Dedra Johnson, et al v. Lockheed Martin Corporation
OPINION: Because plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact as to pretext, we AFFIRM the district court's summary judgment grant to Lockheed, decision not for publication. R. Guy Cole , Jr., Chief Circuit Judge; Richard Allen Griffin, Circuit Judge and James G. Carr,, AUTHORING, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, sitting by designation.--[Edited 01/23/2015 by YH]
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 15a0067n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
DEDRA JOHNSON, et al.,
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP.,
Jan 22, 2015
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
Before: COLE, Chief Judge; and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judge; and CARR, District Judge.*
CARR, District Judge. Plaintiffs Dedra Johnson, Al Stakelin, Mae Lee Walker, Randall
Prather, and Shelby Thompson appeal the district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant
Lockheed Martin Corp. (Lockheed). Plaintiffs sued Lockheed under the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621, and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA), KRS
§ 344.040, claiming it refused to hire them because of their age. The district court found that
plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. We affirm the district court’s
judgment, although we do so on a different basis.
The Honorable James G. Carr, United States District Judge for the Northern District
of Ohio, sitting by designation.
In 2010, the United States Special Operations Command awarded Lockheed a contract to
provide services to the Special Operations Forces Support Activity (the SOFSA Contract). To
ensure adequate performance on the contract, Lockheed subcontracted some of the work to another
Shortly after the subcontract took effect, the Special Forces began complaining about the
rates that DS2 charged. Instead of continuing the subcontract, Lockheed decided to have its own
employees do the work.
DS2 employed a little over 500 people to work on the SOFSA Contract. Lockheed
determined it could do the work with about 400 people.
Around August 8, 2011, Lockheed began soliciting applications for the 400 positions. It set
a target end date of September 5, 2011, posted the open positions on its website, and told interested
DS2 employees to apply for any positions for which they felt qualified. Although the positions were
open to the public, Lockheed eventually hired only former DS2 employees.
Bracing for the influx of hundreds of applications, Lockheed hiring managers and
supervisors prepared “skills assessments” matrices to score each applicant. From those scores, the
managers and supervisors selected whom to interview.
Lockheed hiring managers, supervisors, and at least one representative from human resources
conducted the interviews. To promote consistency, the panel asked each interviewee the same five
questions. Afterwards, the panel assigned an overall score to the interviewees, based on their
performance in the skills assessment, workmanship reviews, and interviews. In every instance,
Lockheed hired those individuals with the highest overall scores.
Ultimately, Lockheed hired 387 former DS2 employees. 172 were over forty years old. Of
those 172 hires, 106 were forty-seven or over; seventy-five were fifty or over; and fifty-two were
fifty-four or older.
Plaintiffs Johnson, Stakelin, Walker, Prather, and Thompson, all former DS2 employees,
applied for – but did not get – a position. We discuss each plaintiff’s situation in turn.
A. Dedra Johnson
At the time of the transition, Johnson was fifty-three years old and working for DS2 as an
Exhibits Specialist II in the Finishing Shop. Lockheed supervisor Jerry Booth oversaw Johnson’s
work and selected which Finishing Shop employees to hire.
In keeping with its decision to downsize the workforce, Lockheed completely eliminated the
Exhibits Specialist II position, and kept positions for one Exhibits Specialist I, three Exhibits
Specialists III’s, and three Maintenance Trades Helpers. As a result, only about half of the then-DS2
Finishing Shop employees kept a position after the transition.
Johnson applied for two positions: Exhibits Specialist III and Maintenance Trades Helper.
Because her scores on the applicable skills assessment matrices were lower than those of other DS2
applicants, Booth did not interview Johnson for either position. Booth also noted Johnson had a
significant number of write-ups for non-conforming work product.
Lockheed hired at least one person older than Johnson for both positions. Of the three
Exhibits Specialist III hires, one, Gary Adams, was a year older than Johnson. Of the five
Maintenance Trades Helpers hired, one new hire, Jackie Shuler, was a year older than Johnson,
while another new hire was only four years younger than she. Lockheed also hired people for both
positions who were more than six years younger than Johnson.
