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Sellers v. Deere & Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 2, 2015

Michael Joseph Sellers, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Deere & Company, also known as John Deere Company; Clyde D'Cruz, Defendants - Appellees

Submitted: March 24, 2015.

Page 939

Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Waterloo.

For Michael Joseph Sellers, Plaintiff - Appellant: Amy B. Pellegrin, Gregory Thomas Racette, Patrick Thomas Vint, HOPKINS & HUEBNER, Des Moines, IA.

For Deere & Company, also known as John Deere Company, Clyde D'Cruz, Defendants - Appellees: Frances M. Haas, Attorney, NYEMASTER & GOODE, Cedar Rapids, IA; Frank Boyd Harty, Debra Lynne Hulett, Ryan W. Leemkuil, Angel A. West, NYEMASTER & GOODE, Des Moines, IA.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 940

RILEY, Chief Judge.

Michael Sellers, an employee at Deere & Company (Deere) for over thirty years, sued Deere and his supervisor, Clyde D'Cruz (collectively, defendants), alleging (1) age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA), Iowa Code § 216; (2) disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; (3) retaliation under the ADEA, ICRA, and ADA; and (4) harassment because of his age and disability.[1] The district court[2] granted summary judgment

Page 941

in favor of the defendants. Sellers appeals, and we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background[3]

Sellers, who was in his mid to late forties when the events of this case transpired, began working for Deere in 1979 and worked in several positions throughout his tenure. In 2001, D'Cruz, who recently had become Sellers's manager, changed Sellers's position from Supply Management Specialist to Process Pro for the supply management department. This was a lateral job change that did not alter Sellers's pay or benefits, and Sellers remained classified as a " Grade 7" employee. Process Pro was a " dynamic," " fluid" position " in which job assignments and projects c[ould] change" and " responsibilities could be added" at any time.

Although Sellers and D'Cruz got along well initially, and D'Cruz considered Sellers his " right-hand man," the relationship soon began to deteriorate. Sellers observed D'Cruz had a poor attitude towards older employees and overheard D'Cruz make negative statements about older employees, comparing them to " sheep that can be slaughtered" and repeatedly saying, " We need to get all these old farts [or 'old dogs'] out of here." Upon hearing these statements, Sellers spoke with D'Cruz, telling him these comments " sound[ed] an awful lot like age discrimination" and recommending D'Cruz " temper [his] words." Sellers contends D'Cruz then acted on his ...


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