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Matteo v. George E. Delallo Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 6, 2014

JAMES MATTEO, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE E. DELALLO COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

TERRENCE F. MCVERRY, District Judge.

Now pending before the Court is DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 21) filed by the George E. DeLallo Company ("DeLallo") with brief in support. Plaintiff James Matteo ("Matteo") has filed a brief in opposition to the motion; DeLallo has filed a reply brief; the parties have thoroughly developed their respective positions regarding the Concise Statements of Material Fact ("CSMF") (ECF Nos. 22, 28, 29, 35); and both parties have submitted numerous exhibits. The motion is ripe for disposition.

Factual and Procedural Background

Matteo alleges that he was wrongfully fired from his employment in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"); in retaliation for requesting an accommodation under the ADA; and/or in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") and parallel claims under Pennsylvania law. Factual disputes have been construed in the light most favorable to Matteo, the non-moving party.

DeLallo sells and distributes Italian food products to grocery stores throughout the country. Matteo began working as a saleman for DeLallo in 1998; briefly left the company in 2000; and returned to work at DeLallo from 2001 until he was fired on August 19, 2011. Matteo worked out of his home in Canfield, Ohio and covered a sales territory in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. His duties included increasing sales of DeLallo products to existing customers and developing new customers. At times, the salesmen carried product and display materials, moved cases of product and stocked shelves. Matteo began reporting to Sales Manager Sal LaQuatra in 2007. LaQuatra, in turn, reported to Vice President of Sales T.J. Hoffner, who reported to Chairman Fran DeLallo. LaQuatra, Hoffner and Fran DeLallo were the decision-makers regarding the termination of Matteo's employment.

Matteo's sales of DeLallo products declined from $1.7 million in 2008 to $1.4 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2010. Matteo does not contest these sales numbers. However, he contends that the stores for which he was responsible changed over time and the market was shrinking, such that the comparison was not "apples to apples." DeLallo contends that during this time period, no other salesman had declines as large as Matteo's, either in dollar amounts or percentage. Neither party has provided the actual sales data to the Court.

DeLallo hired John Deley as a sales representative in March of 2010 to expand its Ohio business. Deley and Matteo had overlapping territories. In March 2011, DeLallo created a new salaried position for Matteo as a Business Development Representative ("BDR"). Matteo's existing accounts were assigned to Deley and Matteo was charged with developing new business because adding grocery stores that were not current customers of DeLallo was one of his strong points.[1] After Matteo opened a new account, Deley was to be responsible for ongoing day-to-day sales to that customer.

Matteo was hospitalized for six days beginning on June 12, 2011. The only company official to whom he reported his tentative diagnosis of lupus was Les Samilia, Director of Human Resources. Samilia did not relay this information to Quatra, Hoffner or Fran DeLallo. Indeed, there is no evidence that either Hoffner or Fran DeLallo was aware that Matteo had missed any work. Matteo was released by his doctor to return to work effective July 11, 2011, albeit with a light duty capacity restriction for the first two weeks. After Matteo returned to work, the company did not require him to perform any work that was inconsistent with his light duty restriction.

Matteo held the BDR position for five months, including the time he was on medical leave. During that time he opened four new accounts. Although Matteo was not given an explicit quota, the Company expected him to open several new accounts every month. Matteo did not open any new accounts after his return to work from medical leave on July 11, 2011. DeLallo terminated his employment on August 19, 2011, when Matteo was sixty (60) years old. Matteo was told that there were too many bodies and not enough money. Nobody was hired to replace Matteo and the BDR position was eliminated.

Samilia stated in response to Matteo's unemployment compensation claim that he had been terminated for lack of work. On March 20, 2012 Matteo filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. DeLallo contended that he had been terminated based on poor performance. Fran DeLallo, Hoffner and LaQuatra testified that they each had told Matteo about his poor sales performance on multiple occasions. Matteo disputes these statements, other than when he lost Giant Eagle as a customer years earlier. DeLallo did not give written performance reviews, did not document its displeasure with Matteo's performance, and did not publish rankings of its sales force. On the other hand, Plaintiff cannot identify any other employee whose sales performance was as poor or worse than his, whose employment was not terminated.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment must be granted when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The movant must identify those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A material fact is one "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

To withstand summary judgment, the non-movant must show a genuine dispute of material fact by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(1)(A); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). "The mere existence of some factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson v, 477 U.S. at 247-48. See, e.g., Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) ("When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts ...


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