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William J. Heinrich v. Xerox Corporation

June 22, 2011

WILLIAM J. HEINRICH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
XEROX CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff William J. Heinrich ("Heinrich") brings this action pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the "ADEA"); against defendant Xerox Corporation, ("Xerox"), claiming that he was unlawfully fired from his employment by Xerox on the basis of his age.*fn1 Specifically, Heinrich, who was 40 years old when he was terminated from his employment, claims that he was treated differently than younger, similarly situated workers, and was fired for engaging in conduct that would not have resulted in termination of employment for younger workers.

Defendant denies plaintiff's claim, and moves to dismiss plaintiff's Amended Complaint, or, in the alternative, seeks summary judgment against the plaintiff. According to Xerox, Heinrich cannot establish an inference of discrimination because there is no evidence that he was treated differently than similarly situated employees who were significantly younger than plaintiff at the time his employment was terminated, or under the age of 40. In support of its motion Xerox contends that the plaintiff, who was 40 at the time he was fired, was one of the three youngest employees in his work group, and was only months older than the two youngest employees in that group. Xerox argues because the plaintiff was only months older than other allegedly similarly situated employees, and was among the youngest of employees in his work group, Heinrich cannot, as a matter of law, state a claim for age discrimination.

For the reasons set forth below, I deny defendant's motion to dismiss, and deny without prejudice defendant's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

According to the Amended Complaint, plaintiff William Heinrich was hired by defendant Xerox in March, 1988, and began his employment in the Supplies Division. In September, 2008, when plaintiff was 40 years old, his employment was terminated. At the time he was fired, plaintiff worked as a "Coater-Operator".

According to the Amended Complaint, plaintiff was fired for having violated Xerox's personal conduct policy. According to the defendant, Heinrich was terminated because he had, inter alia, threatened a co-employee. Plaintiff alleges that he was never made aware that he had allegedly threatened other co-workers. He contends that he was treated differently than employees who were under the age of 40, in that those employees were not disciplined as harshly as he was for engaging in the same or similar conduct for which he was disciplined.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standards Governing a Motion to Dismiss In deciding a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a court must "accept...all factual allegations in the complaint and draw...all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." See Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir.2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). In order to withstand dismissal, the complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." See id. at 1965 (internal quotation marks omitted).*fn2 For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court will deem the complaint to include "any written instrument attached to it as an exhibit or any statements or documents incorporated in it by reference." See Rothman v. Gregor, 220 F.3d 81, 88 (2d Cir.2000).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." When considering a motion for summary judgment, all genuinely disputed facts must be resolved in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). If, after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court finds that no rational jury could find in favor of that party, a grant of summary judgment is appropriate. Scott, 550 U.S. at 380 (citing Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-587 (1986)).

III. Defendant is not entitled to dismissal of Plaintiff's ADEA claims

A. Legal Standards for Age Discrimination Claims To establish a prima facie case of age discrimination under the ADEA, a plaintiff must demonstrate that; (1) he is a member of a protected group; (2) he was qualified for the position he held; and (3) he was discharged under circumstances giving rise to an inference of age discrimination. McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973); Promisel v. ...


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