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William W. Hintalla v. Sealy

February 17, 2012

WILLIAM W. HINTALLA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SEALY, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff alleges that defendant terminated him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). The case is before the Court on defendant's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56(c) motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.

Facts

In 2000, defendant hired plaintiff, who was fifty-two years old, to be the manager of its Taylor, Michigan plant. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 3.) In early 2003, defendant closed the Taylor plant and gave plaintiff two options: (1) become the Regional Manufacturing Engineering Manager of its Batavia, Illinois plant; or (2) end his employment and receive severance pay. (Id. ¶¶ 4-6.) Plaintiff chose the former option and transferred to Batavia in early 2003. (Id. ¶ 6.)

In June 2006, William D'Amico became plaintiff's supervisor. (Def.'s Resp. Pl.'s Corrected LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff met D'Amico about a month later, when the two performed an audit together in California. (Id.) Though D'Amico denies it, plaintiff says he told D'Amico, shortly after they met, that he had no vision in his right eye. (Pl.'s Corrected LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 5.)

In November 2006, when he was updating D'Amico about an inspection, plaintiff remarked that the long days were taking a toll on him. (Id. ¶ 6.) D'Amico's response, according to plaintiff was: "You are just getting old." (Id.) A few days later, D'Amico asked plaintiff what year he had graduated from college and whether he would be fifty-nine or sixty on his next birthday. (Id. ¶ 7.)

On March 15, 2007, D'Amico gave plaintiff his 2006 performance appraisal and an overall rating of "improvement needed," the second lowest of the four available ratings. (See Pl.'s Ex. 1, Hintalla Decl., Ex. B, 2006 Performance Appraisal.) Among other things, D'Amico said plaintiff:

(1) had not performed at a level commensurate with his experience; (2) had not "fill[ed] the . . . leadership void" that existed during the first six months of 2006, when D'Amico's position was vacant; (3) was "more comfortable receiving direction than taking the initiative" and had difficulty executing directions he received; and (4) was unlikely to have "future opportunity for upward mobility." (Id.) D'Amico set a series of goals for plaintiff and noted that "[h]is progress . . . will be monitored closely and a formal progress/re-evaluation will be conducted within six months." (Id.)

Forty-five days later, D'Amico assessed plaintiff's progress toward the goals set in his 2006 appraisal:

Bill's 45 day process report is disappointing, He was given clear objectives on 15 March when receiving his performance appraisal and again on 20 March with a follow-up summary email . . . . Despite this clear guidance, little improvement has been demonstrated or observed. His lack of improvement, despite the guidance, brings into question his ability to perform at the current level.

Based on Bill's past performance and lack of improvement since 15 March, I have little confidence that he can perform at the level commensurate with the position assigned. He does not demonstrate the requisite Quality Assurance experience or leadership/resource management skill-set to perform at the level of a Regional Manufacturing Engineering Manager. (Def.'s Ex. 2, 45 Day Progress Assessment.)

In July 2007, D'Amico again assessed plaintiff's progress and said: After a close 90 day observation period, I have concluded that Bill does not possess the necessary tools or character traits to effectively perform in the position of Regional Manufacturing Engineering Manager. . . .

His lack of vision, inability to inspire and failure to raise the performance expectation levels of his subordinates is detrimental to overall effectiveness and performance of the Quality Assurance ...


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