B. Al Stakelin
In August 2011, Stakelin was fifty-four years old and worked for DS2 as an NC Machine
Operator II in the Machine Shop. Stakelin applied for a position as an NC Machine Operator II in
Sean Wallace’s and Robbie Adams’s areas, as well as for a position as an Aircraft Mechanic I in
Damon Evans’s area on Aviation Hill.
Neither Adams nor Wallace interviewed Stakelin for the NC Machine Operator II position
because his skills assessment score was lower than those of the other applicants. They also noted
Stakelin lacked “versatility” on the various machines in the shop. Adams, the Machine Shop
supervisor since June 2006, had seen Stakelin operate only one of the shop’s machines.
Of the DS2 employees hired from the Machine Shop, one, Don Coffey, was sixty-four at the
time – ten years older than Stakelin. Lockheed also hired individuals for the NC Machine Operator
II position who were more than six years younger than Stakelin.
Just as with the NC Machine Operator II position, Evans declined to interview Stakelin for
the Aircraft Mechanic I position because of his low skills assessment score in comparison with the
other applicants. Stakelin, having worked only as an NC Machine Operator II in the Machine Shop,
had no experience as an Aircraft Mechanic or in another, similar position.
Of the individuals hired as Aircraft Mechanic I’s, five were older or not more than six years
younger than Stakelin, including Albert DeRonda (sixty-seven), Douglas King (fifty-one), Brett
Rease (fifty-one), Derek Martin (fifty), and Kenneth Martin (forty-nine).
Finally, Stakelin stated that no one at Lockheed ever made any comments that caused him
to believe that Lockheed was biased against older workers or that age played a role in its hiring
decisions. He felt Lockheed’s hiring process was, however, unfair because it allowed the company
to hire workers whom it liked personally, rather than hiring only the most skilled individuals.
C. Randall Prather
Prather was fifty-three years old and worked for DS2 as an NC Machine Operator II. Sean
Wallace was the Lockheed supervisor in Prather’s area. Prather applied for several positions during
the transition, including NC Machine Operator I and II, Sheet Metal Worker, and Maintenance
Wallace did not interview Prather for the NC Machine Operator I and II positions because
Prather’s score on the skills assessment was lower in comparison to other applicants. Lockheed did
interview him for the Sheet Metal Worker and Maintenance Trades Helper positions in the Finishing
Shop and “LBUR” and “Deburr” areas. Prather received combined scores of 42.1% for Sheet Metal
Worker, 57.5% for Maintenance Trades Helper in the Finishing Shop, and 70.0% for Maintenance
Trades Helper in the “LBUR” and “Deburr” areas.
Each DS2 applicant whom Lockheed hired for these positions had higher scores than Prather.
The lowest scores for successful applicants were 45.61% for Sheet Metal Workers, 78.7% for
Maintenance Trades Helpers in the Finishing Shop, and 86.6% for Maintenance Trades Helpers
hired in the “LBUR” and “Deburr” areas.
For every position for which Prather applied, Lockheed hired someone who was either older
or around the same age as Prather: Don Coffey (sixty-four) as an NC Machine Operator; Michael
Maze (fifty-three) and Oran Gilvin (fifty) as Sheet Metal Workers; and Jackie Shuler (fifty-four),
Stephen Robinson (fifty-one), and Billy Hibbard (forty-nine) as Maintenance Trades Helpers.
Lockheed also hired individuals for each position who were more than six years younger than
Prather did not hear anything from any Lockheed employees that made him think age played
a role in the decision not to hire him. Instead, he opined that the hiring process should have been
based on seniority, and speculated that perhaps Lockheed wanted to hire younger workers because
they were more likely to do what they were told.
