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Bianchi v. B & G Machine, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 21, 2019

JOHN BIANCHI, Plaintiff,
v.
B & G MACHINE, INC., Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Sherry R. Fallon, United States Magistrate Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Presently before the court in this age discrimination action is a motion filed by defendant B & G Machine, Inc. ("B&G") for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).[1] (D.I. 44) For the following reasons, the court recommends DENYING defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         II. BACKGROUND

         a. Procedural History

         On June 29, 2018, plaintiff John Bianchi ("Mr. Bianchi") originally filed this action against B&G in the Superior Court of Washington, asserting claims arising from his termination from his employment. (D.I. 1, Ex. 1) On July 18, 2018, the case was removed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington by defendant B&G pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441, and 1446. (D.I. 1) On July 25, 2018, B&G filed a motion to transfer venue. (D.I. 7) On September 11, 2018, the Western District of Washington granted B&G's motion to transfer venue and directed that the case be transferred to this court. (D.I. 15)

         On February 22, 2019, plaintiff filed an amended complaint (the "First Amended Complaint"). (D.I. 33) On March 8, 2019, B&G filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. (D.I. 35) On March 29, 2019, plaintiff filed a second amended complaint (the "Second Amended Complaint"). (D.I. 41) On April 12, 2019, B&G filed the present motion for judgment on the pleadings. (D.I. 44)

         b. Factual Background[2]

         This case arises out of defendant's alleged age discrimination in terminating Mr. Bianchi's employment. Counts 1 and 2 of the Second Amended Complaint allege age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634, and in violation of Washington's law against age discrimination ("WLAD"), Wash. Rev. Code §§ 49.60.010-.510. (D.I. 41 at ¶¶ 30-36)

         Plaintiff was born on August 27, 1944 and was 73 years old when he was terminated from his employment on February 28, 2018. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-6) Plaintiff was a "part-owner" of B&G, a Washington based business, until he sold the company to H-E Parts in August 2013. (Id. at ¶ 8) Thereafter, the parties agreed that plaintiff would remain an employee for an additional three years.[3] (Id.)

         On May 20, 2015, B&G's Chief Operating Officer, Mike Coffey ("Mr. Coffey"), wrote an email to plaintiff, stating that B&G wanted to ensure that the long-term leadership had "some runway behind them when we sell the company." (Id. at ¶ 9; D.I. 46, Ex. A) Mr. Coffey also stated that it was important to identify both the founder and the "new blood" to potential buyers. (D.I. 41 at ¶ 11) On July 29, 2015, B&G changed plaintiffs job responsibilities from that of an executive to those of a technical advisor. (Id. at ¶ 13)

         In August 2016, the three-year term expired for plaintiffs employment, but he continued to work for B&G. (Id. at ¶ 14) On April 19, 2017, plaintiff indicated that he wished to continue working for B&G, and inquired whether his age was a factor in his continued employment. (Id. at ¶ 15) Mr. Coffey responded that "all companies need new blood," but that plaintiff would be employed as long as he was healthy and performing. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16) On April 20, 2017, Mr. Coffey emailed plaintiff and referenced an agreement for plaintiff to work another two years for B&G. (Id. at¶17)

         In September 2017, Mr. Coffey informed one of plaintiff s sons that plaintiff would be terminated because of an incident involving a former B&G employee. (Id. at ¶ 19) On January 31, 2018, Mr. Coffey informed plaintiff that his last day would be February 28, 2018. (Id. at ¶ 20) When plaintiff responded that he wished to remain employed, Mr. Coffey stated that his "history and reputation cast a large shadow and the business needs for Eric, Bill and the Seattle team to gain their footing." (Id.) Plaintiffs two sons, who are approximately twenty to thirty years younger than plaintiff, remained employed with B&G.[4] (Id. at ¶ 21) Around the time of plaintiffs termination, B&G hired Eric Lentz ("Mr. Lentz"), who was approximately 39 years old. (Id. at ¶ 22) Mr. Lentz "replaced Plaintiff at [B&G] for all intents and purposes." (Id.) On February 2, 2018, Mr. Coffey informed plaintiffs sons that they were a critical part of B&G's future and that it was time to move on from plaintiffs termination. (Id. at ¶ 23) On March 1, 2018, Mr. Coffey informed several B&G employees that plaintiffs termination was by agreement. (Id. at ¶ 24) On March 28, 2018, Mr. Coffey informed plaintiff that he was terminated due to the results of a diligence assessment that indicated that former owners should be transitioned out to allow new management an opportunity for success. (Id. at ¶ 25) Plaintiff alleges that he was healthy, performed well, and was an asset to B&G at all relevant times. (Id. at ¶ 27) However, Mr. Coffey consistently made representations that there needed to be "new blood" and "new ideas" in management and a potential for new growth. (Id. at ¶ 29)

         III. ...


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