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Johnson v. St. Paul Plumbing & Heating Co.

United States District Court, District of Minnesota

December 29, 2014

WAYNE A. JOHNSON and JOHN G. PARKES, Plaintiffs,
v.
ST. PAUL PLUMBING & HEATING CO. and DAVID L. SMITH, Defendants.

Stephen J. Snyder and Craig A. Brandt, Snyder & Brandt, P.A., Counsel for Plaintiffs.

Anna R. Hickman, Nora R. Kaitfors, and V. John Ella, Jackson Lewis P.C., Counsel for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

MICHAEL J. DAVIS CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. [Docket No. 53] For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants’ motion and dismisses claims against Defendant David L. Smith as alleged in Count IV of the Amended Complaint.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Defendant David Smith is the sole owner of Defendant St. Paul Plumbing & Heating Co. (“SPPH”). ([Docket No. 56] Affidavit of V. John Ella in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (“Ella Aff.”), Ex. 1, Deposition of David L. Smith (“Smith Dep.”) 7.) Plaintiff Wayne Johnson was employed by SPPH as the General Manager from 2005 until April 29, 2013, when he was fired by Smith. (Ella Aff., Ex. 2, Deposition of Wayne Johnson (“Johnson Dep.”) 14, 221.)

In 2011, SPPH’s independent investigator found that Johnson was responsible for inappropriate sexual banter with female employees. (Johnson Dep. 53-55.) SPPH and Johnson, individually, were sued for sexual harassment. (Id. 81-83.) The lawsuit was settled, but Smith and Johnson were on bad terms after that time. (See, e.g., Smith Dep. 88, 222-23; Ella Aff., Exs. 3 and 4.) Smith asserts that he started to seek a replacement for Johnson. (Smith Dep. 121-25.)

On February 21, 2013, Johnson invited Smith to attend an interview with Thomas O’Gara, a candidate for a Service Manager position. (Ella Aff., Ex. 5.) Smith claims that, as an absentee owner, he was not interested in interviewing any Service Manager candidates and did not interview any of them. (Smith Dep. 174, 177, 179.) He asserts that he has no memory of O’Gara. (Id. 167.) On the other hand, Johnson asserts that Smith told him that O’Gara was “too old” for the Service Manager position and instructed Johnson to cancel the interview. (Johnson Dep. 164-66.)

Johnson recommended Andy Ryan, who was the Sales and Service Manager at Genz-Ryan, an SPPH competitor, to Smith as a candidate for the Service Manager position. (Johnson Dep. 193-97; Ella Aff., Ex. 6, Deposition of Andrew Ryan (“Ryan Dep.”) 133.) Ryan’s position at Genz-Ryan included many of the same responsibilities performed by the SPPH General Manager. (Ryan Dep. 139, 141.)

Ryan sought an introduction to Smith through Smith’s close friend, Tom Fee, to inform Smith that Ryan was leaving Genz Ryan and with the goal of, eventually, being hired as the General Manager at SPPH. (Smith Dep. 117; Ryan Dep. 30-31.) Smith communicated with Ryan in late March or early April 2013 to discuss Ryan becoming the General Manager at SPPH. (Ella Aff., Ex. 3; Smith Dep. 18-19.)

In mid-April 2013, Smith offered Ryan, then age 29, the General Manager position. (Ryan Dep. 18-19; Ella Aff., Ex. 3.) Johnson was 48 at the time. ([Docket No. 59] Affidavit of Craig A. Brandt in Support of Plaintiff Wayne A. Johnson’s Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (“Brandt Aff.”), Ex. 3.)

On April 12, 2013, Johnson interviewed Plaintiff John Parkes for the Service Manager position. (Johnson Dep. 186-87.) According to Johnson, he told Smith that he would like to set up a second interview with Parkes. (Id. 172-73, 187.) Smith asked for Parkes’ age. (Id. 172.) Johnson stated that Parkes was in his ...


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