.
JACOBS TECHNOLOGY, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed January 18, 2018 (Doc. 44). Having reviewed the parties' pleadings and the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's motion is well-taken and, therefore, is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         This is an employment discrimination and retaliation case. Plaintiff is a former employee of Jacobs Technology, Inc. (“Jacobs”) and in the Amended Complaint (Doc. 6) alleges age and disability discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and hostile work environment, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-632.

         UNDISPUTED FACTS[1]

         The Court finds that the following material facts are not in genuine dispute:

         I. Montoya's Employment Background.

         Plaintiff Raymond Montoya began working for Jacobs in 1995 as a test technician. Test technicians are subject to a collective bargaining agreement between Jacobs and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Plaintiff was subject to “reductions in force” in 2010 and 2012 while working for Jacobs, but both times exercised his rights under the collective bargaining agreement and retained positions with Jacobs. During the 2010 reduction in force, he was the youngest technician affected.

         Montoya did not complain about discrimination or retaliation with respect to either layoff, nor did he file any EEOC charges. From 2011 through the date of his termination, Plaintiff worked as a systems test mechanical technician. Plaintiff had multiple supervisors, one of whom was Dennis Smith.

         II. Montoya's Light Duty and Leave Requests.

         Plaintiff occasionally required short periods of light duty for strains to his back and knee, and for eye surgery. His requests were granted. The last time he had any physical limitation was from February 5, 2014 to February 20, 2014, when he required two weeks of light duty following eye surgery. Plaintiff took occasional leave under the Family Medical Leave Act during his employment, mostly to take care of family members. He took FMLA leave once for a few days in 2008 for his own medical condition - an atrial fibrillation. In January 2015, Plaintiff requested and was approved for leave in mid-July for his wife's medical leave.

         Plaintiff testified that he did not consider himself disabled, but that he believes Jacobs perceived him as disabled.

         III. Montoya's Claims of Discrimination and Retaliation.

         Plaintiff did not believe he was discriminated against prior to 2012. Montoya identified several alleged acts of discrimination between 2012 and 2015. In one conversation with Department Director Brent Adams, he states that Adams told him “the company was keeping any [sic] eye on [him].” Plaintiff stated this comment made him feel “very uncomfortable, ” because he perceived “tension in the air.” Plaintiff believed this statement to be retaliatory, but did not indicate what it was in retaliation for. Plaintiff also stated that he was discriminated against because he claims younger people received training he did not receive, and he was not promoted.

         Plaintiff testified that the promotions were based on seniority and governed by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. All positions he applied to were governed by the collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff stated that he did not file any complaints with Jacobs about not being trained or promoted, but he states that he told “management” that he was not being promoted because of his age. Plaintiff did not identify who he told, or when he told them.

         Finally, Plaintiff asserted he was discriminated against when he was allegedly hit with a truck on July 10, 2015 and fired thereafter.

         IV. Events of July 10, 2015.

         On July 10, 2015, Plaintiff and another employee, Louis Lombardi, were involved in an incident involving a company truck. Plaintiff wanted to borrow a truck from Lombardi, the lead man of a different team. Before Lombardi released the truck to Plaintiff, he drove it over to check with Plaintiff's supervisor. When Lombardi came back to the site, Plaintiff was standing in the middle of the road, facing the truck on the passenger side of the vehicle. Plaintiff alleged that Lombardi gunned the truck at him and hit the left side of his body. Lombardi alleged that he was driving slowly, tried to move around Plaintiff with two to three feet of clearance, and that Plaintiff shoved or hit the truck with his arms. Lombardi stated that he exited the truck and asked Plaintiff what he was doing. Plaintiff accused Lombardi of hitting him with the truck; Lombardi denied that happened. Plaintiff and Lombardi went together to the office of their supervisor, Dennis Smith.

         V. Investigation of Events of July 10, 2015.

         Upon learning of the incident, Smith alerted Human Resources manager Yolanda Ramos. Smith advised Plaintiff to go to the on-site dispensary for treatment. At the time, Plaintiff only complained of bruising on his left arm and leg, and the hospital released him that same day. The hospital released him with no restrictions. See Exhibit A, p. 134. That day, Ms. Ramos contacted both Plaintiff and Mr. Lombardi, and seven witnesses present at the incident to meet with them. Ms. Ramos met with each individual and took notes, and advised them that providing false or misleading information could result in termination. Three witnesses observed what happened: Plaintiff, Mr. Lombardi, and Manny Saldivar, a welder who was not employed by Jacobs.

         Ms. Ramos interviewed Mr. Lombardi, who explained that he tried to drive the truck around Plaintiff. Mr. Lombardi told Ms. Ramos, Mr. Smith, Mr. Adams, and union representative Chris Valdivia that once the front of the truck was past Plaintiff, Plaintiff “shuffled toward the truck and I don't know if he threw his hands.”

         Ms. Ramos also interviewed Manny Saldivar, who stated that Plaintiff was facing the truck as it approached and that Mr. Lombardi tried to drive around Plaintiff. Manny Saldivar saw that Plaintiff stepped forward and slapped the truck with one hand and punched it with the other. He confirmed that Plaintiff hit the door with this hands and that Mr. Lombardi did not strike Plaintiff with the truck.

         Plaintiff told Ms. Ramos, Mr. Smith, Mr. Adams, and Chris Valdivia, the union steward, that he was facing the truck while standing on the passenger side of the ruck as it approached. Although his right side was facing the passenger vehicle, Plaintiff states he was hit on the left thigh and arm. Ms. Ramos believed that Plaintiff was giving false and misleading testimony about the events because his physical position did not match up to his claimed injuries and his story conflicted with the consistent accounts of both Manny Valdivia and Mr. Lombardi.

         Plaintiff admits he never told anyone at Jacobs that he turned around to have his back facing the truck while it approached him.

         The Dona Ana Sherriff's Department also conducted an investigation. Police observed no visible bruising on Plaintiff's body. The Dona Ana County Sheriff concluded there was no evidence that an assault with a vehicle occurred.

         VI. Findings Issued by Jacobs and Termination of Plaintiff's Employment.

         On July 13, 2015, Ms. Ramos wrote up a Memo Regarding Investigation, summarizing the findings of Jacobs Management. She provided a summary of each of the accounts she was given by Lombardi, Plaintiff, and Manny Saldivar. The memo recommended that Plaintiff be discharged for violating Company Policy 2710: “(1) being careless or negligent or doing unsatisfactory work; (2) failing to obey safety rules; (3) Engaging in assault; and (4) Instigating conflict among coworkers, unprofessional behavior that disrupts productivity and undermines teamwork and cooperation.” Furthermore, the memo also found that Plaintiff made misleading or false statements during the investigation.

         Ms. Ramos wrote in the memo that: “we cannot comprehend how an individual who is facing a vehicle, states that he is struck by the passenger side of the vehicle yet is injured on his left thigh and arm.” Ms. Ramos also recommended that Mr. Lombardi be suspended for three days and removed from his lead man position, for carelessness.

         In the disciplinary action record issued on July 20, 2015, Defendant explained that they discharged Plaintiff because he “acted in a careless unprofessional manner” while on the roadway near the moving vehicle; that two eye witnesses saw Plaintiff hit or punch the vehicle; and that Plaintiff provided false or misleading statement of how the impact occurred. See Deft's Exhibit I.

         Defendant explained that Plaintiff's disciplinary action was more severe because Defendant believed that he punched or hit the truck intentionally and provided misleading and untruthful information on how the incident occurred. Defendant stated that it believed that Lombardi did not intentionally ...


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