BARON v. ABBOTT LABORATORIES
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JAN E. DUBOIS ON 2/17/16. 2/18/16 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(mbh, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
February 17, 2016
This is an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff, Clive Baron, alleges that he was
fired by his former employer, defendant Abbott Laboratories (“Abbott”), because of his age. In
his Complaint, Baron claims that Abbott’s decision to terminate his employment violated the
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., the Florida Civil
Rights Act of 1992 (“Florida Civil Rights Act”), Fla. Stat. §§ 760.01, et seq., and the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 951, et seq. Presently
before the Court is Abbott’s Motion for Summary Judgment, filed July 31, 2015. For the reasons
that follow, the Court grants Abbott’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and enters judgment in
favor of Abbott and against Baron.
The facts of this case as set forth in the parties’ briefs and accompanying exhibits are
summarized as follows. The facts are not contested except as otherwise noted.
A. Baron’s Employment at Abbott
Baron was born in 1953. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 6. In 2007, Baron was recruited by
Isaac Friedman, the founder and CEO of a company called STARLIMS. Pl.’s Statement of Facts
¶ 4. STARLIMS’s primary business was selling an eponymous software platform to scientific
laboratories and industry. The STARLIMS software is a “laboratory information management
system” with a “unified web-based platform” that helps researchers to “manage complex testing
and workflows, and facilitate automated processes and calculations” in order to “increase
efficiency and mitigate errors.” 1 Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 2-3. From 2007 until March 2010,
Baron held the position of Chief Business Development Officer at STARLIMS and reported
directly to Friedman. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 4.
In March 2010, Abbott acquired STARLIMS. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 5. Friedman
became Division Vice President and General Manager of a new STARLIMS Division at Abbott.
Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 5. Baron became General Manager for Europe and Africa in the
STARLIMS Division and reported directly to Friedman. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 5. While he
was General Manager for Europe and Africa, Baron led the negotiations that resulted in the
acquisition of four STARLIMS Division business partners in France, the Netherlands, the United
Kingdom, and Israel. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 7. Baron also started a new STARLIMS South
Africa operating entity. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 9. During his first two years at Abbott, Baron
oversaw significant business growth in Europe, and STARLIMS Europe increased sales from $3
million to $16 million. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 10. During this period, Baron received
performance ratings of “Exceeds Expectations,” the highest rating. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 10.
In March 2012, approximately two years after the STARLIMS acquisition, Abbott
underwent an internal reorganization that created a new division named Abbott Informatics
Systems (“AIS”). Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 12. At that time, AIS consisted of STARLIMS and
OneLab, another laboratory information management system. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 12.
See Abbott Informatics, Products, STARLIMS,
Friedman was promoted to Division Vice President for AIS and Baron was promoted to a
position titled “Manager of Global Commercial Operations,” effectively General Manager of all
of STARLIMS. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 15; Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 12. At the time he
became General Manager of STARLIMS, Baron was responsible for four regions: North
America, Europe and Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 12. For
the year 2012, Baron was rated “Achieved Expectations” for his job performance. Pl.’s
Statement of Facts ¶ 12.
In July 2012, Friedman’s supervisor, Ed Michael, left Abbott, and Brian Blaser replaced
him as Executive Vice President of the Diagnostics Division. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 14;
Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 9-10. Blaser was born in 1964. Friedman remained employed at
Abbott pursuant to a three-year employment contract set to expire in April 2013, part of the
STARLIMS acquisition. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 14. Following Michael’s retirement,
Friedman informed Blaser that he planned to retire at the end of his contract. Pl.’s Statement of
Facts ¶ 14.
In March 2013, David Champagne was announced as Friedman’s successor as Division
Vice President for AIS. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 16. Prior to coming to Abbott, Champagne
worked for an Abbott competitor, Thermo Fisher Scientific. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 16.
Champagne was born in 1956. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 25. Friedman allegedly told Baron
that Baron was “too old” to be considered for the Vice President for AIS position. Pl.’s
Statement of Facts ¶ 15.
Champagne became Baron’s direct supervisor as head of AIS in April 2013. Def.’s
Statement of Facts ¶ 24. Champagne also directly supervised Scott Goss, the General Manager of
OneLab. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 20. Scott Goss was born in 1971. Def.’s Statement of Facts
¶ 14. Baron and Goss were the only General Managers who reported directly to Champagne.
Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 25.
In 2013, the performance of AIS as a whole, both STARLIMS and OneLab, did not meet
Abbott’s projections. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 35-39. As part of a restructuring in the
summer of 2013, Champagne, Blaser, and other Abbott executives decided to eliminate the
OneLab division. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 26; Plaintiff’s Resp. to Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶¶
26-28. As a result, Goss’s position as General Manager of OneLab was eliminated and his
employment was terminated. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 26-27. Goss was forty-two years old
when he was fired.
In October and November of 2013, Champagne discussed further restructuring of AIS
with Blaser and several Abbott Human Resources executives. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 40. As
part of this restructuring, Champagne made the decision to eliminate Baron’s position as General
Manager of STARLIMS. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 41. At his deposition in this case on April
15, 2015, Champagne explained that he wanted “to take a layer out of the organization, so that
we could make decisions and act on them much . . . more quickly.” Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex.
E, at 24. Champagne also wanted “more direct visibility into all of the workings of the business
in the field. And as such, all of his director reports essentially reported directly to me.” Def.’s
Statement of Facts Ex. E, at 25.
In December 2013, Champagne informed Baron that his position was being eliminated.
Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 19. At that meeting, Champagne told Baron that he eliminated Baron’s
position “to shake things up.” Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 19. Before and after this meeting,
neither Champagne nor any other Abbott employees made any negative comments regarding
Baron’s job performance. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 20. Baron’s employment at Abbott ended
effective December 31, 2013. Compl. ¶ 29. Baron believes that his employment was terminated
because of his age. Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex. A, at 85-86. At the time of Baron’s firing,
Baron was sixty years old and Champagne was fifty-six years old.
When Baron’s position was eliminated in December 2013, several of the regional general
manager positions that reported to Baron in his role as General Manager for STARLIMS were
vacant. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 24-25. Specifically, the positions of General Manager of
Europe and Africa and General Manager of North America were not filled and the Country
Managers for these regions had been reporting to Baron directly. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 2425.
In January 2014, Abbott promoted the Country Manager for the United Kingdom, Simon
Wood, to the General Manager of Europe and Africa position. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 24, 26.
Wood was born in 1959. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 18. Wood had previously reported directly
to Baron. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 26. In mid-2013, before the elimination of Baron’s position
at Abbott, Champagne and Baron had discussed Wood’s promotion to General Manager of
Europe and Africa, at that time, under Baron as Global Manager of STARLIMS. Def.’s
Statement of Facts ¶ 18.
Also in January 2014, Abbott promoted the General Manager for Latin America, Iberia,
and Canada, Tamir Gottfried, to the General Manager of North America position. Def.’s
Statement of Facts Ex. C at 13. Gottfried was born in 1974. Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex. C., at
13. Like Wood, Gottfried reported directly to Baron before his promotion. Pl.’s Statement of
Facts ¶ 25. In the summer of 2013, Baron assigned the additional responsibility of overseeing
Canadian operations to Gottfried, who had previously been General Manager for Latin American
and Iberia. Pl.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 25.
In February 2015, just over a year after Baron’s departure, Abbott hired Richard
Lanchantin as AIS Director of Global Sales and Services Operations. Pl.’s Statement of Facts
¶ 48. Lanchantin was born in 1956. Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex. H, at 5. Lanchantin was
recruited by Champagne while Lanchantin was employed by Thermo Fisher Scientific. Def.’s
Statement of Facts Ex. H, at 18. Lanchantin had previously worked under Champagne for two
years at Thermo Fisher before Champagne left to join Abbott. Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex. H, at
In May 2015, Champagne reduced his level of work responsibility at Abbott for personal
reasons. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 50-51. As a result, Lanchantin was promoted to Senior
Director of Global Commercial Operations at AIS. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 52. Many of the
regional General Managers who were reporting directly to Champagne and had previously
reported to Baron began reporting to Lanchantin. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 53. Thus,
Lanchantin’s role as Senior Director of Global Commercial Operations at AIS in May 2015
mirrored the role that Baron had performed prior to the elimination of his position in December
