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Leschkies v. New Rogers Pontiac Inc.

May 3, 2007

PATRICIA LESCHKIES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW ROGERS PONTIAC INC., DEFENDANT .



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Patricia Leschkies ("Leschkies") brings suit against New Rogers Pontiac Inc., d/b/a Rogers Auto Group ("New Rogers") for wrongful termination on the basis of her gender and her age in violation of Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. New Rogers moves for summary judgment on both counts. Additionally, both parties have moved to strike portions of the other party's Local Rule 56.1 statements and New Rogers has moved to deem facts admitted. After granting in part an denying in part both parties' motions to strike and deem facts admitted, genuine issues of material fact remain regarding Leschkies' job performance and the proffered reasons for her termination such that New Rogers' Motion for Summary Judgment is denied.

Facts

Leschkies, a 64-year-old woman, worked as the service manager and later service director at New Rogers for eighteen years until she was terminated on October 28, 2005. New Rogers' Amended Response to Plaintiff's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(c) Statement of Additional Facts (hereafter "Def. 56.1 Resp.") at ¶ 1; Plaintiff's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3) Response to Defendant's Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement (hereafter "Pltf. 56.1 Resp.") at ¶ 3-5. New Rogers is an automobile dealership selling five different brands: Pontiac, Buick, GMC Truck, Chevrolet, and Hyundai. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 2.

Monty Scher ("Scher"), the president of New Rogers, hired Leschkies in 1988 as a service manager. When the service director retired, New Rogers promoted Leschkies to service director where she received yearly increases in salary. As the service director, Leschkies' duties included managing the operations of the service department; hiring and monitoring the service department employees; maintaining reports on the department and its performance; working with other departments; and understanding and supervising the warranty process. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 10. The parties dispute the number of staff members she supervised and whether Leschkies supervised the collection of customer repair orders as well as warranty repairs.

The only information in the record concerns Leschkies' performance and the performance of her department during 2004 and 2005.*fn1 In 2004, New Rogers acquired an existing Chevrolet franchise and hoped to maintain the overall customer base from the acquired franchise despite the increased volume. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 28. New Rogers claims that the service department under Leschkies had numerous problems in 2004 and 2005 that fall into four rough categories: too much overtime for porters, unsatisfactory "Customer Service Index" scores, rising unpaid repair orders, and decreased profits. First, Leschkies supervised scheduling for all the employees in her department. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 16. For porters in her department, Leschkies staggered the eight-hour shifts of each porter to start between 5 a.m. and 2 p.m. Since the dealership sometimes stayed open as late as 1 a.m., the dealership authorized overtime for porters in those circumstances. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶¶ 19-20. Scher authorized all overtime pay at New Rogers, but the amount of overtime for all employees in all departments concerned him because overtime expenses added to overhead expenses for the dealership as a whole. Def. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 35. He met with Leschkies and the other managers to discuss his concerns about overtime for porters. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 20; Pltf. Dep. at 116-19. Leschkies admitted that she knew that the dealership sometimes used porters late into the evening on occasions, but she did not change the schedules of any of the porters to start later in the day because the evening services were not needed regularly. Pltf. Dep. at 125-6. She admitted, however, that the dealership stayed open late one to two days per week. Pltf. Dep. at 124-25. She also did not track the overtime of porters in her department, although she signed off on their timecards. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 23.

Second, Leschkies was responsible for monitoring performance in the service department.

Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 10. The service department focused on customer relations and customer maintenance. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 25, 26. The "Customer Service Index," or CSI, is a tool used by the automobile industry to gauge customer satisfaction. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 29, 30. In 2004, New Rogers joined the General Motors "Standards for Excellence" program, or SFE. CSIs were a large component of the SFE program. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 31, 34. Dealerships paid to join the SFE program, which offered incentives to dealerships to increase their performance and satisfaction of their customers for Buick, Pontiac, and GMC. Id. In the SFE program, dealerships received bonuses from General Motors if they met quarterly goals set by General Motors in two areas: CSI scores and number of cars sold. If the combined CSI scores from both the sales and the service department exceeded the target set by General Motors, the dealership received a bonus of up to $220,000 in a year. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 33.

Scher testified that he expected each department's CSI to be half of the target goal set by the General Motors. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 36. Leschkies testified that it was not her understanding that the sales and service department CSI scores should each contribute half of the SFE target, especially in light of the seasonal nature of repair orders. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 36. Mario Tarchala, one of the heads of the sales department at New Rogers, testified that CSI figures from the sales department regularly exceeded those of the service department. Tarchala Dep., Def. Ex. H, at 18. Leschkies testified that CSI figures for service exceeded CSI figures for sales. Pltf. Dep. at 249.

According to a document from General Motors, in 2004 and 2005 the service department performed at a lower CSI rate than the sales department in most quarters, although it sometimes met the goal of one-half of the dealership's CSI target and sometimes exceeded the CSI score for the sales department. See Def. Ex. E, Scher Aff. Of the possible $220,000 bonus from General Motors, New Rogers earned only $60,000 for the year. Id. Scher testified that the service department's failure to meet CSI goals was one of the reasons New Rogers terminated Leschkies. But Leschkies produced letters sent to her directly from General Motors congratulating her on her commendable performance in CSIs for the service industry in 2004 and ranking her first in the region for performance on the service CSI. See Pltf. Ex. 2. She received gifts and a trip from General Motors rewarding her for her performance. The CSI statistics in 2005 were not appreciably different from those in 2004.*fn2

Third, Leschkies supervised the collection of warranty payments for warranty-covered repairs. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 50. The parties dispute whether Leschkies also supervised the collection of money from customers; Leschkies testified that the office manager, Linda Shepcik ("Shepcik") supervised the cashiers who collected money from customers. Pltf. Dep. at 35. At the end of each month, Leschkies admitted that she "closed out" the warranty-covered repairs regardless of whether the balance had been collected. According to Leschkies, this method had been the standard practice at the dealership since before she arrived and appropriately accounted for work performed each month. Pltf. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 51; Def. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 18. According to Edward Drzewiecki ("Drzewiecki"), the New Rogers' comptroller, Leschkies' practice was improper and resulted in a rising balance of accounts receivable. Scher and Shepcik met with Leschkies in 2005 to discuss the problem of the outstanding warranty repair orders. Def. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 19.

Finally, the net income figures for the service department dropped from approximately $200,000 in 2004 to approximately $41,000 in 2005 according to Drzewiecki's calculations. See Def. Ex. L. The gross figures for the same period increased between 2004 and 2005, from approximately $2.06 million to $2.19 million. Def. Ex. L-1. Drzewiecki testified that the service department's expenses went up due to building additions, utility increases, and some tax increases. Def. Ex. K at 17-21. Leschkies testified that she met with Scher and Drzewiecki regarding the profit figures and asked for expense information, specifically as to how the expense figures had been calculated to cause such a drastic drop in the net figures while the gross figures increased, but New Rogers did not provide her with the information. Def. 56.1 Resp. at ¶ 7.

After Scher terminated Leschkies, he hired Frank DeKruiff as her replacement at the recommendation of Shepcik. At the time of his hire, DeKruiff was 45 years of age. He had prior experience as a service director at other dealerships. DeKruiff Aff., Def. Ex. O. New Rogers paid DeKruiff less than it ...


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