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McGaffney v. Donahoe

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 28, 2015

TERRANCE McGAFFNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK R. DONAHOE, Postmaster General, Defendant.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Patrick R. Donahoe's ("Mr. Donahoe") Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 36). Plaintiff Terrance McGaffney ("Mr. McGaffney) brought his claims of age discrimination and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. ยงยง 621, 633a ("ADEA") against Mr. Donahoe in his official capacity as Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service ("USPS").

For the following reasons, Mr. Donahoe's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Mr. McGaffney's action is DISMISSED.

I. BACKGROUND

Mr. McGaffney was born in 1946 and began working for USPS in 1982 at the Kokomo, Indiana, Processing and Distribution Facility. Over his 30 years of service, Mr. McGaffney worked his way up the ladder at the Kokomo office. He was hired as a clerk and was then promoted to the position of accounting assistant supervisor, accounting supervisor and later became a maintenance supervisor. In 2002, Mr. McGaffney became the manager of maintenance (Filing No. 36-1 at 5). As the manager of maintenance, he was responsible for all outside contractors that came into the facility, and he supervised the maintenance supervisor to ensure that maintenance work was being completed (Filing No. 36-1 at 6). As the maintenance manager, Mr. McGaffney reported to the plant manager, the highest official at the facility.

In August 2012, Brian LeSage ("Mr. LeSage") was assigned to be the acting plant manager at the Kokomo facility, and he became Mr. McGaffney's immediate supervisor. From the beginning their relationship was rocky. Mr. LeSage did not know Mr. McGaffney prior to this new assignment. However, about a week after beginning his assignment, Mr. LeSage was asked by Martin Hunnicutt, the out-going plant manager, to issue a warning letter to Mr. McGaffney based on allegations that Mr. McGaffney had been discovered using a petty cash fund to make purchases without prior approval and outside of USPS's authorized purchasing system (Filing No. 36-5 at 1). Mr. McGaffney admitted to this conduct and was issued a warning letter for failure to properly perform his duties. Id.

When Mr. LeSage went to Mr. McGaffney's office to deliver the warning letter, Mr. McGaffney's office door was locked, and there was no answer when he knocked on the door. Mr. LeSage unlocked the door with his key and entered the office. Mr. McGaffney was inside the office and seemed startled. He was sitting at his desk watching security videotape that directly showed a female support clerk sitting at her desk (Filing No. 41-4 at 5). Mr. LeSage found this peculiar and asked Mr. McGaffney why he was watching the footage, to which Mr. McGaffney responded that he was monitoring a register case on the employee's desk (Filing No. 41-4 at 5).

Mr. LeSage inspected Mr. McGaffney's office after Mr. McGaffney left for the day, finding additional images on the video monitor that indicated to Mr. LeSage that Mr. McGaffney had the security camera aimed at the female employee's desk and that he had been watching footage of Mr. LeSage speaking with the female employee at her desk earlier in the day (Filing No. 36-4 at 2). Prior to this incident, Mr. LeSage had been notified by other employees that Mr. McGaffney might be stalking Maintenance Support Clerk Cynthia Cooney ("Ms. Cooney). (Filing No. 36-6). Mr. LeSage also had information that Mr. McGaffney had manipulated Ms. Cooney's time sheet in USPS's time and attendance system to reflect time she did not work. Id. Based on these suspicions, Mr. McGaffney's unsatisfactory responses as to why he was viewing the video, and comments from other employees, Mr. LeSage placed Mr. McGaffney on emergency off-duty status without pay, pending a full investigation, effective August 31, 2012. Id. Mr. LeSage asked Mr. McGaffney to turn in his badge, keys, and Blackberry phone, and he escorted him from the building (Filing No. 36-1 at 8; Filing No. 36-8 at 1).

On September 6, 2012, Mr. McGaffney received written notice of his status and that same day requested an appointment with an equal employment opportunity ("EEO") counselor in accordance with regulations for federal agency employment discrimination. He then submitted an "Information for Pre-Complaint Counseling" on September 17, 2012, to USPS's EEO department, which was received on September 20, 2012. The Information challenged Mr. LeSage's decision to place him on off-duty status. Mr. McGaffney alleged discrimination based on his age because he had to pick one of the categories contained on the EEO form. (Filing No. 36-1 at 13). Mr. McGaffney believed this was the case based on his feelings that because he was eligible to retire "they want to force me out." Id. In the Information, Mr. McGaffney requested being placed back in his position as maintenance manager in Kokomo. Mr. McGaffney, having never before filed an EEO complaint, was unfamiliar with the process. He was informed by an EEO investigator that, if he was unable to prove that a similarly situated employee was treated differently, then he would not be successful in his case. Mr. McGaffney believed that he would be unable to meet this standard, so he decided to withdraw his request for EEO counseling (Filing No. 36-1 at 14). On September 30, 2012, Mr. McGaffney formally withdrew his request for EEO counseling, thereby ending his pursuit of a claim based on the unpaid off-duty placement (Filing No. 36-9).

