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DALE v. CHICAGO TRIBUNE CO.

August 16, 1985

CHARLES DALE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Tribune now moves for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 56. In addition to responding to that motion, Dale's counsel seeks to expand the scope of this action by adding a named party plaintiff under the representative action provision of ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 626(b). For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, Tribune's Rule 56 motion is granted and Dale's motion to add a named party plaintiff is accordingly dismissed as moot.

Facts*fn1

Dale began working for Tribune as a copywriter in 1956. He held a succession of positions (leading to the department managership beginning in 1963) in the Art and Copy Department, later renamed the Creative Services Department. In 1975 Dale recommended to Tribune President Robert Hunt ("Hunt") that the Creative Services Department and the Promotions Department be merged to increase efficiency. Hunt accepted the recommendation, and Dale became assistant manager of the new entity, known as the Creative Division.

Three years later Dale met again with Hunt and reported the merger was not yielding the expected benefits because the two pre-existing departments had not been functionally merged and because there were too many managers. During the course of that meeting Hunt asked whether Dale had any interest in becoming Tribune's Purchasing Manager. Dale said he was interested in the change, and following discussions with General Manager Harold Lifvendahl ("Lifvendahl") he accepted the position. Though the Purchasing Manager had previously reported to Building Manager Bruce Cerling ("Cerling"), Dale was directed to report to Lifvendahl and to address himself to what Lifvendahl saw as serious personnel problems in the Purchasing Department. Dale's shift into Purchasing — a field in which he had no prior experience or training apart from his general managerial experience — was considered a lateral move involving no increase in compensation.

During his first months in the new position Dale participated in a three-day workshop on purchasing. He also joined the Chicago Purchasing Managers Group. Within a year of Dale's becoming Purchasing Manager, responsibility for newsprint traffic, travel planning and telephone operations were transferred to the Purchasing Department.

Throughout that period Dale continued to report to Lifvendahl, but in February 1981 Lifvendahl moved to become president of a Tribune newspaper in Florida. Thomas O'Donnell ("O'Donnell") replaced him as General Manager. For some five months Dale then reported to O'Donnell, but in June 1981 O'Donnell asked Dale to report to Cerling instead. O'Donnell said there had been too many people reporting to him, so he had to reorganize the administrative structure to make his own responsibilities manageable. Dale was apprehensive about the change because Cerling had been supervising the Purchasing Department before 1978, when Lifvendahl brought Dale in to address the serious personnel problems. Nevertheless Dale accepted the organizational change.

Those shifts in managerial structure coincided with the first several months of the tenure of Charles Brumback ("Brumback") as Tribune President. Brumback began an overall effort to reduce Tribune costs and increase corporate profits. Department heads had to commit themselves to cost and personnel reductions to meet budget reduction goals, and cost-saving equipment improvements were undertaken. In short Brumback began to make substantial changes in Tribune's management philosophy. As Dale described the change (Dale Dep. I-96):

  [The existing management team was] a long, long
  time Tribune group. We knew one another. We
  worked up through the ranks together. And I think
  we worked well together, all with problems. You
  are never without problems or personality
  problems.
  But we pretty well knew how the other person
  operated, and tried to work within the system. I
  do not think Mr. Brumback wanted that kind of a
  system. I think he wanted to bring in a different
  kind of Management Team.
  And I think he would have called it, quote, a
  modern Management Team, one that is attuned to
  innovation, to new ideas, change.
  And, this is an opinion, I believe Mr. Brumback
  did not think the Management Team at the Tribune
  was capable of doing this. I believe he was
  wrong.

Dale's difficulties began soon after Brumback became Tribune President. Before August 1981 Brumback had apparently pressed Dale more than once as to his performance. On August 31 Dale wrote to Lifvendahl (Dale Dep. Ex. 3):

  The problem in brief, is that I think Brumback is
  setting the groundwork for my termination. It may
  come two weeks from now, or two months, but I
  think he's getting me programmed.
  It's too long to go into all the detail, other
  than he's given me a major going over on
  everything he's questioned me about — and the
  things he's picked on have been minor and basically
  have been matters of opinion. He seems to be doing
  this to a whole clutch of Tribune executives and
  managers: things we've done in the past, are
  proposing now, or have planned for the future are
  archaic and disorganized according to his lights.

When deposed three years later Dale was unable to remember the specific nature of Brumback's criticisms, noting only that Brumback was upset because Dale did not know the difference in height between a computer table and a typewriter table (Dale Dep. II-66). Dale stressed however that he would not have written to Livfendahl as he did had that been the extent of Brumback's criticism (Dale Dep. II-66-67).

On October 5, 1981 Cerling prepared a list of projects he expected Dale to complete in the upcoming months. Dale testified (Dale Dep. II-79) the list was accompanied by a letter indicating the projects were designed to remedy deficiencies Cerling perceived in Dale's performance as Purchasing Manager. All items on the list dealt with the basic purchasing operation: They included such things as preparing a purchasing manual, drafting ethical guidelines for buyers, scheduling regular staff meetings and developing a recordkeeping system, through computerization, to enable management to make informed decisions. Dale said in his deposition (Dale Dep. II-83-106) a number of those projects had been discussed and even initiated before Cerling assumed supervisory control, but few had been carried to fruition and none of the matters in issue had been routinely handled in a fashion satisfactory to Cerling.

On November 18, 1981 Cerling sent Dale a memorandum (Dale Dep. Ex. 5) beginning:

  On October 5, we had a meeting at which I gave
  you a number of projects to be completed with
  dates (attached).
  I thought it would be helpful if I documented
  other conversations and my concerns.
  Since acquiring responsibilities of Purchasing
  and Telephone, I have observed a lack of
  fundamental management techniques; these are,
  poor organization, planning, ...

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