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Michael v. United Parcel Service Freight, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 26, 2015

GEORGE EDWARD MICHAEL, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE FREIGHT, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

On March 17, 2014, Plaintiff George Edward Michael ("Michael") filed a two-count First Amended Complaint alleging that Defendant United Parcel Service Freight, Inc. ("UPSF") discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. ("ADEA"). Before the Court is UPSF's motion for summary judgment brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). For the following reasons, the Court grants UPSF's summary judgment motion and dismisses this lawsuit in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

Local Rule 56.1 "is designed, in part, to aid the district court, which does not have the advantage of the parties' familiarity with the record and often cannot afford to spend the time combing the record to locate the relevant information, ' in determining whether a trial is necessary." Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Local Rule 56.1(a) requires the moving party to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law." Petty v. City of Chicago, 754 F.3d 416, 420 (7th Cir. 2014). "The non-moving party must file a response to the moving party's statement, and, in the case of any disagreement, cite specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.'" Id. (citation omitted); see also L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(A). Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(c) "requires specifically that a litigant seeking to oppose a motion for summary judgment file a response that contains a separate statement... of any additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment.'" Sojka v. Bovis Lend Lease, Inc., 686 F.3d 394, 398 (7th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). "The obligations set forth by a court's local rules are not mere formalities." Zuppardi v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 770 F.3d 644, 648 (7th Cir. 2014). With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the relevant facts of this case.

II. Relevant Facts

A. Michael's UPSF Background

In 2002, Overnight Transportation Company hired Michael as a terminal manager in Nanuet, New York and transferred him to the position of manager at the South Holland, Illinois hub facility in 2003. (R. 70, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶ 5.) UPSF acquired Overnight Transportation Company in 2005 and retained Michael in his South Holland position until 2008. ( Id. ) UPSF is in the business of transporting and delivering freight shipments across the country by maintaining a network of service centers in various regions throughout the United States. ( Id. ¶ 4.) Each UPSF service center has one manager who is responsible for overseeing all aspects of freight operations and ensuring the service center is operating in compliance with UPSF's business, financial, and service quality standards. ( Id. )

In 2008, the Region Vice President ("RVP") responsible for Michael's area, Steve Smith, asked Michael if he would be interested in transferring to a labor manager position, which was a newly-created position because UPSF had recently entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters Union. ( Id. ¶ 6.) Michael agreed to the transfer because he believed experience in the labor function would help his chances at promotion. ( Id. ) In this new position, Michael was responsible for labor relations for UPSF's West Region. ( Id. ¶ 7.) Michael's specific job responsibilities included investigating grievances and other labor matters, representing UPSF in grievance meetings and hearings, and interacting with the two primary unions-the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Association of Machinists. ( Id. ) Michael's supervisor rated him "somewhat ineffective" in his 2008 Quality Performance Review ("QPR") and "development needed" in his 2009 QPR. ( Id. ¶ 8.)

B. Transfer to Chicago Terminal Service Center

In April 2009, UPSF transferred Michael to the service center manager position for the Chicago terminal. ( Id. ¶ 9.) As Chicago's service center manager, Michael was responsible for the facility and supervised a team of eleven assistant managers and supervisors. ( Id. ) UPSF transferred Michael to the Chicago terminal to turn its performance around because the facility was not performing up to UPSF's expectations. ( Id. ¶ 11.) At the time of Michael's new assignment, Kevin Hartman was the Division Vice President ("DVP") for the West Division and responsible for the company's freight operations for the western half of the United States, including the Chicago terminal. ( Id. ¶ 10.) Hartman supervised RVP Smith, who supervised the Regional Director of Operations ("RDO"), who during part of the relevant time period was Ken Brown. ( Id.; R. 80, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. Add'l Facts ¶ 1.) As Michael's direct supervisor, RDO Brown rated Michael as a "fully acceptable performer" in Michael's 2009 QPR. (Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 1, R. 81-5, Pl.'s Ex. 5, Bates UPSF 1402-03.) Brown testified that at that time he felt Michael contributed to the improvement of the Chicago terminal's performance. ( Id. ¶ 2.) In August 2009, Brown met with Michael to discuss his career development assessment, stating that Michael was still developing and was one or two years away from a promotion. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 23.) In addition, in 2010, Hartman rated Michael as "developing one to two years" in terms of his readiness for promotion. (Pl's Stmt. Facts ¶ 3; Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 21.) Hartman explained that as of spring 2010, Michael had been on the job about a year and was still struggling. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 21.) It is undisputed that during the relevant time period, Hartman was ultimately responsible for making promotion and demotion decisions for service center managers, RDOs, and RVPs in UPSF's West Division. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 12.) Hartman based his decisions, in part, on recommendations from the RVPs or RDOs who reported to him. ( Id. )

