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Bay v. Fairfield Resorts

December 10, 2007

JAMES E. BAY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FAIRFIELD RESORTS, INC. AND CENDANT TIMESHARE RESORT GROUP, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge

(VARLAN/GUYTON)

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This civil action is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 22]. Plaintiff, James E. Bay ("Mr. Bay"), claims that the Defendants, Fairfield Resorts, Inc. ("Fairfield") and Cendant Timeshare Resort Group, Inc. ("Cendant") (hereinafter collectively referred to as the "Defendants"), discriminated against him in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 6.] More specifically, he claims (1) age discrimination for various acts by Cendant and (2) a hostile work environment. In their motion for summary judgment, the Defendants argue that, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to Mr. Bay's ADEA claims because there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. [Doc. 23 at 1.] Mr. Bay opposes Defendants' motion and contends disputed material facts exist in this case. [Doc. 37.] Specifically, Mr. Bay argues that the Defendants' contention that he was not qualified by either education or experience to fill the job of Vice President for Cendant Timeshare Resort Group is mere pretext. [Doc. 37 at 2.]

The Court has carefully reviewed the pending motion, along with the supporting and opposing briefs in light of the entire record and controlling law. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be GRANTED.

I. Relevant Facts

Defendant Fairfield was a company whose business involved designing, constructing, maintaining, and selling timeshare resort units. [Docs. 24, 40 at ¶ 1.] The Plaintiff, Mr. Bay, began his employment with Fairfield on or about October 16, 1982. [Id. at ¶ 12.] With the exception of a brief separation from 1991 to 1995, Mr. Bay was employed by Fairfield as a Director of Construction. [Id. at ¶ 13.] In or around April 2, 2001, Defendant Cendant purchased Fairfield and assumed the same operations in which Fairfield was engaged. [Id. at ¶ 2.] Throughout his employment with Fairfield and Cendant, Mr. Bay lived in or around Knoxville, Tennessee. [Id. at ¶ 11.] After the purchase of Fairfield, Mr. Bay continued to work for Cendant as a Director of Construction. [Id. at ¶ 3.] Construction Directors oversee, design, and construct timeshare resort buildings at assigned locations throughout the region where the Construction Director is assigned. [Id. at ¶ 15.]

After purchasing Fairfield, Cendant undertook a corporate reorganization. [Id. at ¶ 6.] Around July 2004, Cendant's Senior Vice President of Resort Development, Jerry Piro ("Mr. Piro"), was hired to help with the reorganization and to better equip Cendant to be competitive in the timeshare market. [Id. at ¶ 7.] Defendants contend that Mr. Piro instituted changes to the corporate culture, such as requiring increased accountability and requiring "more degreed people in upper management positions." [Id. at ¶ 8.] Mr. Piro instituted several policy changes in Cendant's Construction Department, including requiring all Directors of Construction to be present in Cendant's Orlando's office for meetings every Monday and planning on the future relocation of all Directors of Construction and higher positions to Cendant's Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, Florida. [Id. at ¶ 9.]

In October of 2004, Mr. Piro met with Mr. Bay to discuss Mr. Bay's role in Cendant. [Id. at ¶¶ 18, 19.] During this meeting, they discussed Mr. Bay's eventual relocation to Orlando. [Id. at ¶ 22.] Mr. Bay informed Mr. Piro that he had recently purchased a home in Knoxville and did not want to move. [Id.] As to the issue of relocating to Orlando, Mr. Bay states, "I told [Mr. Piro] it would not be something I really wanted to do. But I did not refuse to do it." [Doc. 24-2 at 6.] In October of 2004, Mr. Bay learned that Mr. Piro wanted him to be in Orlando once a week for meetings. [Docs. 24, 40 at ¶ 97.] From October of 2004 through June 2005, Mr. Bay attended four or five meetings in Orlando. [Id. at ¶ 98.]

In the summer of 2004, Mark Rogers ("Mr. Rogers") informed Cendant of his resignation from the Vice President of Construction position. [Id. at ¶ 24.] Mr. Piro was charged with the responsibility of filling the vacant position. [Id. at ¶ 25.] Cendant required the new Vice President of Construction to be located in Orlando. [Id. at ¶ 38.] The job description for the Vice President of Construction position required a "college or masters degree in construction management, engineering, architecture, or a similar field and reinforced, concrete high-rise new construction experience." [Id. at ¶ 26.] Mr. Bay disputes the Defendant's contention that "he had any knowledge or understanding that his lack of a college degree disqualified him from consideration for a Vice President of Construction position vacated by Mark Rogers." [Doc. 40 at ¶ 8.]

