were tempered (that is, edited) by Johnson before the company relied on them (id. P21).
On May 23, 1995 Fellows hired Richard Trudell ("Trudell") as Group Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the four Vermont USA divisions (id. P25). Within the new organizational hierarchy, Johnson reported directly to Trudell, who in turn reported to Vermont USA's President and General Manager Richard Crossman ("Crossman") (id. PP26-27). Soon after joining Fellows, Trudell began to receive assessments about the job performance of the four Managers. Though Wold challenges their veracity, those reports indicated that Wold suffered from various performance deficiencies (id. PP29, 33).
One month later Trudell and Wold held their first meeting to conduct a formal performance review (id. PP40, 43). Johnson and Trudell testified to having concerns about Wold's performance at that time (id. P44), but Wold testified that no one at the company ever (either at that meeting or earlier) discussed his alleged performance deficiencies with him (W. 12(N) Supp. PP21-23). Wold does admit that Trudell informed him at the meeting that his June sales forecast was overly optimistic, at which point Wold agreed to revise it (id. P40). Trudell testified that he was satisfied with Wold's revisions (Trudell Tr. 175).
After that initial meeting Trudell and Johnson accompanied Wold on a sales call to a client. Though they describe Wold as an inactive participant at the meeting (W. 12(N) PP48-50), Wold denies that passive characterization (id.). To support that denial, Wold notes that Johnson's diary contains no notations about his allegedly deficient performance on that date (W. 12(N) Supp. P55).
After that encounter Trudell voiced his concerns about Wold's performance to Johnson and recommended that Wold be removed from his Manager's position (W. 12(N) P51).
Although Wold disputes these claimed deficiencies, Trudell cited Wold's failure to direct the meeting with the client, his insufficient responses to Trudell's general questions, his inaccurate sales forecasts and his lack of motivation (id. PP52, 58). In any event, Fellows' version is that Johnson concurred in Trudell's recommendation, and Crossman then approved the termination (id. P57).
On August 21, 1995 Johnson informed Wold, then 58 years old, that he was fired from his Manager's position effective September 1 (id. P66). Wold says that Johnson offered three reasons for the termination: (1) lackluster sales, (2) inadequate forecasting and (3) "because Dick Trudell wants a young guy with fire coming out of his ass" (id. P67). Johnson then offered Wold a demotion to an in-house sales engineer's position (id. P68). That position paid only about half of what Wold had earned as a Manager and would have required Wold to relocate his family to Vermont (W. 12(N) Supp. PP66, 68). Wold was given just two days to consider the offer (id. P67), and he rejected it (W. 12(N) P73). Fellows hired Richard Reenan ("Reenan") as a 44-year-old replacement Manager for the substantially older Wold (id. P74).
On January 19, 1996 Wold filed a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On February 20 EEOC issued Wold a right-to-sue letter, whereupon Wold timely filed his complaint here (Complaint PP5-6).
To prevail on his ADEA claim, Wold must establish
that his termination would not have occurred "but for" Fellows' motive to discriminate against him because of his age ( O'Connor v. DePaul Univ., 123 F.3d 665, 669 (7th Cir. 1997)). Weisbrot v. Medical College of Wis., 79 F.3d 677, 680-81 (7th Cir. 1996) has set out two "distinct evidentiary paths" ( Kormoczy v. Secretary, HUD, 53 F.3d 821, 824 (7th Cir. 1995)) to reach that destination:
An ADEA plaintiff may establish age discrimination in one of two ways. She may present direct or circumstantial evidence that age was the determining factor in the adverse employment action, or she may invoke the burdenshifting method outlined in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973), to create an inference of age discrimination.
To reframe those alternatives in the less demanding Rule 56 terms, one available route enables Wold to survive summary judgment if he can produce evidence to support a finding of discriminatory intent (the so-called direct method), while on the second route Wold can stave off summary judgment if he can adduce evidence that could potentially outvolley Fellows in the familiar McDonnell Douglas ping-pong match (the so-called indirect method). As Fuka, 82 F.3d at 1402-03 puts it:
Under either method, summary judgment is improper if the plaintiff offers evidence from which an inference of age discrimination may be drawn.