2013. Def.’s Statement of Facts ¶ 54. In May 2015, Lanchantin was 59 years old.
B. Procedural History
On May 14, 2014, Baron filed a verified charge of discrimination with the Equal
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and cross-filed the charge with the Pennsylvania Human
Relations Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Pl.’s Statement of
Facts ¶ 31. In the charge, Baron asserted a claim of age discrimination on the basis of
(1) Abbott’s failure to consider him for Champagne’s position and (2) his termination from
Abbott in December 2013. On August 12, 2014, Baron filed his Complaint in this action, in
which he asserts claims for age discrimination in violation of ADEA, the Florida Civil Rights
Act, and PHRA. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 29 U.S.C. §
Following discovery, on July 31, 2015, Abbott filed the instant Motion for Summary
Judgment. In the Motion, Abbott argues that Baron has (1) failed to make out a prima facie case
that his employment was terminated in December 2013 as a result of age discrimination and
(2) failed to show that Abbott’s legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Baron was a
pretext for age discrimination. Abbott also argues that any claim for age discrimination based on
Abbott’s failure to promote Baron in April 2013 to the Division Vice President Position at AIS is
The Court will grant a motion for 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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A factual
dispute is material when it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is genuine “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
“[T]he judge’s function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether . . . there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for
a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Id. at 249.
In considering a motion for summary judgment, “the court is required to examine the
evidence of record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and
resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d
Cir. 2007). The party opposing the motion, however, cannot “rely merely upon bare assertions,
conclusory allegations or suspicions” to support a claim. Fireman’s Ins. Co. of Newark, N.J. v.
DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982) (citations omitted). The party asserting a fact “must
support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of material in the record . . . .” Fed. R. Civ.
ADEA prohibits age discrimination by employers against any employee over the age of
forty. 29 U.S.C. §§ 623(a)(1), 631(a). 2 ADEA claims are subject to the three-prong burdenshifting analysis originally set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).
See Keller v. Orix Credit Alliance, Inc., 130 F.3d 1101, 1108 (3d Cir. 1997). Plaintiff bears the
burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at
802. If the plaintiff employee establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant
employer to produce evidence of a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse
employment action. Id. This burden is one of production, not persuasion. Smith v. City of
Allentown, 589 F.3d 684, 690 (3d Cir. 2009). If defendant offers a legitimate nondiscriminatory
reason, in order to survive summary judgment, plaintiff must submit evidence “to demonstrate
that the employer’s proffered rationale was a pretext for age discrimination.” Id. Ultimately,
plaintiff bears the burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally
discriminated against plaintiff. Sarullo v. U.S. Postal Serv., 352 F.3d 789, 799 n.10 (3d Cir.
The same legal standard applies to Baron’s claims under ADEA, the Florida Civil Rights Act,
and PHRA. See Burton v. Teleflex Inc., 707 F.3d 417, 432 (3d Cir. 2013) (“[T]he PHRA is to be
interpreted as identical to federal anti-discrimination laws except where there is something
specifically different in its language requiring that it be treated differently.” (citations and
quotations omitted)); Harper v. Blockbuster Entertainment Corp., 139 F.3d 1385, 1387 (11th
Cir. 1998) (“The Florida courts have held that decisions construing Title VII are applicable when
considering claims under the Florida Civil Rights Act, because the Florida act was patterned
after Title VII.”).
A. Prima Facie Case
Abbott argues that Baron has failed to establish a prima facie case because no reasonable
jury could conclude that Baron has produced sufficient evidence to support an inference of age
discrimination. The Court agrees.
To establish a prima facie case of age discrimination under ADEA, plaintiff must show
that (1) he is over forty years old; (2) he is qualified for the position in question; (3) he suffered
an adverse employment decision; and (4) he was replaced by a sufficiently younger person to
permit an inference of age discrimination. Smith, 589 F.3d at 689. Two of these elements are not
in dispute. During the relevant times, Baron was over forty years old and he was sixty years old
at the time he was fired. The parties agree that Baron was qualified for his position.