D. Mae Lee Walker
Walker was sixty years old at the time of the transition and worked as an Electronics
Technician I in the Cable Fab Shop. Walker applied to continue her position as Electronics
Technician I, and Jim Thomas was the Lockheed supervisor in charge of hiring decisions in that
Thomas did not select Walker for an interview because of her low skills assessment score
relative to the other DS2 employees who applied. Lockheed also noted that many of the individuals
it hired to fill this position had special training, military backgrounds, or were simply good at their
jobs. Moreover, approximately sixty people worked for DS2 as Electronic Technician I’s in the
Cable Fab Shop, but Lockheed hired only thirty-two – a reduction of nearly half.
Of the thirty-two people Thomas hired as Electronic Technician I’s for the Cable Fab Shop,
five were older than Walker and eleven were less than six years younger than she.
Throughout the process, Walker never heard or saw anything that made her think Lockheed
was biased against older workers, and no one at Lockheed mentioned age as a factor in hiring
decisions. Like Prather, Walker expressed her belief that the hiring decisions should have been
based on seniority, and thought some individuals were only hired because they had friends at
E. Shelby Thompson
In August, 2011, Thompson was sixty years old and an Aircraft Mechanic III in the “Back
Shop” in Richmond, Kentucky. Lockheed decided to hire only Aircraft Mechanic III’s for its offices
in Avon. Instead of applying for the Aircraft Mechanic II positions still available in Richmond,
Thompson applied for the Aircraft Mechanic III position in Avon, where Evans served as the
Lockheed hiring manager.
Evans selected Thompson for an interview based on his skills assessment score. During the
interview, Evans found that Thompson came across as disinterested and acted as if he should not
have to sit for an interview. His conduct translated into a low score of six points out of a possible
fifteen for his answers to the five interview questions.
Thompson’s overall score for the skills assessment, workmanship, and interview responses
was 85%. Evans did not hire anyone for the Aircraft Mechanic III position with a score lower than
Of the twenty-one people hired to fill the Aircraft Mechanic III positions, one of the
individuals, James Mosbey (sixty-four), was older than Thompson. The remaining twenty hires
were more than six years younger than Thompson.
No one at Lockheed ever made a statement to Thompson that made him think Lockheed was
biased against older workers.
We review the district court’s grant of summary judgment de novo. Scheick v. Tecumseh
Pub. Schs., 766 F.3d 523, 528 (2014). Summary judgment is proper when “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “In reviewing the district
court’s decision, this court draws all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.”
Grizzell v. City of Columbus Div. of Police, 461 F.3d 711, 718-19 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).
The same analysis applies to claims brought under the ADEA and KCRA. Allen v.
Highlands Hosp. Corp., 545 F.3d 387, 393 (6th Cir. 2008). The ADEA and the KCRA both prohibit
employers from failing to hire, discharging, or otherwise discriminating against an individual
because of age. 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1); KRS § 344.040(1)(a).
Absent direct evidence of age discrimination, plaintiffs can establish a prima facie case with
circumstantial evidence by showing they were 1) at least forty years old at the time of the alleged
discriminatory act; 2) subject to an adverse employment action; 3) otherwise qualified for the
position; and 4) rejected in favor of a substantially younger person. Harris v. Metro. Gov’t of
Nashville & Davidson Cnty., Tenn., 594 F.3d 476, 485 (6th Cir. 2010).1 A “substantially younger”
The district court ruled that, in the context of multiple hires for the same position, plaintiffs
cannot establish a prima facie case of age discrimination when the employer hires at least one person
older or not substantially younger than each plaintiff for the positions for which they applied.
