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Williams v. Roman

November 10, 2005

LARRY WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROMAN, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Ian H. Levin

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Roman, Inc.'s ("Roman") motion for summary judgment in the cause. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Roman's motion.

BACKGROUND FACTS

Plaintiff Larry Williams ("Williams") is a former Regional Sales Director who was employed by Roman from 1999 through 2003.*fn1 (Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶¶ 17, 24, Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) St. ¶ 21.)

Roman is an Illinois corporation and is in the business of distributing giftware, collectibles and seasonal decorations. (Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶¶ 2, 4, Def.'s Mem. at 1.)

Ronald T. Jedlinski was Roman's President and owner at all times relevant to this lawsuit.

(Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶ 7.) Anthony R. Jedlinski, Ronald Jedlinski's brother, is Roman's Vice-President of Administration, who referred Williams to Michael A. Orloff, Jr. ("Orloff"), Roman's Senior Vice-President for Sales and Marketing, when Williams applied for a position with Roman.*fn2 (Id. ¶¶ 8-10, Def.'s Mem. at 1, Orloff Aff. ¶¶ 2, 3.)

In September of 1999, Orloff hired Williams, who was 62 years old, to fill the position of Regional Sales Director, which entailed the principal duties of increasing sales and managing sales representatives. (Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶¶ 11-12, 17, 24.) Scott Bryson ("Bryson"), Roman's Vice-President of Sales, was Williams's immediate supervisor.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 15.) Bryson reported to Orloff. (Id. ¶ 16.)

Bryson was responsible for reviewing Williams's performance while he worked at Roman. (Def.'s Ex. 5*fn4 , Pl.'s Ex. A.) On Williams's first performance review for the year 2000, which he had fourteen months after he was hired by Roman, Bryson gave him a 2.9 rating. (Def.'s Ex. 5, 2000 Managers Confidential Employee Appraisal.) A rating of 2 on the review indicated, "SATISFACTORY But Needs Improvement" and a rating of 3 on the review indicated, "GOOD." (Id.) In Williams's 2000 performance review, Bryson inter alia stated: "Larry needs to show more initiative and help drive the business v. just maintaining the business. He needs to be in the field more, and develop[] more customer relationships." (Def.'s Ex. 5, 2000 Managers Confidential Employee Appraisal.) Williams's discussed these statements in his 2000 performance review with Bryson. (Pl.'s Resps. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶¶ 40, 55.)

On Williams's second performance review which was for the year 2001, he received a rating of 2.8. (Def.'s Ex. 5, 2001 Year End Confidential Appraisal.) In this performance review, Bryson inter alia stated: "Larry needs to show more initiative in managing/building his existing business and in searching out and developing new business . . . [He] need[s] . . . to '[d]rive' his region[']s business, seek out new propect[ive] accounts, and then hold people accountable to get the business." (Id.) Williams discussed his 2001 performance review with Bryson. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶¶ 44, 55.)

In July of 2002, Williams received a bi-annual performance review. (Pl.'s Ex. A, 2002 Employees Bi-Annual Confidential Appraisal.) While Williams's rating is not indicated on that review*fn5 , Bryson inter alia noted that "Larry must show more initiative and creativity in building his business. He must proactively search out new business opportunities and encourage his rep[resentatives] to do the same. He must lead by example, including [taking] the time . . . to maximize his business." (Id.) Williams discussed this performance review with Bryson. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶ 55.)

In January of 2003, Williams had his fourth performance review. (Def.'s Ex. 5, Year End Confidential Appraisal, signed by Bryson on 1/3/03.) At that time, Williams received a rating of 2.2 on the review. (Id.) It bears noting that, at this point, for the first time, Williams received unsatisfactory ratings in three categories. (Id.) In Williams's 2003 performance review, Bryson inter alia stated: "Larry is having a difficult time implementing the tough direction with his rep[resentatives] that is necessary to turn sales around." (Id.) Bryson also indicated that Williams had been directed to replace two sales representatives in his territory, but had not done so.*fn6 (Id.) Bryson further stated that "Larry must improve his performance in his current position by taking control of issues and demonstrating leadership. If this does not happen the field sales portion of his region will continue to struggle and alternatives for building this business will need to be evaluated." (Id.) Bryson discussed these issues and performance review with Williams. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶¶ 47, 50, 53, 55.)

It bears noting that while Williams did not entirely agree with Bryson's criticisms regarding his performance, he testified that Bryson's criticisms were not unreasonable and Bryson was not unreasonable in terms of what he wanted from him. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶ 56, Williams Dep. at 35:8-35:15.) Williams further indicated that, in some instances, Bryson had some legitimate concerns about his performance. (Williams Dep. at 37:20-38:7.)

During Williams's employment with Roman, he opened only one new account of any significance for Roman. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶ 36.) The one account Williams opened resulted from a lead given to him. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶ 37.)

Williams received a merit based performance bonus each year that he was employed with Roman including a $1,300.00 bonus which was paid in 2003 for his performance in 2002. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) St. ¶ 8.)

Besides Bryson's evaluations of Williams's job performance, Orloff was also familiar with how Williams performed while working at Roman because he had an opportunity to observe Williams at trade shows and sales calls.*fn7 (Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶ 58, Orloff Dep. at 10:23-11:11.)

In December of 2002, Roman made an announcement to its employees regarding its decline in sales.*fn8 (Williams Aff. ¶ 12, Pl.'s Ex. B.) In the past when Roman experienced a decline in sales, it cut its operating expenses which included reducing the number of its employees.*fn9 (Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶ 24.)

During part of 2001 and all of 2002, Roman operated with one less Regional Sales Director position in order to save the salary expense of one Regional Sales Director, who had retired on June 8, 2001. (Orloff Aff. ¶ 6.)

Because Roman's decline in sales appeared to have "bottomed out" by 2002, Orloff planned to fill the vacant Regional Sales Director position for 2003. (Orloff Aff. ¶¶ 7-8.) Orloff and Bryson sought out and ultimately offered Mike Streb ("Streb") the Regional Sales Director position because he had ten years of very strong experience in the gift and collectibles industry. (Id. ¶ 9.) Streb had also served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers with Orloff, and had held a national executive sales leadership position ...


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