United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. ELLIS United States District Judge.
Neal Santangelo alleges that his employer, Defendant Crown
Cork & Seal USA, Inc. (“Crown Cork”), and his
supervisor, Defendant Ken Tutin, fired him because he was 60
years old. Santangelo claims that Crown Cork violated the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29
U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Illinois Human
Rights Act (“IHRA”), 77 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/1-101
et seq. and that Tutin is liable for tortious
interference with business relations. Crown Cork and Tutin
move for summary judgment . Because Santangelo fails to
show all of Crown Cork's reasons for firing him are
pretextual and because Santangelo does not present evidence
that could convince a reasonable jury that Crown Cork fired
him for a discriminatory purpose or that Tutin was motivated
by age-based animus, the Court grants Defendants' motion
for summary judgment on Santangelo's employment
discrimination claims and his tortious interference claim.
August 11, 2003 through March 4, 2013, Santangelo was the
plant manager at Crown Cork's Alsip, Illinois packaging
plant (“Alsip”). Plant manager was the highest
ranking managerial employee; Santangelo ran plant operations
and oversaw production quality, accounting, and maintenance.
in 2007, Tutin supervised Crown Cork's six Aerosol
Division plants, including Alsip. As supervisor, Tutin
evaluated Santangelo's and other plant managers' work
performance. Tutin, a former plant manager himself, believed
that plant managers hold significant responsibility, and
Tutin and Crown Cork expected plant managers to do the job
they were asked to do.
wrote annual reviews of Santangelo's performance (called
an “Employee Performance Roadmap”). Reviewing
Santangelo's performance in 2007, Tutin noted that
Santangelo had a “challenging year in the Alsip
plant” and that Alsip “missed an opportunity to
post an outstanding result in 2007 due to a lack of attention
to detail.” Doc. 59 ¶ 8. Tutin also expressed
confidence that Santangelo would recover and lead sustained
performance in 2008 with “his leadership and
interpersonal skills and [by] becoming more personally
involved with auditing and follow-up in key areas of
Santangelo's 2009 performance, Tutin noted that
Santangelo needed to continue to show progress in managing a
paradigm change at Alsip and that Santangelo excelled at
collecting data and identifying problems but often failed to
disclose issues or give assignments to employees. Tutin also
wrote that Santangelo struggled to adapt even though he was
expected to recognize problems and react more quickly moving
forward and that Tutin expected Santangelo to transform Alsip
into a more robust and flexible group capable of addressing
Santangelo's performance review in 2010, Tutin wrote that
2010 was a “year of transformation” and implied
that Alsip had changed from a plant where there were
complaints and excuses for poor performance into a “go
to style plant.” Id. ¶ 14. In 2010 and
before, Santangelo had requested additional work for Alsip to
ensure it was operating at maximum capacity and to increase
the plant's efficiency variances. Tutin wrote in the
review that Santangelo and Alsip showed they were capable and
produced “very positive results.” Id.
¶ 96. Alsip's efficiencies improvement and
Santangelo's improvement with communications and
follow-up with his employees impressed Tutin. He also noted
that Alsip led in “spoilage reduction, weld leaker
reduction, and HFI management metrics.” Id.
Tutin exclaimed for Santangelo: “Nicely done!”
Id. Santangelo received a 3.52 KPI rating and
achieved a 101.1% results score.
2011, Tutin wrote that Santangelo had a solid performance,
noted that a corporate-level issue negatively impacted
Alsip's overall financial performance, and stated that
plant investments had positioned Santangelo and his team for
more improvement. Tutin also wrote that “Alsip required
little to no division level management intervention . . . due
to the consistency of performance in operation.”
Id. ¶ 97. Tutin praised the “[s]trong
year!” Id. Santangelo received a 3.6 KPI
rating and a 99.2% results score. In his written response to
his review, Santangelo wrote that he agreed and accepted that
Alsip's “quality output must improve in Assembly by
eliminating the waste is [sic] spoilage and generation of
HFIs.” Id. ¶ 18. Overall, though, in
2011, Alsip had the second lowest percentage of defects held
for inspection (0.47%), with 796, 692 cans held for
inspection out of the 168, 175, 842 cans Alsip produced. The
lowest percentage was 0.40%. The highest was 0.77%.
2012, there was a HFI incident at Alsip. Alsip could not ship
a batch of cans because some cans were defective. Santangelo
used temporary workers to sort the defective cans, reasoning
that the temporary labor was cheaper than paying overtime to
the employees who made the product, and he avoided asking the
regular employees to admit they had produced defective cans.
But Tutin emailed Santangelo, explaining that he wanted the
employees who created the defective cans to find them.
Tutin's underlying message was that he did not want HFIs
and that he believed Santangelo was not doing enough in the
leadership department to prevent the HFIs in the first place.
Santangelo followed Tutin's orders to change who was
sorting the cans. Eventually, Tutin came around on the use of
temporary workers to sort defective products and began
encouraging such work in 2013.
who had heard concerns about leadership and management at
Alsip, decided to conduct a meeting at Alsip with all
employees (an “all-shift” meeting). He brought
Katherine McGovern, the Aerosol Division's newly hired HR
Manager, with him to Alsip. McGovern had also received
feedback about the management and leadership style at Alsip,
which she believed was not healthy and the responsibility of
the plant manager, Santangelo.
and McGovern interviewed Alsip employees on June 28, 2012.