Mr. McGaffney was in off-duty status without pay for one week when David Riley ("Mr. Riley"), lead manager of maintenance at the Indianapolis facility, offered to allow Mr. McGaffney to work at the Indianapolis facility. Mr. McGaffney received a call from Mr. LeSage ordering him to report to Robert Wells ("Mr. Wells") at the Indianapolis facility (Filing No. 36-1 at 8). Mr. McGaffney was assigned to the Indianapolis facility for nine months, pending the outcome of his investigation. While assigned to the Indianapolis facility, Mr. McGaffney retained his position title, pay, and grade; however he had to travel approximately 100 miles round trip each day. He supervised other employees and observed and reported on the machines in the facility. He also was asked to complete periodic audits of the machinery throughout each day. On December 18, 2012, Mr. McGaffney was assigned to do craft work for four days. Specifically, he was assigned the task of hitting a machine with a hammer every time it stopped working. Subordinate employees made fun of Mr. McGaffney, which made him feel humiliated. He was assigned this task through December 21, 2012. When a union grievance and a complaint was submitted to human resources, Mr. Riley removed him from performing this task noting that this reassignment work was not commensurate with Mr. McGaffney's position description, skill level and seniority. However, other managers had performed this task in the past to help keep operations going.

During Mr. McGaffney's assignment to the Indianapolis facility, Mr. Riley asked Shannon Childers ("Mr. Childers"), postmaster of the Seymour, Indiana, post office, to assist in Mr. McGaffney's investigation. Mr. Childers, who was trained and had extensive experience in investigations, was asked to investigate the allegations against Mr. McGaffney regarding possible sexual harassment, theft of postal time, and failure to follow instructions (Filing No. 36-11 at 5). Mr. Childers spent about a month at the Kokomo facility where he interviewed approximately twenty-five employees (Filing No. 36-11 at 6). Based on the information gathered from employees and documents, Mr. Childers recommended that Mr. McGaffney be interviewed.

Because of Mr. Childers's recommendation, Mr. McGaffney was asked to return to the Kokomo facility for an investigative interview. Up to that point, he had not heard anything about the investigation for approximately four weeks. Mr. McGaffney contacted the National Association of Postal Service Supervisors ("NAPS") to request a representative, and Larry Massie ("Mr. Massie") filled that role. Mr. Massie accompanied Mr. McGaffney to the interview as his representative (Filing No. 36-1 at 14). The interview lasted approximately three hours and covered years of Mr. McGaffney's work (Filing No. 36-1 at 9). Following the interview, Mr. McGaffney returned to the Indianapolis facility to continue his assignment there. Mr. Massie was later contacted by Mr. LeSage, who asked whether Mr. McGaffney was eligible to retire and whether he would prefer to retire rather than go through the investigation (Filing No. 41-6 at 4). Mr. Massie talked with Mr. McGaffney about his preference and then informed Mr. LeSage that Mr. McGaffney was not interested in retiring. Id.

After the interview, Mr. Childers concluded his investigation and determined that Mr. McGaffney had engaged in theft of postal time and failure to follow instructions (Filing No. 36-11 at 8). Mr. Childers also determined that Mr. McGaffney failed to properly perform his duties when he ignored several annual reports showing major safety issues with a power distribution panel, electrical hot spots, and other problems that violated the National Electric Code and the Occupational Safety and Health Code. Mr. Childers also found that Mr. McGaffney had misrepresented facts regarding installing a new central vacuum system, which he had not even begun to install. Id. Mr. McGaffney disputes some of Mr. Childers findings because he believes the "hot spot" deficiencies were not serious and thus not in violation of applicable electrical codes.

Mr. LeSage also initiated an investigation of Mr. McGaffney's computer system, which revealed numerous visits to non-work related websites throughout a five month period. The investigation revealed approximately 39, 000 visits to non-work related websites. When asked about his computer activity, Mr. McGaffney admitted that he visited some of the websites but also explained ...


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