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LaRocca v. Frontier Communications Corp.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 6, 2015

JOHN LAROCCA, Plaintiff,


Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

This is primarily an age discrimination case. Plaintiff John LaRocca worked as an accountant for defendant Frontier Communications in Stamford, Connecticut for ten years. In 2011, when plaintiff was 58, defendant transferred his employment group's duties to Pennsylvania and eliminated his position. The other four members of his group secured new jobs within the company but plaintiff was not re-hired. Plaintiff claims defendant discriminated against him based on his age and otherwise misled him about its intent to hire him for another position in the company.

Defendant has now moved for summary judgment. I conclude there are no genuine issues of material fact and will grant defendant's motion for summary judgment.


At the time he lost his job, plaintiff was a 58 year-old man who had completed three years of a four-year accounting degree. He began working as an accountant for defendant's predecessor company, Citizens Communications, in 2001 when he was 48 years old. Kalindi Bhatt was one of the decision-makers who hired him. Plaintiff worked in a variety of groups, and he was promoted to senior accountant sometime in his mid-50s. He was transferred to the so-called Cash Group in 2008. While in the Cash Group, plaintiff received generally positive performance reviews; over the last two evaluations, he had the second highest average rating among his co-workers in the group. His average rating over 2009 and 2010 was 3.56. By comparison, co-worker Carlos Hernandez' average rating was 3.51, Ronda Layne-Judge's average rating was 3.32, and Lori Nerkowski's average rating was 3.10. John Alcaide, plaintiffs supervisor, had an average rating of 3.67.

Sometime in August or September 2011, the Cash Group members were informed that the group's duties were being transferred to Pennsylvania, that their jobs were being eliminated, and that they could apply for other jobs within the company. In early August, Accounting Manager Joanne Pasqualini sent an email to all five members of the Cash Group reporting that the Chief Accounting Officer, Susan D'Emic, had told her “no one should be worried, there will be plenty of work in Stamford.” Doc. #53-2 at 3. According to plaintiff, D'Emic made other, similar statements in meetings around the same time.

Plaintiff formally applied for two supervisory positions in the Fixed Assets Group, and he also interviewed for a senior accountant position in that group. The postings for these jobs listed a four-year accounting degree as either “required” or “preferred.” Plaintiff was not hired for any of these positions. The person hired for the supervisory position was Sarah Pikikero, who had previously worked for Frontier in the Fixed Assets Group, met the educational requirements, and had supervisory experience. The two people who were hired for the senior accountant positions were Carlos Hernandez, whom plaintiff concedes was qualified, and Ronda Layne-Judge, a former accountant in the Cash Group. She had 12 years of experience in accounting and auditing and a bachelor's degree in accounting. During the same period, defendant also hired Richard Mora, a 56-year-old former Frontier contractor, as a senior accountant in the Asset Accounting department. In addition, Lori Nerkowski, a Cash Group staff accountant, and Tyler Hornyak, a 24 year-old new employee, also obtained staff accountant positions, which paid about $20, 000 a year less than plaintiffs previous position.

During this period, plaintiff had discussions about open positions with at least two managers, Rosa Jean Lake and Rick Taracka, of the Fixed Assets Group. Plaintiff believed that he did not have to formally apply for jobs within the company, but that the various managers understood he was looking for a new job and would consider him for positions relevant to his background. At one point, Taracka allegedly said to plaintiff, “I am aware of your situation, John, but it's out of my hands.” Further, when questioned about plaintiffs application, Lake allegedly reported that she had asked Kalindi Bhatt, “Why can't this guy be hired?” When plaintiff asked what the response from Bhatt was, Lake shrugged her shoulders and raised her hands.

In the months between when he found out his position was being eliminated and November 2011, plaintiff did not seek employment outside the company, because he believed he would find continued work with defendant. But when he did not find another job at the company, he was terminated from the company's employment in November 2011. Plaintiff has not worked since then.

Plaintiff subsequently dual-filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Following a CHRO release of jurisdiction, plaintiff filed this action in Connecticut Superior Court, which defendant removed to this Court. Plaintiff alleges discrimination based on age, gender, and race. He also brought harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims, as well as promissory estoppel, negligence and negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation claims under state law. Plaintiff has abandoned many of these claims. The only ones that remain are his claims for age discrimination, promissory estoppel, and negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation.


The principles governing a motion for summary judgment are well established. Summary judgment may be granted only if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam). “A genuine dispute of material fact 'exists for summary judgment purposes where the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, is such that a reasonable jury could decide in that party's favor.'” Zann Kwan v. Andalex Grp. LLC, 737 F.3d 834, 843 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Guilbert v. Gardner, 480 F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir. 2007)). The evidence adduced at the summary judgment stage must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and with all ambiguities and reasonable inferences drawn against the moving party. See, e.g., Tolan, 134 S.Ct. at 1866; Caronia v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 715 F.3d 417, 427 (2d Cir. 2013). All in all, “a 'judge's function' at summary judgment is not 'to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Tolan, 134 S.Ct. at 1866 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)).

The Age Discrimination Claims

Plaintiff brings claims for age discrimination both under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §621, et seq., and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60, et seq. Both ADEA and CFEPA age claims are analyzed under the familiar three-part McDonnell-Douglas burden-shifting framework. SeeDelaney v. Bank of America Corp., 766 F.3d 163, ...

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