United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DOCUMENT NO. 17)
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III United States District Judge
lawsuit involves an allegation of unlawful age
discrimination, and defendant FCA US, LLC ("FCA")
brought the instant motion for summary judgment. The Court,
having reviewed the parties' briefs and held a hearing,
will grant the motion and dismiss the case.
Tenney is a 55 year-old man who worked for Chrysler (now
called FCA) from 1985 until his termination in 2014. Tenney
held various positions in the IT department, eventually
becoming the IT Site Manager at the assembly plant in
Belvidere, Illinois. He alleges that when Fiat and Chrysler
merged, the new management connived to oust older workers
like Tenney and replace them with younger workers.
Consequently, Tenney argues he was unlawfully terminated
because of his age. FCA claims that Tenney's firing was
due to a history of poor performance.
Tenney's Roles and Supervisors
his tenure at Chrysler/FCA, Tenney had several supervisors,
each of whom provided feedback on his performance. From
2003-2007, Tenney was Manager of the Regional Data Center and
was supervised by Mark Shepard. Tenney Dep. 30-31, ECF
No.17-2; Resume, ECF No. 17-3; Performance Reviews, ECF Nos.
17-4, 17-5, 17-6. Tenney became IT Site Manager at the
Belvidere plant in 2009 and was supervised by Michael Dolan
until 2013. Tenney Dep. 54, ECF No. 17-2. In March 2013,
Karen Wrobel became Tenney's supervisor. Id. at
149-50. Wrobel continued to supervise Tenney when he
transitioned to Change, Problem and Incident Manager that
same year. Id. at 164-66; Resume, ECF No. 17-3.
Tenney's supervisors reported to someone further up.
Wrobel reported to Paolo Vallotti, who was Head of
Architecture, Security Operation, Telecommunication, and
Infrastructure. Vallotti Dep. 7, ECF No. 17-9. Vallotti
reported to Scott Sandschafer, who served as CIO of FCA in
2009, the year that Chrysler and Fiat merged. Id. at
8. Sergio Marchionne began serving as CEO at the same time;
Vallotti did not meet him until 2015. Id. at 8-9;
Resp. Br. 1-2, ECF No. 19. As a result of the personnel chain
in place at the company, decisions to terminate employees in
Tenney's department were made by Wrobel and Vallotti,
discussed with a Human Resources committee and with legal
personnel, and then later approved by Sandschafer.
See Wrobel Dep. 54-57, ECF No. 17-8.
FCA's Performance Evaluation Methods
both before the merger and after, conducted periodic employee
evaluations. In the evaluation forms, supervisors rated
employees' performances in various categories and spaces
were provided to write comments. See, e.g., 2005
Performance Review, ECF No. 17-4; 2006 Performance Review,
ECF No. 17-5; 2010 PLM, ECF No. 17-10. FCA implemented a new
performance evaluation program in 2010 called,
"Performance and Leadership Management, " or
"PLM, " but the new evaluation forms continued to
provide supervisors with the opportunity to rate and describe
an employee's performance in several areas. See
Tenney Dep. 55-56, ECF No. 17-2; 2010 PLM, ECF No. 17-10.
program did, however, change the evaluation process. Under
the program, an employee was rated and evaluated under
several categories, but was also given an overall, numeric
score of one to nine. See Mot. 4-5, ECF No. 17;
Vallotti Dep. 46, ECF No. 17-9. A score of five was
considered "medium, " while a score of four or less
was considered "low" and indicated that an employee
needed to improve. Tenney Dep. 64, ECF No. 17-2. Employees in
need of improvement could be placed on a Performance
Improvement Plan ("PIP"), which contained an
explanation for why the employee has been placed on the plan,
established goals to be completed by the employee, and set a
schedule for interim reviews of the employee's progress.
PIP, ECF No. 17-15. The interim reviews allowed the
supervisor to determine whether sufficient progress had been
made to warrant ceasing the PIP or whether the PIP should
have continued. See Id. At the conclusion of a PIP,
the supervisor summarized the employee's progress and
made a recommendation. See id.; Final PIP Review,
ECF No. 17-18.
Tenney's Performance History
prior to the establishment of the PLM program, Tenney's
performance evaluations revealed problems. In 2005, his
supervisor rated his performance "excellent" and
indicated his capacity to "learn quickly and to grow
professionally and personally" but also answered
"No" to the questions "Does the employee
demonstrate substantial capacity to take over significantly
complex tasks and to add considerable value in future?"
and "Could the employee meet the higher demands of
leadership behavior requirements at the next level?"
2005 Performance Review 2, ECF No. 17-4. In the written
comments regarding leadership behavior, the supervisor wrote,
"You must focus on your team. You sometime[s] have to
slow down and [l]isten to what p[e]ople have to say."
Id. at 1. The written notes in 2006 were almost
verbatim repetitions from the year before: "This ha[s]
been a year with MANY challenges, from STAFF issues to LOST
UNITS. You must focus on your team and do not get drag[g]ed
into issues outside of your area. Sometime[s w]e have to slow
down and [l]isten to what people have to say. It's great
to be on the same TEAM." 2006 Performance Review, ECF
No. 17-5. Tenney's 2007 evaluation was also largely
positive; he was again rated as exceeding his targets,
effective in leadership, and forecasted as being immediately
ready for growth in his position. ECF No. 17-6. But the
written comments also indicated an unwillingness to support
change and he was advised, "You can and should state
your opinion, but only once." Id.
evaluations under the PLM program were also mixed. In 2010,
he was rated "high" in "energy to deliver,
" and "medium" in many other categories, but
he was given an overall rating of "low" in the
category "Overall Leading People." 2010 PLM, ECF
No. 17-10. His supervisor wrote, "The categories that
are rated as 'low' have a common theme - Shannon is
overly protective and defensive of his staff."
Id. Referring to Tenney's change in position to
IT Site Manager at the Belvidere Plant, the supervisor added,
"I think Shannon will ultimately be successful in this
role, but it will take action on his part to be willing to
adapt to the environment[.]" Id. His PLM
Leadership score for 2010 was "medium." And it fell
2011, Tenney's PLM Leadership score dropped to
"low." 2011 PLM, ECF No. 17-11. The supervisor who
completed the report, Michael Dolan, provided specific
examples of when Tenney fell short of expectations. Those
instances included shortcomings in managing his team and
improper use of company procedures and communication
channels. Id. As a result of the low PLM ...