United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
WALTER HAWRANEK, DAVID FATT, DAVID HOTZ, KENNETH KOLBE, TIM MCGRAW, Plaintiffs,
HAIER U.S. APPLIANCE SOLUTIONS, INC., Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 32.) Plaintiffs Walter
Hawranek, David Fatt, David Hotz, Kenneth Kolbe, and Tim
McGraw (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a
three-count Complaint against Defendant Haier U.S. Appliance
Solutions, Inc. d/b/a General Electric Appliances
(“Haier”) alleging that Haier (1) violated the
Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act, 29
U.S.C. § 2104, (2) breached a contract regarding
Plaintiffs' “layoff benefits, ” and (3)
breached third-party representations and warranties Haier
made to the federal government. (ECF No. 1) Haier
now seeks summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims.
After carefully reviewing the motion, response, reply, and
relevant law, the Court concludes that the motion should be
Summary Judgment Standard
motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a
trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. SeeFed. R. Civ. P.
56(a). A disputed fact is material if it might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v.
Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In
other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute,
summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not
outcome-determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co.,
433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005).
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the
facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and
all reasonable inferences are drawn in the non-movant's
favor. Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir.
2011). After the moving party demonstrates the absence of a
genuine issue for trial, the responsibility shifts to the
non-movant to “go beyond the pleadings” and point
to evidence of a genuine factual dispute precluding summary
judgment. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 324 (1986). “If the non-movant does not come
forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the finder
of fact to find in [his] favor on a material question, then
the court must enter summary judgment against [him].”
Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920
(7th Cir. 1994) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986).
are former salaried employees of General Electric's
(“GE”) refrigerator manufacturing plant,
Bloomington Production Operations, LLC (“BPO”).
(ECF No. 33 at 3.) On June 6, 2016, Haier acquired
BPO. (Hollinger Dec. ¶ 3.) BPO had 329 employees: 301
hourly, union represented employees and 28 salaried
employees, including the five Plaintiffs. (ECF No. 33 at
3; ECF No. 1 ¶ 13.) Prior to the sale of
BPO, the United States Department of Justice conducted an
anti-trust review on the proposed sale and the sale was
approved. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 5-6).
addition to its acquisition of BPO, Haier acquired the stock
of BPO and the “collective bargaining agreement”
between BPO and GE Appliances' Union. (ECF No. 33 at
3; ECF No. 34-12 ¶ 3, Ex. 1.) Haier also
acquired GE Appliances' defined benefit pension plan
(“Haier Pension Plan”), which provided benefits
to both hourly and salaried BPO employees on the event of the
plant's closure. (ECF No. 33 at 3; ECF No.
34-12 ¶ 3, Ex. 1.)
after Haier acquired BPO, BPO plant manager Frank Scheffel
announced to employees verbally and in writing that Haier
intended to close BPO on June 15, 2017. (ECF No. 1
¶ 26; ECF No. 34-12 at 3; ECF No. 34-4 at
4 p. 12:11-16; ECF No. 34-12 ¶ 5.)
Scheffel's letter also informed employees about benefits,
stating that “all employees - hourly and salaried -
[would] receive equivalent, comprehensive
plant-closing benefits [which employees] would have
received under GE ownership.” (ECF No. 34-12 at
82; Hollins Decl. Ex. 2; ECF No. 34-1 at 7 p.
18:20-19:8.) Scheffel also provided employees excerpts from
the GE Appliances' Job Loss Handbook which outlined the
benefit options available to eligible BPO employees when BPO
closed. (ECF No. 34-12 ¶ 7; ECF No. 34-7 at
41:9-15.) These excerpts outlined the benefit options
available to eligible BPO employees:
• Lump-sum severance payment: Employees with 15 or more
years of service receive a lump-sum severance payment equal
to two weeks of pay for each year of service. For example, an
eligible employee with 25 years of service making $1000 a
week would receive a severance payment equal to $1, 000 x 2
weeks x 25 years for a total payment of $50, 000.
Employees with one to 14 years of service receive
one-and-one-half weeks of pay for each year of service
calculated on the same basis. The minimum severance payment
for eligible employees equals at least four weeks of pay.
Special Early Retirement Option (SERO)
• Eligible employees who are ages 55 through 59 with 25
or more years of pension qualification service will have the
opportunity to elect early retirement with full pension
benefits. Benefits include full pension earned as of the date
of the plant closing. In addition, supplements of $21 a month
for every year of pension benefit service, plus $425 per
month, are paid to the age when an employee is eligible to
begin receiving 80% of his or her Social Security benefit.
Benefits for those retiring under this option are the same as
those available to long-service employees who retire at age
60, Severance benefits are reduced or eliminated by value of
SERO and cost of future health benefits.
Plant Closing Pension Option (PCPO)
• Eligible long-service employees, not eligible for SERO
who meet the following age and service requirements by the
end of the calendar year in which service terminates because
of the plant closing, will be eligible for the same pension
benefits as those available to long-service employees who
retire at age 60 or under SERO, including pension