Mr. Bay did not tell Mr. Piro that he was interested in the Vice President of Construction position, but he talked to Mr. Rogers about the Vice President position. [Doc. 24-2 at 11.] Specifically, Mr. Bay "asked him if he thought I would be qualified for it, and he agreed [Mr. Bay] was." [Id.] Mr. Rogers informed Mr. Piro and his superior, Brian Keller, of Mr. Bay's interest in the Vice President of Construction position. [Docs. 38, 42 at ¶ 11.]

In late September to early October of 2004, Mr. Piro promoted Geoff Geddes ("Mr. Geddes") to the Vice President of Construction position. [Docs. 24, 40 at ¶ 41.] At the time of his promotion, Mr. Geddes was 43 years old. [Id. at ¶ 35.] The Defendants contend that Mr. Geddes was hired because he had expressed interest in the position, had an architectural degree, was a licensed architect, had significant new concrete high-rise development experience, and lived in Orlando. [Id.] In late September to early October 2004, Mr. Geddes took over the day-to-day supervision of Construction Directors and assumed the other duties of the Vice President of Construction, though Mr. Rogers did not officially leave Cendant until December 31, 2004. [Id. at ¶ 44.] By mid-October 2004, Mr. Bay began reporting to Mr. Geddes as his supervisor. [Id. at ¶ 45.]

In early 2004, Cendant informed Mr. Bay that his pay raise would be delayed, and he spoke to Mr. Piro about this issue in late 2004 or early 2005. [Id. at ¶¶ 50, 51.] In March 2005, Mr. Geddes and Mr. Piro authorized Mr. Bay to receive at $10,000 pay raise. [Id. at ¶ 51.]

In 2005, Mr. Bay alleges he heard about a dozen comments about the "old way" or "old school way," including such three such comments by Mr. Geddes and two to three such comments by Mr. Piro. [Docs. 24, 40 at ¶¶ 58, 65, 67; 24-2 at 26.] Mr. Bay also claims a Cendant estimator, Marc Rogers, referred to an individual as "one of the old guys that still hadn't come around yet." [Id. at ¶ 61.]

In early 2004, Mr. Bay had the authority and sought to hire a project manager to help him exclusively. [Id. at ¶ 54.] During the reorganization, this authority to hire was put on hold. [Id. at ¶ 55.] Mr. Bay contends that the Defendants "dramatically increased [his] work load without providing adequate support staff and then were critical of the quality, content, or quantity of said work and, as a result ostensibly thereof, began to take major projects away from [Mr. Bay] and re-assign them to younger, less experienced managers in the corporate office." [Doc. 1 at ¶ 13.] Defendants contend that Mr. Geddes understood that Mr. Bay was stressed, felt overworked, believed he had too many projects, and had personal problems at home. [Docs. 24, 40 at ¶ 74.] Defendants contend that Cendant hired Gary Watters ("Mr. Watters") as a Construction Director to alleviate Mr. Bay's workload rather than hiring a project manager to work exclusively for Mr. Bay. [Id. at ¶¶ 57, 76, 77.] Cendant reassigned the La Belle Maison project in New Orleans, Louisiana to Mr. Watters. [Id. at ¶ 80.] Mr. Bay also alleges that Mr. Geddes harassed him by criticizing him to be more involved with no specifics or discipline. [Id. at ¶¶ 87, 88.] Additionally, he claims he was cut off from communication with Cendant's upper management. [Id. at ¶ 101.]

Mr. Bay alleges that Mr. Geddes gave him an ultimatum of three to four weeks prior to his resignation that he had to move to Orlando "soon" or "there would be no position" for him at Cendant. [Id. at ¶ 112.] Defendants contend that Mr. Geddes never told Mr. Bay that he would be terminated. [Id. at ¶ 113.]

In April of 2005, Mr. Bay spoke with Mr. Rogers about possible employment with a Cendant competitor, Bluegreen. [Id. at ¶ 117.] In late May or early June 2005, Mr. Bay had further discussions with Mr. Rogers about employment with Bluegreen. [Id. at ¶ 119.] After Mr. Geddes allegedly told him he would be required to relocate to Orlando "soon," Mr. Bay told Mr. Geddes he was going to resign. [Id. at ¶ 119.] One June 13, 2005, Bluegreen offered Mr. Bay a job performing the same or substantially similar duties to those he was performing at Cendant. [Id. at ¶ 122.] On June 17, 2005, Mr. Bay tendered his immediate resignation from Cendant; he did not receive a severance package despite attempts to get one from Cendant just prior to his resignation. [Id. at ¶¶ 122, 125, 126.] Mr. Bay began working at Bluegreen days after his resignation from Cendant. [Id. at ¶ 130.] At the time of his resignation from Cendant, Mr. Bay was 52 years old. [Id. at ¶ 10.]

On September 5, 2005, Mr. Bay filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). [Doc. 1 at ¶ 20.] On August 16, 2006, Mr. Bay filed his complaint alleging that the Defendants violated the ADEA. [see Doc. 1.]

II. Analysis

A. Standard of ...


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