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Krylova v. Genentech Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 14, 2014


For Irina Krylova, Plaintiff: Richard M. Rogers, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Richard M. Rogers, San Francisco, CA.

For Genentech, Inc., Defendant: Allison Riechert Giese, Orrick, Menlo Park, CA; Lynne C. Hermle, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Menlo Park, CA.

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PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, United States District Judge.

Defendant's motion for summary judgment came on for hearing before this court

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on March 5, 2014. Plaintiff Irina Krylova (" plaintiff" ) appeared through her counsel, Richard Rogers. Defendant Genentech Inc. (" defendant" or " Genentech" ) appeared through its counsel, Lynn Hermle and Allison Giese. Having read the papers filed in conjunction with the motion and carefully considered the arguments and the relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS defendant's motion as follows.


This is an employment discrimination case. While the parties present competing versions of the relevant facts, they do agree that plaintiff was employed by defendant as a senior research associate from May 2007 until her termination on July 23, 2009. See First Amended Complaint (" FAC" ), ¶ 3-4.

Neither the FAC nor plaintiff's opposition brief contain many of the facts relevant to plaintiff's claims. Instead, plaintiff has attached to her opposition brief a declaration setting forth most of the relevant allegations. See Dkt. 59. In her declaration, plaintiff alleges that she " had a stellar record of scientific achievements" prior to her work at Genentech. Id., ¶ 3. Plaintiff then alleges that, when she applied to Genentech, she excluded any reference to her " 15 years of experience working in Russia as well as the dates of [her] first degrees . . . out of concern for age discrimination." Id., ¶ 6. Plaintiff applied for a " Research Associate" position at Genentech, and she makes clear that the title of the position was changed to " Senior Research Associate" only after she was offered the job. Id., ¶ 7. Plaintiff points to this as proof that Genentech was not necessarily looking to hire a " mature person."

Plaintiff alleges that, during the first few months of her employment, her supervisor (Rami Hannoush) " lavished praise on" her. Dkt. 59, ¶ 8. However, '[i]n the end of July or maybe in August 2007," Hannoush " discovered that [plaintiff] had adult children aged 24 and 26." Id., ¶ 9. Plaintiff claims that Hannoush " appeared shocked" upon learning the ages of her children. Plaintiff is " over 50," but claims to have been " told by other people" that she looks to be " in [her] 30s." Id., ¶ 6. Plaintiff further alleges that, soon after Hannoush learned about her adult children, " he started to yell" at her during meetings, and " to look for every error on [her] part, perceived or real." Id., ¶ 9.

For instance, in December 2007, plaintiff received her first performance review from Hannoush. Dkt. 59, ¶ 12. Plaintiff alleges that, even though Hannoush " praised" her work in the review, he still gave her an overall rating of " partially meets expectations." Id. Plaintiff " strongly disagreed" with the assessment and left comments to that effect in the " employee comment" section of the review. Id., ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that Hannoush " got furious" about the comments and " angrily requested" that she remove them. Id. Plaintiff ultimately removed the comments, because she was " terrified" of Hannoush's threat that she could lose her job if the comments were not removed. Id.

After the 2007 review, plaintiff created a " performance management tool" to keep track of Hannoush's expectations, in the hopes that she would obtain a better rating in her 2008 review. Dkt. 59, ¶ 16. Plaintiff claims that she " fulfilled every single goal, and met all the deadlines," but that Hannoush still " found faults in the 'soft' goals." Id., ¶ 17. Plaintiff claims that Hannoush held other employees to " different standards," and " over-scrutinized" and " yelled at" plaintiff. Id., ¶ 18.

Plaintiff then alleges one age-related comment made by Hannoush. Plaintiff claims that Hannoush stated that " his being

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a young manager and [plaintiff] being older than him does not preclude him from being an efficient manager of an older person." Dkt. 59, ¶ 23.

Plaintiff alleges that Hannoush " wanted her out" after learning of her adult children, and on June 17, 2008, Hannoush told her to " look for a job outside of Genentech." Dkt. 59, ¶ 24. However, while Hannoush was allegedly " trying to prove [her] poor performance," plaintiff claims that other managers at Genentech were interested in hiring" her. Id., ¶ 28. Plaintiff specifically mentions having a " full day interview for a position at a different department at Genentech, with a Senior Scientist who had a very high opinion of the job" that plaintiff was doing at Genentech. Id. Plaintiff ultimately came in second for that position.