1. Adverse Action
The parties do not dispute that Baron’s termination in December 2013 constituted an
adverse action under ADEA. However, in his Complaint and motion papers, Baron also asserts a
claim for failure to promote based on Abbott’s failure to consider him for Champagne’s position
in April 2013 after Friedman’s retirement. Abbott argues that any failure to promote claim is
time-barred because Baron did not file his EEOC charge until May 2014. The Court agrees. In
so-called “deferral states,” such as Pennsylvania, an ADEA charge must be made with the
relevant state agency within 300 days of when the alleged unlawful employment practice
occurred. Hildebrand v. Allegheny Cnty., 757 F.3d 99, 112 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing 29 U.S.C. §§
626(d)(2), 633(b)). Baron has identified no reason for the Court to excuse this condition
precedent to suit. Thus, the Court concludes that the only actionable adverse action in this case is
the termination of Baron’s employment at Abbott in December 2013.
2. Inference of Age Discrimination
To satisfy the fourth element of the prima facie case, plaintiff must show that the
employer filled his position with someone “sufficiently younger to permit an inference of age
discrimination.” Barber v. CSX Distrib. Servs., 68 F.3d 694, 699 (3d Cir. 1995). The replacement
employee need not be under forty years old and there is “no magic formula to measure a
particular age gap.” Id. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has concluded
that a four-year gap in age is sufficient, while an eleven-month gap is not. Compare Sempier v.
Johnson & Higgins, 45 F.3d 724, 730 (3d Cir. 1995) with Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957
F.2d 1070, 1087 (3d Cir. 1992).
Plaintiff has the burden of producing evidence that he was replaced by a younger
employee or that his job functions were assumed by a younger employee. In a case in which
there is a dispute over whether an employee has been replaced, courts evaluate factors such as
the job titles of the employee and his purported replacement, their respective levels of
responsibility, and their respective supervisors. See Andersen v. Mack Trucks, Inc., Civil Action
No. 11-2239, 2015 WL 4579053, at *7-8 (E.D. Pa. July 30, 2015) (“Courts analyzing the fourth
prong must ‘look to the job function, level of supervisory responsibility and salary, as well as
other factors relevant to the particular workplace.” (quoting Monaco v. Am. Gen. Assurance Co.,
359 F.3d 296, 301 (3d Cir. 2004))).
Baron argues that Gottfried and Wood were promoted to regional General Manager
positions after his departure from Abbott, and that Gottfried and Wood can be used to establish
an inference of discrimination. The Court rejects this argument because neither Gottfried nor
Wood were promoted to Baron’s position as Manager of Global Commercial Operations, or
General Manager of all of STARLIMS. Instead, Gottfried and Wood were promoted to regional
General Manager positions for North America, and Europe and Africa respectively. Had Baron’s
position not been eliminated, both Gottfried and Wood would have reported to Baron in their
new roles. Thus, neither Gottfried nor Wood filled Baron’s position, either in terms of title or job
Baron avers that at the time he was fired he was “performing the functions” of General
Manager of Europe and Africa and General Manager of North America. However, this is only
true in so far as Baron was performing the functions of General Manager of all of STARLIMS
worldwide. The changes in structure at AIS during 2013 collapsed Baron’s job functions
upwards into then-fifty-six year-old Champagne’s role as Division Vice President of AIS, rather
than devolving downward to the regional General Managers. In March 2013, when Champagne
took over AIS, only two General Managers reported directly to Champagne: Baron as General
Manager of STARLIMS and Goss as General Manager of OneLab. By the end of 2013, both of
these positions had been eliminated and Champagne oversaw the regional general managers
directly. The Court concludes that no reasonable jury could find that Gottfried and Wood
“replaced” Baron because neither Gottfried nor Wood took over Baron’s job responsibilities as
General Manager of all of STARLIMS.
Instead, the employee who replaced Baron was Lanchantin in May 2015, when he took
over equivalent responsibilities to Baron as the new Senior Director of Global Commercial
Operations at AIS. Lanchantin took over the direct supervision of the regional general managers
under Champagne. At the time he was promoted, Lanchantin was fifty-nine years old, just one
year younger than Baron was at the time he was fired. This one-year age gap is insufficient to
create an inference of age discrimination.
The Court’s conclusion is supported by the fact that Baron has presented, as will be
discussed below, no other circumstantial evidence to support an inference of age discrimination.
For example, Baron has presented no comparator evidence (other than the promotion of his
subordinates to regional General Manager positions), no evidence of age-discriminatory
comments, and no evidence of any pattern or practice of age discrimination at Abbott. The
record, when viewed as a whole, demonstrates that Baron was fired at age sixty by his fifty-sixyear-old boss and was replaced just over a year later by a fifty-nine-year-old.
