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April 2016

Gordon & Rees Denver Team Wins Summary Judgment in Federal Employment Discrimination Case

Gordon & Rees Denver partner Laurie J. Rust and associate Aubrey Elenis won summary judgment on behalf of their client, a medical device manufacturer, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.

The plaintiff worked as a regulatory specialist in the Quality Control department. She received average reviews for several years. When the department was reorganized, the plaintiff’s role was changed from administrative to analytical and a new supervisor was hired. The supervisor regularly met with the plaintiff to discuss her shortcomings, including her high error rate. After being placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), the plaintiff complained that her supervisor was nit-picking and undervaluing her work. Shortly thereafter, the employer determined that the plaintiff would not be able to meet the performance expectations of the position and terminated her employment.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging gender and age discrimination, retaliation, and violation of the Equal Pay Act. She attached approximately fifty pages of attachments to the complaint, including her performance reviews, internal complaint, EEOC intake questionnaire, and the unemployment decision, which determined that she was not qualified for the revised job description. Rather than seek to enforce the arbitration agreement the plaintiff had signed, Gordon & Rees moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiff failed to state a single plausible claim to relief and that the attachments established that amendment was futile.

The Court converted the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment and permitted the parties to file supplemental briefing. In response, Gordon & Rees argued that the attachments established that the employer terminated the plaintiff’s employment because she could not satisfy the new analytical requirements of her job and that her allegations of harassment were nothing more than complaint’s about her supervisor’s management style and her own poor performance, which are not protected by any discrimination laws.

The Court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of Gordon & Rees’ client and awarded its costs. The plaintiff agreed to waive appeal in exchange for a waiver of costs.