Plaintiff claims that she " wrote a number of letters to HR but never specifically mentioned in these letters harassment or age discrimination because [she] was looking for internal transfer and did not want to be a troublemaker." Dkt. 59, ¶ 33. However, plaintiff did " complain to HR that [she] was treated differently" from others in the same line of work, and " did suggest to HR that [her] age could be a reason for a disparate treatment" from Hannoush. Id., ¶ 34-35. Specifically, on April 24, 2008, plaintiff alleges that she " described to HR manager Marsha Underhill" how Hannoush discovered her age and " asked if that could be a reason his treatment of [her] changed sharply." Id., ¶ 35. Also, on April 8, 2009, plaintiff placed a phone call to ER [1] manager Stacey Miller, and " left a message on her machine describing how [Hannoush] discovered that [plaintiff] was older than he originally thought and asking if that discovery was a reason for him to treat [her] the way he did." Id. The next day, Miller called plaintiff and told her that " it was perfectly OK for [Hannoush] to ask the age of [her] children and that there was not a policy violation." Id.

Plaintiff then alleges that she was placed on a " Performance Improvement Plan" (" PIP" ) on May 12, 2009, and was terminated on July 23, 2009. FAC, ¶ 12-13.

Genentech's motion contains its version of the relevant facts. First, Genentech points out that plaintiff was 50 years old when she was hired, and that Hannoush met with her " three or four times" before hiring her. See Dkt. 44 at 4. Genentech also points out that, during the interview process, Hannoush " made no effort whatsoever to ask about her age" and " made no age-related comments." Id. at 5. Plaintiff began work on May 29, 2007, and Genentech claims that " [a]t no time during the two years they worked together did Hannoush make negative comments or raise questions about her age," and in fact, " [t]he only age-related comment [plaintiff] was aware of had to do with his age, not hers." (Here, Genentech is referring to Hannoush's comment that he could be a competent manager of plaintiff despite his younger age). Id. at 5.

Genentech then describes plaintiff's tenure at the company. It argues that, after initially being excited at plaintiff's having joined the lab, Hannoush " began to recognize significant performance issues" after " two to three months." Dkt. 44 at 5. Specifically, Genentech argues that plaintiff " did not properly plan out experiments or follow established protocols," and had trouble meeting deadlines, which she viewed as mere " guidelines." Id. Genentech

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also notes that Hannoush's supervisor (Andrea Cochran) also observed plaintiff's " poor presentation skills and other flaws." Id. at 6.

At the end of 2007, Hannoush prepared a performance review based on plaintiff's first six months of work. The review noted that plaintiff had done a good job in certain areas, but that she needed to pay more attention to preparation and documentation. Dkt. 44 at 6. Genentech argues that, when Hannoush presented the review to plaintiff on December 11, 2007, plaintiff " was visibly angry and resistant to his feedback," " argued and tried to refute the criticisms," and " later asked Hannoush to change her performance rating" of " partially meets expectations." Id. Hannoush told her that the rating was final, but he did obtain approval for plaintiff to receive a $2,500 bonus, even though her performance rating made her bonus-ineligible. Id. at 7.

Genentech then argues that plaintiff's performance did not improve in 2008, as she " continued to exhibit significant performance issues," " continued to miss deadlines," and " continued to challenge her 2007 review." Dkt. 44 at 7. Genentech argues that Hannoush " continued to give [plaintiff] feedback concerning her performance and increasingly unprofessional conduct." Id. Then, on May 30, 2008, Hannoush gave plaintiff an oral mid-year review, which identified certain areas of improvement, including " attention to deadlines," " labeling file names, graphs, and slides," and responding to all questions and requests. Id. Hannoush and plaintiff also discussed " that she might not be the right fit for the position and should explore other positions within Genentech." Id. After the meeting, plaintiff began applying for other positions, starting with a position with Yingnan Zhang. However, Zhang " wanted a candidate who could work very efficiently, communicate very well, and be a quick learner," and because she " did not believe [plaintiff] had these skills," she informed plaintiff that " she could not offer her the job." Id. at 8.

Genentech then argues that, after the 2008 mid-year review, plaintiff " was again missing deadlines, mislabeling data, and not accurately or fully responding to emails." Dkt. 44 at 8. On July 22, 2008, Hannoush " requested a meeting to discuss her lack of response to assigned tasks and deadlines." Id. On the same day, plaintiff sent a letter to Marsha Underhill [2] " complaining that the meeting occurred behind closed doors and that Hannoush had been angry." Id. Plaintiff had previously complained to Underhill about her 2007 review and that Hannoush was treating her " disrespectfully." Id. Hannoush spoke to HR and agreed to have the meeting in a conference room and to modify his delivery of feedback, and plaintiff admits that Hannoush " did not yell or speak loudly to her after she complained about it." Id. However, after the meeting, Genentech argues that plaintiff continued to exhibit the same performance issues.

Genentech then alleges that, in November 2008, Hannoush asked plaintiff to " locate clones needed for an experiment," and after first " refus[ing] his request," plaintiff then " became angry and erratic," yelling that " she did not know where they were" and then " smashing lab materials in a supposed attempt to comply with the search." Dkt. 44 at 9. Hannoush reported the incident to ...

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