McGovern interviewed all the hourly employees but only some
upper-level managers who reported to Santangelo. Tutin and
McGovern heard complaints about the plant's management,
which McGovern believed revolved around Santangelo and the
plant superintendent, Rich Rayhill. Tutin told Santangelo
that he needed a plan to address the problems or his job was
placed Santangelo on a Performance Improvement Plan
(“PIP”) on July 2, 2012. Tutin and McGovern
prepared a memorandum, summarizing the all-shift meeting and
themes they thought were problems. The memo identified
problems involving poor communication, employee fears of
seeking assistance, favoritism, and lack of development
training, respect, action plans, and maintenance of key
parts. Tutin wrote that he had targeted many of these
problems for Santangelo before but had not seen improvement.
Tutin ended the memo by stating that if he did not see
improvement “on a consistent and sustained basis,
” then he would change Alsip's leadership, and
Santangelo would receive discipline and might be fired. Doc.
59-16 at 32 (Dep. Ex. 105). Santangelo knew that the July 2,
2012 memo was a PIP and that he needed to remedy the issues
or face discipline.
created a plan to address the PIP's critiques. He emailed
the plan to Tutin and then interviewed Alsip's employees.
Santangelo learned that Rayhill was the source of many
leadership issues. Santangelo believed Rayhill was preventing
employees from trusting and respecting Santangelo because the
employees believed Rayhill lied to the employees and did not
listen to their problems. Santangelo continued to provide
monthly reports (he called them “change plan updates,
” see Docs. 62-7-62-10) to Tutin in August,
September, October, and November of 2012.
16, 2012, in an attempt to improve relations at Alsip,
Santangelo sent a memo to all Alsip supervisors about the
employee issues raised at the all-shift meeting.
Santangelo's memo mentioned the same issues as his PIP.
Alsip's HR manager, Camille Speeks, bristled at the memo
and contacted McGovern. McGovern told Santangelo to retract his
memo, believing he was shirking responsibility by placing the
problems identified in his PIP onto the shoulders of his
supervisors. She wanted Santangelo to talk to plant
supervisors on a one-on-one basis. Santangelo retracted the
memo, but he did not conduct the one-on-one meetings.
August 2012, Alsip had another quality issue. A customer
received cans of suspect quality, and Crown Cork agreed to
pay for any problems that the cans created. Tutin emailed
Santangelo and Rayhill, believing that their poor judgment
was to blame. Tutin told Santangelo and Rayhill that they had
given Alsip employees the impression that management condoned
employees approving defective cans in order to increase
production and reach quotas. Tutin thought this exemplified
Alsip's problems with communication and quality and its
issues with leadership and management. Tutin implored
Santangelo to root out the cause of Alsip's quality
problem. Santangelo investigated and learned that plant
supervisors at Alsip failed to follow standard operating
procedures. From then on, Crown Cork's Director of
Quality, Doug McFadden, would approve shipping defects, not
September 2012, Tutin emailed Santangelo a memo discussing
Santangelo's change plan update. Tutin reiterated that he
wanted Santangelo to improve his leadership and again warned
Santangelo he could be dismissed if he did not improve. Later
in the month, Tutin spoke with Santangelo again. Tutin
thought Alsip was not meeting its financial goals, an
observation he expressed on September 24, 2012. Then on
September 26, 2012, Tutin received a new supplier complaint
about quality and exclaimed his frustration to Santangelo
about “one-off-HFIs” at Alsip. Doc. 59-14 at 27
(Dep. Ex. 49). Then on September 28, 2012, Tutin
congratulated Santangelo for the Alsip plant's
performance on the prior day, September 27.
December 7, 2012, Santangelo received Tutin's written
responses to Santangelo's November change plan update.
Santangelo understood Tutin's response to mean that
Santangelo had accomplished his goal to change and improve
his performance. But Tutin meant a different message. He
wanted to give Santangelo the positive feedback he deserved
but also give “very candid feedback in areas where
performance was continuing to be lacking.” Doc. 59-2 at
255:10-11 (Tutin Dep. Tr.); Doc. 59 ¶ 54. Tutin praised
Santangelo's leadership advances but also told Santangelo
to continue the trend because Tutin was still watching Alsip.
later, McGovern returned to Alsip for more all-shift meetings
on December 11 and 12, 2012. McGovern told Santangelo that
she received positive feedback about the work environment.
She heard that the supervisor and superintendent were
positively addressing problems and getting things done.
