September 4, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:17-cv-07904.
John Robert Blakey, Judge.
Rovner, Scudder, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.
EVE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
David McDaniel alleges his former employer,
defendant-appellee Progress Rail Locomotive, Inc., unlawfully
discriminated against him on the basis of age and retaliated
against him for complaining about a superior, in violation of
the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"),
29 U.S.C. §§ 621-34. The district court ultimately
granted summary judgment in favor of Progress Rail. We
has not supplied evidence of any similarly situated employee
that would allow a factfinder to determine whether any
adverse employment action he experienced was the result of
age discrimination or retaliation against him. Summary
judgment was therefore appropriate.
Progress Rail's Policies
Rail, a manufacturer of diesel-electric locomotives and
diesel-powered engines, requires its employees to comply with
applicable Shop Rules governing health and safety in the
workplace. Although McDaniel argues that Progress Rail's
policies call for it to issue punishments in a progressive
manner, the Shop Rules specifically state that violations or
other inappropriate behavior "will be sufficient grounds
for corrective disciplinary action ranging from reprimand to
immediate discharge, depending upon the seriousness of the
offense in the judgment of Management."
Rule 31 prohibits the "[d]isregard of safety rules of
common safety practices." One of these safety rules bars
employees from lifting any load over 35 pounds without a
mechanical lifting device. Another safety rule forbids the
use of cell phones when operating equipment. Cell phones are
also "not permitted to be out in the open or visible
within the aisle lines of a manufacturing area," save
for exceptional work-related purposes.
Progress Rail has reason to believe an employee has violated
a Shop Rule, its procedures call for an investigatory
interview and a disciplinary hearing prior to issuing
discipline. The employee's supervisor leads this process
and memorializes it in various forms. At the disciplinary
hearing, the employee may call witnesses, and the employee is
entitled to union representation. Raymond Maroni, Manager of
Labor Relations, reviews the severity of each infraction and
the employee's disciplinary history to ultimately
determine whether and to what extent discipline is
appropriate. When safety violations result in personal
injury, a separate Safety Committee investigates the incident
and determines any consequences.
McDaniel's Conduct and Subsequent Investigations
Rail hired McDaniel in 2005 and employed him as an "S15
Specialist, Material," also known as a Material Handler,
for almost twelve years until his termination in April 2017.
In this role, McDaniel was responsible for loading and
unloading materials of varying size and weight, performing
inventory counts, and assembling diesel engine kits for the
production of railway locomotives. McDaniel was 55 years old
at the time of his termination.
2016, Jonathan Howard, a Warehouse Supervisor, became
McDaniel's direct manager. As Warehouse Supervisor,
Howard oversaw nine employees, consisting of eight Material
Handlers (two of whom were welders on temporary assignment)
and one clerk. Howard reported to George Pekarik, the General
Supervisor, until Pekarik was ...