United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Elizabeth A. Stafford Magistrate Judge.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
J. MICHELSON U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Stephen Summers had a long career as a manager of different
stores of Defendant Walgreen Co. But in 2012, his District
Manager began pointing out performance issues that Defendant
alleges were not resolved. As a result, the District Manager
offered Summers the option to take a lower-level position at
a different store, retire, or have his employment terminated
for performance issues. Summers elected the third option, and
shortly thereafter filed this lawsuit for age discrimination
pursuant to federal and Michigan law. The Court has already
dismissed Summers' federal age discrimination claim, and
Defendant now moves for summary judgment on Summers'
state-law age discrimination claim. For the reasons that
follow, Defendant's motion will be DENIED.
Stephen Summers was born on February 1, 1948. (R. 22-2, PID
476.) He started his Walgreen Co. career in 1991, working as
an Assistant Manager at a store in East Texas. (R. 21-3, PID
169.) He was eventually promoted to Store Manager, and from
1998 on, served as Store Manager at various Walgreens
locations. (Id.) In 2008, he became the Store
Manager for the Highland, Michigan location. (Id. at
Summers' role as Store Manager, his objective was
“To improve store sales, profitability, and image
through proper merchandising, protection of store assets, the
selection, training, and development of team members, and
modeling and delivering a distinctive and delightful customer
and patient experience.” (R. 21-3, PID 174; R. 22-2,
PID 394.) He supervised all store personnel, which included
the Assistant Store Manager, Pharmacy Manager, Pharmacists,
Shift Leads, and hourly associates. (R. 21-2, PID 161.) In
turn, Summers reported to his District Manager, Greg Hansard,
who was responsible for oversight of all stores within the
district (i.e., all stores within a given area).
(Id.) In addition, other area store managers would
serve as Community Leaders, performing unannounced
walk-throughs of other stores in order to provide feedback.
(Id. at PID 162.)
experienced a few instances of discipline while working at
Walgreen Co. In 2004, he was disciplined by loss prevention
for consuming candy that was designated for disposal as
unwanted. (R. 21-3, PID 175.) In 2009, he was issued a verbal
warning by loss prevention for using a UPC code for
discounted merchandise, which resulted in the inadvertent
alteration of the tax information for those products.
(Id.) In 2010, Hansard issued Summers a written
warning after Summers told a subordinate that he
“looked like he was gay, ” and Hansard issued a
verbal warning after Summers revealed to store staff that a
fellow employee was pregnant. (R. 21-3, PID 176.) And in
2011, Hansard issued Summers a “final written
warning” after Summers grabbed a female
subordinate's arm. (R. 21-3, PID 177.)
this disciplinary history, the parties' briefing focuses
more on Summers' performance evaluations and performance
improvement plans in the years leading up to his termination.
Briefly, the Walgreen performance review system asks District
Managers to rate employees in areas falling into three
categories: Performance, Development, and Competency. (R.
22-2, PID 441.) The ratings system is as follows: N/A (too
new to rate); 1 (not achieving expectations); 2 (partially
achieving expectations); 3 (achieving expectations); 4
(exceeding expectations); 5 (outstanding). (Id.)
Both the supervisor and the employee fill out the forms;
thus, there is a supervisor rating and a self-rating in each
Summers, issues began to arise in the evaluation period
between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012. Although
Hansard rated Summers an overall 3.3 (achieving
expectations), he rated Summers' “Functional
Competency” at 2 (partially achieving expectations).
(R. 21-3, PID 278.) Hansard commented, “You are very
good at empowering your team and delegating to them.