C. Chicago Service Center's Performance

While Overnight Transportation Company measured and ranked its service centers (and, by extension, the performance of the service center managers) almost solely on revenue, UPSF focuses on the costs associated with that revenue, financial profitability, and other elements that are long-term in nature and not directly tied to profit and loss. ( Id. ¶ 13.) These elements include leadership, career development of the entire manager team, growth factors, health and safety processes, regulatory compliance, compliance with UPSF's internal processes, and retention of staff. ( Id. ) Performance with regard to these elements is measured by Business Process Review ("BPR") audits and via a report called the "balanced scorecard" or "BSC" report. ( Id. ) BSC reports track performance data for the elements discussed above and are generated weekly and monthly. ( Id. ) UPSF uses BSC data and the annual BSC reports to compare the performance of its various terminals. ( Id. ¶ 15.) In 2010, this comparative data showed that the Chicago terminal ranked poorly in comparison to other terminals-the Chicago terminal was ranked at 122 out of 201 service centers. ( Id. )

UPSF conducts a detailed, three-day BPR audit of its service centers as another tool to evaluate whether its centers are in compliance with the requisite UPSF operational processes and procedures, safety requirements, cost and financial controls, regulatory compliance, and customer service. ( Id. ¶ 36.) The BPR audit is a "snapshot" of a service center's compliance at the time of the audit, but does not measure performance indicators for growth, gains in productivity, or cost controls. ( Id. ) A team comprised of UPSF corporate auditors and one guest auditor, who is a service center manager from a different facility, conducts the BPR audits that cover four areas: (1) financial; (2) service quality; (3) safety and security; (4) and internal business processes. ( Id. ¶ 37.) The audit team examines the numerous processes within each of these four sections by observation and examination of records for the previous few weeks. ( Id. ) The audit team then scores each area from one to six with one being a "critical" area of concern, two being a "severe" area of concern, three being a "substantial" area of concern, and six being a "commendable" rating. ( Id. ) After the audit team completes the BPR, they share the results with the management team for that division by discussing the results on a "recap" call. ( Id. ¶ 38.) When a BPR audit reveals problems that are serious enough to be "severe" or "critical, " UPSF requires the service center manager to develop and put in place a corrective action plan to address the problems. ( Id. ¶ 39.)

In 2009 and 2010, UPSF required service centers in the West Division to perform a yearly self-audit covering all of the areas examined in a BPR audit, and Hartman also required that service centers perform weekly audits on select portions of BPR-examined processes. ( Id. ¶ 40.) Although several members of a service center management team ensure that processes within certain areas of the self-audit are completed, the service center manager is required to sign off on the entire self-audit and is ultimately responsible for making sure the center is in compliance. ( Id. ¶ 41.)

A BPR team audited the Chicago service center from September 13, 2010, through September 16, 2010, and gave the Chicago service center an overall score of 73.5%. ( Id. ¶ 42.) More specifically, the audit team reported three Code-2 level violations in the safety and security section of the audit, indicating "severe" deficiencies in three separate processes, as well as eleven deficiencies scored as Code-3 level violations. ( Id. ¶ 43.) Hartman was concerned with these violations because of the specific emphasis UPSF placed on safety, including employees wearing seat belts around the facility, filling out logs showing how many hours of work they had completed as required under federal transportation law, and completing vehicle condition reports on UPSF equipment before and after use, which federal law also requires. ( Id. ¶ 44.)

The audit team and management held the audit recap call on September 16, 2010. ( Id. ¶ 46.) Hartman explained that he was disappointed by the audit results, particularly that the Chicago service center received three Code 2-level violations. ( Id. ¶ 47.) In addition, Hartman was disturbed by how Michael conducted himself on the audit recap call because Michael was unaware of certain problem areas that he had delegated to assistant center managers. ( Id. ) Specifically, after the recap call, Hartman had the impression that Michael distanced himself from the facility's weaknesses and did not take responsibility. ( Id. ¶ 48; R. 71-9, Ex F, Hartman Dep., at 130.) Hartman further explained that the Chicago facility's self-audit was ...


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