McGovern also received negative feedback that she wanted to
review with Tutin. She heard anecdotes criticizing
Alsip's management. But since the first all-shift visit,
McGovern had received complaints specifically about
Santangelo from two employees.
wrote Santangelo's 2012 annual review, which Santangelo
received and signed himself on February 1, 2013. Tutin gave
Santangelo a “Needs Improvement” rating. Tutin
wrote that Santangelo's work improved after Tutin
intervened and imposed the PIP. He also wrote that he wanted
Santangelo to improve more in 2013 without Tutin's advice
in 2012, Alsip had a lower percentage of can defects held for
inspection than the Faribault, Decatur, and Spartanburg
plants. Alsip's efficiency variance also was better than
Spartanburg, Decatur, and Aurora.
provided [Santangelo] with feedback on his performance under
the PIP via telephone conversations, email, written memos,
and face to face meetings when at the Alsip plant.”
Doc. 59 ¶ 55. Tutin confirmed this to McGovern and
Bolton in his communications to them. McGovern had no
documentation of any guidance she gave Santangelo during his
PIP. Tutin told McGovern he was having regular meetings,
“very often, ” with Santangelo. Santangelo denies
Tutin met face-to-face with him until five months after the
PIP when Tutin gave Santangelo his annual performance review.
While on his PIP, Santangelo provided his monthly change plan
update reports to Tutin on his own initiative. Tutin did not
write responses to Santangelo's monthly reports until
presented Santangelo an award in early 2013 for the best
quality work in the division. Alsip made 180 million cans
without a customer complaint or chargeback (a customer
request for credit for faulty work in received products).
Tutin also praised Santangelo on February 6, 2013 in a
division-wide email praising the Alsip and Faribault plants
as heavy lifters. As of February 28, 2013, Alsip had the
second best efficiency variance year-to-date, the best
spoilage numbers, and the best operating variance.
February 14, 2013, Tutin wrote to Santangelo about two new
quality problems at Alsip, expressing disappointment. The
next day, McFadden sent Tutin and McGovern a memorandum on
“quality issues and how it was mishandled by Alsip
Plant Management.” Doc. 59-6 at 1 (Tutin Dec. Ex. 1).
At Alsip, 35, 000 cans were held in January and 68, 000 held
in February “due to poor management controls and
processes.” Id. The February event occurred
because a supervisor was not supervising a production line;
he was working on another line instead. Tutin learned that
the supervisor had done this before and that Santangelo had
known about the supervisor's behavior since 2007 but
failed to make good on his promise to prevent a reoccurrence.
decided that Santangelo was not improving and that he had to
fire Santangelo. Tutin thought that “things in early
2013 appeared to be unraveling again.” Doc. 59-2 at
408:9- 10 (Tutin Dep. Tr.). Tutin testified that he made the
decision because of Santangelo's “personal
performance” and issues with “his leadership, his
inability to lead, plan, organize and control activities in
his plant.” Id. at 10:20-21, 11:15-17 (Tutin
Dep. Tr.). Tutin believed Santangelo could not lead because
he “consistently struggled with [the] functional
dynamic of his staff . . . was not an effective communicator
with his people on the shop floor . . . [had] perennial
issues with quality lapses of control in his plant . . . [and
had] numerous people coming forward to express
dissatisfaction with the working environment that Mr.
Santangelo was creating.” Id. at 11:22-12:5.
Tutin also considered Alsip's performance problems
including “the repetitive inability to control quality
processes” and “[r]epetitive concerns with
[Santangelo's] inability to take . . . masses of
information . . . about . . . problems . . . in the plant
relative to downtime or spoilage or quality . . . and be able
to create and then implement action plans on his own through
his team that actually could move performance forward in the
organization.” Id. at 28: 14-21.
had other concerns about Santangelo's impact on Alsip as
well. Alsip's plant accountant, Dave Koch, told Tutin
that Santangelo and Rayhill had shut Koch out of management
activities. Alsip's quality manager, Kevin O'Rourke,
told Tutin that the relationship between Santangelo, Rayhill,
and O'Rourke stopped O'Rourke from achieving quality
results. O'Rourke was afraid of Santangelo and feared
retaliation if he complained. Also in February 2013,
Santangelo had asked Tutin to take responsibilities away from
Rayhill and reassign them. Tutin did not like the proposal
and thought Santangelo was not taking ownership over
Alsip's performance problems and instead was
redistributing the same problems elsewhere.
Bolton, Crown Cork's Aerosol Division President, agreed
with Tutin and approved the decision to fire Santangelo.
Bolton agreed that Santangelo had problems with leadership,
shop floor engagement, and teamwork and that it was in Crown
Cork's best interests to move on from Santangelo.
Santangelo received a March 4, 2013 letter informing him that
his termination was effective that day. He was 60 years old
at that time.
January 2009, Gregg Gann, who is approximately 50 years-old,
managed Crown Cork's Spartanburg plant. Gann resigned,
and Hank Mangum, who was in his 40s, replaced him. Brian
McGrath, who is over 50, managed the Decatur plant. At some
point, Tutin fired McGrath and hired Bret Shankelton, who was
in his mid-to-late 30s at the time. Tutin fired Shankelton
and hired Tim Carpenter, who was 42.
started as Decatur plant manager in April 2008, and, in his
first year he received a 3.28 overall KPI rating in his 2008
performance review. The next year, he received a 3.32. In his
2010 performance review, he received a 2.91. There, Tutin
wrote that Shankelton “struggled to build a cohesive
staff that was focused on consistency of execution” and
had “staff ...