B. Legitimate, Nondiscriminatory Reason for Termination
Assuming arguendo that Baron could make out a case of prima facie age discrimination,
the burden shifts to Abbott to demonstrate that there was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason
for termination. The burden on the defendant is only a burden of production, not persuasion, and
is “relatively light.” Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 763 (3d Cir. 1994). Defendant can satisfy
this burden by “introducing evidence which, taken as true, would permit the conclusion that there
was a nondiscriminatory reason for the unfavorable employment decision.” Id.
Over the course of this litigation, Abbott has provided several reasons for Baron’s
termination. At the December 2013 meeting, Champagne told Baron that Baron’s position was
being eliminated to “shake things up.” In response to Baron’s interrogatories propounded during
this litigation, Abbott took the position that Baron was “terminated because his position was
eliminated as part of a business decision to flatten the structure of” AIS. Pl.’s Statement of Facts
Ex. J, at 1. At his deposition in April 2015, Champagne testified that he eliminated Baron’s
I wanted to take a layer out of the organization, so that we could make decisions
and act on them much . . . more quickly. I also wanted much more direct visibility
into all of the workings of the business in the field. And as such, all of his director
reports essentially reported directly to me.
Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex. E, at 24-25. The Court concludes that Abbott has satisfied its light
burden of producing evidence of legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reasons for termination,
specifically, a reorganization of AIS.
Abbott argues that Baron has not produced evidence creating a genuine dispute of
material fact that the proffered legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reasons for eliminating
Baron’s position were pretextual. The Court agrees and concludes that, even if Baron had
established a prima facie case, no reasonable jury could conclude that Abbott’s legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for termination was pretextual.
To establish pretext, a plaintiff must present “some evidence, direct or circumstantial,
from which a factfinder could reasonably either (1) disbelieve the employer’s articulated
legitimate reasons; or (2) believe that an invidious discriminatory reason was more likely than
not a motivating or determinative cause of the employer’s action.” Fuentes 32 F.3d at 764; see
Robinson v. Matthews Intern. Corp., 368 F. App’x 301, 304 (3d Cir. 2010) (applying Fuentes in
ADEA age discrimination claim). Plaintiff must present evidence that will “allow the factfinder
to reasonably infer that each of the employer’s proffered nondiscriminatory reasons was either a
post hoc fabrication or did not actually motivate the employment action” by demonstrating “such
weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies, or contradictions in the employer’s
proffered legitimate reasons for its actions that a reasonable factfinder could rationally find them
unworthy of credence.” Id. at 764-65. Plaintiff must do more than simply show that the
employer’s decision was wrong or mistaken because plaintiff bears the burden of proving that
the adverse action was caused by discriminatory animus. Id.
Baron sets forth three arguments for why the evidence in this case demonstrates pretext.
First, Baron argues that there are inconsistencies in Abbott’s proffered reasons for eliminating
his position. Second, Baron avers that Gottfried and Wood were promoted after he was fired.
Third, Baron argues that there is no other reason, other than age, that could have justified his
firing. The Court rejects these arguments.
With regard to Baron’s first argument that there are inconsistencies in Abbott’s
legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reason for termination, Baron points to what he believes
to be three different reasons offered by Abbott for his termination: (1) Champagne’s statement
in the December 2013 meeting that Abbott wanted to “shake things up;” (2) Abbott’s responses
to interrogatories in this litigation in which Abbott stated that “plaintiff was terminated because
his position was eliminated as a business decision to flatten the structure of” AIS; and (3)
Champagne’s testimony during his April 2015 deposition.
The Court concludes that no reasonable jury could conclude that there is any
inconsistency in these statements. Rather, they represent three different ways of saying the same
thing. Champagne’s statement that he wanted to “shake things up” is subject to a variety of
reasonable interpretations. However, any interpretation of “shake things up” is consistent with
Abbott wanting to “flatten the structure of” AIS or with Champagne’s deposition testimony in
this case. At his April 2015 deposition, Champagne testified that:
I wanted to take a layer out of the organization, so that we could make decisions
and act on them much . . . more quickly. I also wanted much more direct visibility
into all of the workings of the business in the field. And as such, all of his director
reports essentially reported directly to me. . . . Almost every single one that was
on his org chart, [all] of the country managers in Europe. The one for Latin
America and Canada. The four individuals running the [United States]
commercially. The person running Asia/Pacific commercially. The customer
operations sales ops person. The marketing person, I think, before [Baron] left,
came over to work for me.
Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex. E, at 24-25. No reasonable trier of fact could find Champagne’s
testimony that he wanted to “take a layer out of the organization” inconsistent with either a
desire to “shake things up” or a business decision to “flatten the structure of” AIS. 3
Second, Baron argues that pretext can be inferred from the promotion of Gottfried and
Wood. The Court rejects this argument for the reasons previously discussed because neither
Gottfried nor Wood replaced Baron. In addition, plaintiff may not “selectively choose a
comparator,” because the court must consider the employer’s actions toward all members of the
allegedly more favored group. Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, Div. of Sterling, Inc., 142 F.3d 639, 645
(3d Cir. 1998). In this case, Baron focuses solely on the allegedly favorable treatment of
Gottfried and Wood after his firing, but ignores the fact that Abbott also fired Goss, the only
other General Manager in AIS who was at the same supervisory level as Baron and who was
eighteen years younger than Baron. No reasonable jury could infer pretext from the treatment of
Gottfried and Wood, particularly in light of Abbott’s treatment of Goss.
In paragraph 45 of Abbott’s Statement of Undisputed Facts, counsel for Abbott avers “Baron’s
termination was not a result of his job performance, but rather the result of the underperformance
of the AIS division, which he led,” and cites for this proposition a portion of Champagne’s April
2015 deposition. Baron argues that this statement is inconsistent with the “shake things up”
justification for his firing because it refers to the underperformance of the AIS division.
However, Champagne made no reference to the AIS division in the cited part of his deposition
testimony, which is as follows:
Q: So it was your decision in 2013 to terminate [Baron’s] position with the
Q: With the ultimate effect of causing the termination of his employment, correct?
Q: And do you agree that [Baron’s] termination was without regard to his job
Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex. E, at 24:11-20. No reasonable factfinder could interpret
Champagne’s sworn statement at his deposition as inconsistent with the prior reasons provided
for eliminating Baron’s position.
Baron’s final argument amounts to an assertion that Abbott’s business reason for
terminating him was misguided. Baron testified at his deposition in February 2015 that
I was one of the best people in this industry, which is a niche industry and highly
specialized. That my skills and my abilities were well suited towards their
[Abbott’s] goals. And that they were happy to have me there and given the
performance I produced over the years, I believe that was consistent with my
performance . . . . They terminated me without any good reason, without any good
explanation, stating that they . . . cannot say anything bad about my performance
or about me, that they thought my integrity was beyond reproach . . . .
Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex. B, at 84-85. Baron further stated that “given my track record, with
STARLIMS and the years I was there and my contribution, . . . I can only surmise that there’s
one reason for doing that [terminating Baron] and that’s age discrimination because there is no
other good reason.” Def.’s Statement of Facts Ex. B, at 85.
This argument is unavailing. “[F]ederal courts are not arbitral boards ruling on the
strength of ‘cause’ for discharge. The question is not whether the employer made the best, or
even a sound, business decision; it is whether the real reason is discrimination.” Keller v. Orix
Credit Alliance, 130 F.3d 1101, 1109 (3d Cir. 1997) (citations and quotations omitted). Baron
has failed to direct the Court to a single piece of circumstantial evidence supporting his argument
that he was fired because of his age. He has provided no evidence of age-discriminatory
comments, no evidence of inconsistency in Abbott’s reason for termination, no evidence that he
was replaced with a younger individual, no evidence that other younger employees were treated
more favorably, and no evidence of any pattern or practice of age discrimination. The Court also
notes that Baron was fired by Champagne, who is just three years younger than Baron himself,
weakening any argument that Champagne fired Baron because of his age. See Elwell v. PP&L,
Inc., 47 F. App’x 183, 189 (3d Cir. 2002) (“Elwell’s case is further weakened by the fact that
Sobeck was fifty years old at the time he made his hiring choice.”). Thus, Baron has not satisfied
his burden of proving that Abbott’s nondiscriminatory business reason was a pretext for age
For the foregoing reasons, Abbott’s Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. Judgment
is entered in favor of Abbott and against Baron. An appropriate order follows.
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