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Trapani v. 19 Mile Senior Housing, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 29, 2017

KIM M. TRAPANI, Plaintiff,
v.
19 MILE SENIOR HOUSING, LLC, d/b/a VILLA BELLA OF CLINTON, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Victoria A. Roberts, United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Kim Trapani (“Trapani”) filed suit against her employer 19 Mile Senior Housing, LLC, d/b/a/ Villa Bella of Clinton. (“Villa Bella”). She alleges that Villa Bella terminated her because of her age, in violation of the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Villa Bella seeks summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. It argues there are no genuine issues of material fact regarding the legality of Trapani's termination.

         II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Villa Bella hired Trapani in 2010 as a receptionist and subsequently promoted her to Community Liaison. She was responsible for leasing apartment units, giving tours of Villa Bella, maintaining the marketing budget, and conducting other marketing activities.

         In 2013, the bank that financed Villa Bella expressed concerns to Villa Bella management about decreasing revenues and occupancy rates, and increasing expenses. In 2014, the bank hired a consultant to perform an operations assessment through review of Villa Bella's revenue and expenses. The consultant recommended that Villa Bella could increase revenues and decrease expenses, by increasing its sales and marketing budget, and by paying Trapani bonuses and commissions for securing new residents. Villa Bella also reduced expenses by lowering cable, electricity, alarm system, and service management expenses. The bank then gave Villa Bella an extension until May 2014, to reach a 90% occupancy rate and lower its debt service ratio, to avoid default on its loan obligations.

         In 2014, Trapani sent emails and text messages to Jennifer Kuczmarski (“Kuczmarski”), Villa Bella's Senior Property Manager, complaining that Julie Wilson (“Wilson”), Villa Bella's General Manager, and Karen Moreland (“Moreland”), Villa Bella's Assistant General Manager, were making it difficult for her to do her job and were “bull[y]ing” her. Wilson testified that there was tension between Moreland and Trapani because Moreland could not manipulate Trapani because of her maturity. Wilson testified that Moreland could, however, manipulate two receptionist, Honey Reynolds (“Reynolds”) and Kristina Afram (“Afram”), because of their youth.

         In late 2014, Kuczmarski met with Villa Bella owners and discussed financial issues. She suggested that the owners eliminate Trapani's Community Liaison position to reduce payroll expenses. In addition, she told the owners that the marketing department was the only one that could “absorb… a reduction because existing employees were available to perform the necessary job duties.” (Doc. 15-1; Pg ID 80-1). Kuczmarski testified that the consultant did not recommend that Villa Bella cut the marketing and sales budget.

         On January 3, 2015, Wilson fired Trapani, even though there was no issue with her performance, and occupancy increased during the last few months of 2014. Villa Bella argues that Melissa Ferlito, Owner and Managing Member of Villa Bella, made the decision to terminate with input from Kuzmarski. Wilson, Ferlito and Kuzmarski exchanged emails discussing Trapani's termination before the actual termination. Trapani says Wilson was involved in the decision to terminate as well.

         Ferlito believed, based on Kuczmarski's information, that staff could absorb Trapani's job duties. Specifically, she believed Moreland, Wilson, and Afram and Reynolds, - both in their twenties - could give tours and provide marketing and sales support. After Villa Bella fired Trapani, it promoted Afram and Reynolds from part-time to full-time positions. They continued their receptionist duties and absorbed some of Trapani's duties, such as giving tours and entering information into “REPS” - a tracking system used to maintain information on prospective residents. Neither Reynolds nor Afram had marketing or sales experience.

         Wilson and Moreland also absorbed some of Trapani's responsibilities, including: planning and overseeing advertising and promotional activities; public relations; maintaining department expenses within the budget; maintaining familiarity with Villa Bella's competitors, including their pricing, strengths and weaknesses; and, managing Villa Bella's involvement in trade shows, expositions, and outside events.

         Following her termination, Trapani filed suit against Villa Bella, alleging age discrimination in violation of the ADEA. Villa Bella moves for summary judgment.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         a. ...


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