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Broom v. Aztalan Engineering Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

May 15, 2018

GARY WALTER BROOM, Plaintiff,
v.
AZTALAN ENGINEERING, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Gary W. Broom, appearing pro se, brings this lawsuit in which he alleges that defendant Aztalan Engineering, Inc. wrongfully terminated him from his job as a machinist, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Aztalan has filed a motion for summary judgment, a motion for sanctions against Broom for his continued failure to provide adequate discovery responses, and a motion to stay case deadlines. One of the sanctions Aztalan seeks is dismissal of the case. There is no need to dismiss the case as a sanction or to stay remaining scheduling deadlines, because I conclude that Aztalan should be granted summary judgment on the merits of Broom's claim. I will direct the clerk of court to enter judgment in Aztalan's favor and close the case.

         PRELIMINARY MATTERS

         I previously granted Aztalan's motion to compel discovery after Broom failed to adequately answer one of Aztalan's interrogatories and its request for production of documents. Dkt. 24.1 also granted Aztalan's motion for reasonable expenses incurred in bringing its motion to compel, and I directed Aztalan to submit an itemized accounting of its reasonable expenses. Id. Aztalan has done so, indicating that counsel seeks $1, 427.50 in fees for 6.8 hours of time split among three lawyers. These are reasonable figures, so I will award Aztalan the amount it seeks.

         Aztalan followed with another motion for sanctions, Dkt. 37, stating that Broom never complied with my previous order by responding to the discovery requests that I concluded he failed to adequately answer. Broom opposes the motion by saying that he is not withholding any information, but he does not address Aztalan's statement that he failed to redraft the relevant discovery responses. I will grant Aztalan's motion because Broom failed to follow my previous order. In addition to attorney fees and costs incurred in bringing its motion, Aztalan seeks dismissal of the case. As with Aztalan's previous motion, I will grant it reasonable fees and costs. But I will deny the motion to dismiss the case, given my summary judgment opinion below dismissing the case.

         Aztalan has filed a motion to stay the remaining pretrial deadlines, Dkt. 41, but I will deny that motion as moot because I am granting Aztalan's motion for summary judgment.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Undisputed facts

         I draw the following from the parties' summary judgment materials.[1]

         Plaintiff Gary W. Broom is a resident of Ixonia, Wisconsin. He was born in 1953. Defendant Aztalan Engineering, Inc. is located in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. Aztalan specializes in manufacturing precision machined parts for various businesses, including those in the medical, aerospace, defense, and energy industries.

         Broom began working at Aztalan in September 2009, initially as a temporary worker assigned by a staffing agency. In January 2010, Broom accepted a full-time position working as a machinist on second shift in the production department. He was responsible for setting up and operating production equipment to make precision machined parts, and performing periodic machine inspections.

         Aztalan's employee handbook detailed the company's expectations for its employees.[2]Among other things, Aztalan explicitly required its employees to satisfy appropriate "standards of work quality and quantity, " "work as a team to improve [Aztalan's] manufacturing process, " and "act in a professional and courteous manner towards each other and [Aztalan's] customers." See Dkt. 32-1. Any employee who demonstrated "substandard performance or conduct[ed] or commit[ted] an act that [wa]s offensive to the rules of common sense or decency or an act that violate[d] a published policy or rule of Aztalan Engineering [was subject to] corrective action, " including termination.

         Starting in 2012, Broom received a series of warnings about his job performance. In March 2012, Broom received a performance review stating that he needed "to work on paying closer attention to detail to reduce rework and scrap and make sure he thoroughly inspects his parts, "[3] although the performance and skills charts included in the review document did not indicate any areas denoted as "need[ing] emphasis/growth" or "not acceptable." Dkt. 32-2.

         In late May 2012, Mike Nebel, then Aztalan's director of production, gave Broom a verbal warning, explaining that Broom was producing a significant number of nonconforming parts and that he needed to improve the quality of the parts he was producing. Dkt. 32-3.

         In May 2013, Broom received a performance review from Nebel stating that that Aztalan "need[ed him] to improve on the quality of his parts. Pay more attention to detail. Don't become the weak link in the chain." Dkt. 32-4. This time the "Quality of work" category on his review document was denoted as "need[ing] emphasis/growth." Id. Broom also received a verbal warning the day of the review because he intentionally dawdled in going over to see Nebel, stating that he was doing so in response to Nebel delaying a few months in holding the review.

         Broom states in his summary judgment opposition that he did not receive a verbal warning. But I cannot credit this statement because he previously testified at his deposition that Nebel had given him a verbal warning over the telephone. Dkt. 34, at 44-45. Under the "sham affidavit" rule, he cannot change the version of events he set forth ...


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