Don't be too hands off so that they are not followed up
with and given feedback.” (R. 21-3, PID 278.) In
addition, Hansard pointed out that store merchandise
“at times lacks impact.” (Id.) He
instructed Summers to promote the in-store pharmacy in order
to “drive the business” and “[k]eep store
condition sharp and crisp [at] all times.”
months after this evaluation period, on January 3, 2013, the
Community Leader for Summers' store completed a Community
Leader Evaluation, which he e-mailed to Hansard. A Community
Leader is a fellow store manager within the same district who
would make scheduled visits and report back to Hansard
regarding store conditions. (R. 22-4, PID 719.) This
particular evaluation read as follows: “Sales floor a
1. Many holes. . . . No front window signs. Managers spending
time in Pharmacy. Scanouts most likely not being performed.
Many items from my walk 12-14-12 still not done.” (R.
21-3, PID 285.) The Community Leader returned on January 16,
2013. (Id. at PID 286.) He reported to Hansard the
following: “Scanouts” were still not being done,
daily notes to employees were not being written, and several
expired food items were still on the sales floor. The
Community Leader concluded, “This store is missing a
ton of sales because of the poor instock condition.”
(Id.) Summers testified that he couldn't recall
these particular issues-“I considered store issues an
ongoing thing. Store issues always happen, and we just worked
through them and correct them as we go. I didn't put a
lot of . . . emphasis on store issues other than they're
always going to happen day in, day out, and you take care of
them as you go.” (R. 21-3, PID 179.)
on March 3, 2013, Hansard initiated a Performance Improvement
Plan. Under “Explanation for Current Discipline,
” Hansard wrote, “Failure to perform job duties.
Competencies include People Leadership, Operations
Leadership, and Functional Capacity.” (R. 21-3, PID
289, 295.) Additionally,
Steve is given a written warning for failure to perform job
duties. Communication with team members including coaching,
giving specific information and follow up [is] not being
addressed. Execution is not meeting expectation by failing to
complete notes left by RX supervisor, Community Leader, and
District Manager in a timely manner. Steve [is] not aware of
what is happening in his pharm[a]cy and is not involved in
driving execution on a daily basis. Failure to improve in the
above areas will result in further disciplinary action.
(R. 21-3, PID 290.) Among Hansard's goals for Summers
were: communicate with pharmacy staff and keep current on
pharmacy operations on a daily basis, complete all notes,
tasks and direction in a timely manner, and communicate with
team personally on a daily basis. (Id.)
completed a follow up on May 23, 2013. (Id. at PID
298.) He concluded, “Performance has improved and
performance plan was met. If performance falls back and does
not meet expectations, final written warning can be
issued.” (Id. at PID 299.)
next performance review, for the time period between
September 1, 2012 and August 31, 2013, resulted in an overall
rating of 3.0. (Id. at PID 317.) However, Hansard
observed, “Merchandising can be poor at times. . . .
Work on backing the ad, you can be complacent when you run
out.” (Id. at PID 313.) Hansard also
instructed Summers, “Work with your team to develop
them. You delegate these tasks often and this is your role
with field transformation. You should be working one on one
with them to teach them.” (Id. at PID 314.)
following year (the period September 1, 2013 to August 31,
2014), Hansard rated Summers an overall 2.8. (Id. at
PID 319.) Hansard commented,
Your store condition is often below standard. . . . I
don't sense you are walking the store in detail daily and
you delegate much of this to others without following up. . .
. You empower others well, the missing link is you don't
follow up and see how they are doing and give feedback and
hold them accountable.
(Id. at PID 323.) But Summers saw his ability to
delegate as a positive: “I was probably one of the best
delegators in the whole district. You can . . . ask Mr.
Hansard . . . how good was I at delegating. I was very good.
. . . I always directed on how the store should go or the
plans for the week, the day.” (R. 21-3, PID 183.)
October 2014, Hansard put Summers on another performance
improvement plan. (R. 21-3, PID 332-33.) Under related
disciplinary issues, Hansard reported that employees were
writing their own notes instead of Summers doing it, there
was little direction from Summers, there were issues with
store condition, coaching cards were not being completed, an
A frame sign at the front of the store had not been removed
despite a request to do so months earlier, incidents of short
staffing in ...