Resting our holding on pretext grounds, we decline to adopt the district court’s rule in light of
Connecticut v. Teal, 457 U.S. 440 (1982), and Grizzell v. City of Columbus Div. of Police, 461 F.3d
711 (6th Cir. 2006), which held that employers cannot escape liability for discrimination simply
because they did not discriminate against every member of a protected class in their employment
person is someone more than six years younger than the plaintiff. Grosjean v. First Energy Corp.,
349 F.3d 332, 340 (6th Cir. 2003).
If plaintiffs establish their prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the employer
to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Ercegovich
v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 154 F.3d 344, 350 (6th Cir. 1998). Once done, the burden of
production returns to the plaintiffs to prove the employer’s nondiscriminatory explanation was a
pretext for intentional age discrimination. Id.
To establish pretext, plaintiffs must show the proffered reason 1) had no basis in fact; 2) did
not motivate the defendant’s challenged conduct; or 3) was insufficient to warrant the challenged
conduct. Michael v. Caterpillar Fin. Servs. Corp., 496 F.3d 584, 597 (6th Cir. 2007). “[I]f the
plaintiff create[s] only a weak issue of fact as to whether the employer’s reason was untrue and there
[is] abundant and uncontroverted independent evidence that no discrimination . . . occurred,” the
employer is entitled to summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S.
133, 148 (2000).
Here, while plaintiffs acknowledge that Lockheed articulated legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reasons for its conduct, they have not provided any facts showing that these reasons were pretextual.
The only explanation plaintiffs offer is that Lockheed must have discriminated against them because
its hiring process was subjective and did not adequately account for their skills. But plaintiffs’
disagreement with Lockheed’s assessment of their performance – and their belief that the hiring
system should have been based on seniority – does not render Lockheed’s hiring decision pretextual.
McDonald v. Union Camp Corp., 898 F 2d. 1155, 1162 (6th Cir. 1990). Absent additional evidence,
plaintiffs’ beliefs about their own qualifications “cannot sustain a claim of discrimination.” Hedrick
v. W. Reserve Care Sys., 355 F.3d 444, 462 (6th Cir. 2004).
Lockheed, tasked with hiring almost 400 employees in a month, devised a hiring system
based on scores from skills assessments, workmanship reviews, and panel interviews. Accordingly,
Lockheed supervisors completed a skills assessment matrix for the DS2 employees in their area.
From those scores, Lockheed offered some applicants interviews.
The panel asked every
interviewee the same five questions, and assigned a score based on the interviewee’s responses.
Lockheed then extended job offers to those with the highest combined scores.
Lockheed considered plaintiffs Johnson, Stakelin, Walker, Prather, and Thompson for their
sought-after positions. And it did so in accordance with its uniformly applied scoring system.
Lockheed did not interview Johnson, Stakelin, and Walker because their skills assessment
scores were lower than those of the other applicants. Lockheed supervisors further noted that
Johnson had a number of write-ups for nonconforming work product, while Stakelin lacked
versatility on the machines necessary to perform the position he wanted.
Prather applied for four positions during the DS2 transition: NC Machine Operator I and II,
Sheet Metal Worker, and Maintenance Trades Helper. Although Lockheed declined to interview
him for the NC Machine Operator I and II positions due to his low skills assessment score, it did
interview him for the other two positions. Nevertheless, because other applicants had higher
combined scores after the interview assessment, Prather was not hired.
Based on Thompson’s skills assessment score, Lockheed interviewed him for the one
position he applied for, Aircraft Mechanic III. During the interview, the panel found that Thompson
came across as disinterested and haughty about having to apply for the position. After the interview,
Thompson’s total assessment score was 85%. Lockheed did not hire anyone for the Aircraft
Mechanic III position who had a score lower than 90%.
Lockheed designed and implemented a process that, while taking a necessarily subjective
assessment of skills into account, otherwise sought to suppress subjectivity in its decision-making.
From the record before this Court, it appears that Lockheed undertook to apply its process uniformly
as it assessed each applicant. Plaintiffs have not presented evidence to the contrary – such as expert
opinion, or anything else – that could lead a rational jury to conclude age was the real reason
Lockheed declined to hire plaintiffs.
Because plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact as to pretext,
we affirm the district court’s summary judgment grant to Lockheed.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?