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Poalillo v. Specialty Floorings Systems

August 5, 2009

MICHAEL POALILLO
v.
SPECIALTY FLOORINGS SYSTEMS, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Juan R. Sánchez, J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Michael Poalillo asserts his former employer, Specialty Flooring Systems, Inc., terminated his employment based upon age discrimination, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (ADEA). Because there are no material facts in dispute and Poalillo cannot show Specialty Flooring's proffered legitimate reasons for his termination are a pretext for age discrimination, the Court will grant Specialty Flooring's motion for summary judgment.

FACTS

Poalillo began working for Specialty Flooring on July 5, 2005, at the age of 51. Poalillo was recruited, hired, and immediately supervised by Marc Antonucci, president and chief executive officer of Specialty Flooring. Specialty Flooring sells and installs high-end flooring products, primarily to commercial consumers. Poalillo held the position of Division Manager for Specialty Flooring's Philadelphia regional office his entire tenure and was responsible for sales, bidding, and project management. In January 2006, Specialty Flooring hired Byron Keeble, age 26, to work as an Estimator under Poalillo.

Specialty Flooring tracks sales and profitability figures by region and by employee. Employees are eligible for commission payments once their profitability levels exceed 18%. During the first six months of Poalillo's employment, Antonucci worked closely with Poalillo in handling sales and operations. After that initial six months, sales figures for the Philadelphia region stagnated and were substantially lower than those for other regions. During the first six months of 2006, Keeble, not Poalillo, closed the largest contract for the Philadelphia region.*fn1 Poalillo's job profitability was also lower than that of other employees. For 2006, Poalillo's average sales profitability margin was 17.09%, and he was the only employee who did not exceed the 18% profit margin necessary to earn commission. The average profit margin for other Specialty Flooring employees was near 30%.

On September 27, 2006, Antonucci received a letter, via e-mail, from Jeremy Daross of Haverstick-Bosworth. Haverstick-Bosworth was the construction manager for a project in which Merck was the client. At the time, Merck was one of Specialty Flooring's most important clients. In his letter, Daross listed several specific complaints about Poalillo's management of the Merck project. Daross noted several expensive installation mistakes which had been made under Poalillo's supervision and complained of Poalillo's failure to ensure tasks were timely completed. Antonucci telephoned Poalillo to express his anger at the letter's contents. Antonucci believed Poalillo had mismanaged the project and jeopardized Specialty Flooring's relationship with Merck. The conversation ended with Antonucci terminating Poalillo's employment.*fn2

Specialty Flooring promoted Keeble to Poalillo's former position. In July 2008, Keeble was also terminated after his sales figures decreased substantially. Specialty Flooring has not hired a replacement for Keeble.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment may be granted only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "On a motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Ricci v. DeStefano, 120 S.Ct. 2658, 2677 (2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Id. (citation omitted).

To show his termination was the result of disparate treatment based upon age discrimination, Poalillo may prove his case by direct or indirect evidence.*fn3 A modified version of the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis is applied in indirect evidence cases.*fn4 See Anderson v. Consol. Rail Corp., 297 F.3d 242, 249 (3d Cir. 2002). In order to make out a prima facie case of age discrimination using indirect evidence, a plaintiff must show he:

(1) was a member of a protected class (i.e. he or she was forty years of age or older);

(2) was qualified for the position at issue;

(3) suffered an adverse employment action; and

(4) was replaced by a sufficiently younger person, raising an inference of ...


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