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Mendillo v. Prudential Insurance Co. of America

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 12, 2016

LISA MENDILLO, Plaintiff,
v.
THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant.

RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Victor A. Bolden United States District Judge

Plaintiff, Lisa Mendillo, brought this action against her former employer, The Prudential Insurance Company of America (“Prudential” or “Defendant”), asserting claims for violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the “ADEA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), the Family Medical Leave Act (the “FMLA”), and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”). Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff’s claims. See Doc. No. 59. For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

The Court GRANTS summary judgment as to the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Counts of the Amended Complaint and as to the age discrimination claim of the Third Count. The Court DENIES summary judgment as to the disability discrimination claim of the Third Count and as to the Seventh Count. The Court DENIES summary judgment on the Second Count to the extent it is based on a failure to accommodate under the ADA, but GRANTS summary judgment to the extent it is based on retaliation under the ADA.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

Born in 1962, Ms. Mendillo began working at American Skandia Life Assurance Corporation (“Skandia”) in or about April 1996. Plaintiff’s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [Doc. No. 69-24] ¶¶ 1-2. She was hired as part of a Technical Team that ultimately became part of Customer Service. Mendillo Dep. [Doc. No. 69-1] 47:20-49:2. This “eService Team” “worked with the technology and value-added tools that [Skandia] offered to [its] financial professionals” and also functioned like an “external help desk” for those who required technology help and web support. Id. 49:18-50:25, 53:20-23. There also were employees independent of the eService Team responsible for handling the Call Center function, which entailed responding to “product-type calls and general inquiries.” Id. 60:22-61:13.

Prudential acquired Skandia in May 2003. 56(a)(2) Stmt. ¶ 3. At the time, Ms. Mendillo worked on a team of Customer Service Representatives (or “CSRs”) dedicated to eService functions, located in Shelton, Connecticut. Id. ¶¶ 3-4. In 2005, Prudential hired Gary Hogard to oversee its two annuity call centers. Id. ¶ 5. The larger Call Center is located in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, which had approximately four times the number of personnel as Shelton. Gabriel Dep. [Doc. No. 69-2] 19:19-20:7. At all times relevant to this action, Paula Gabriel was the manager or director of the Shelton Call Center. Id. 17:6-20, 109:21-111:9. Ms. Gabriel reported to Mr. Hogard. Id. 20:8-14, 21:7-25.

A. Overview of Shelton Call Center

At the time Mr. Hogard was hired, Ms. Mendillo and other eService Team members provided “support for the online activities of Prudential’s annuity customers, ” while “[o]ther CSRs in the Shelton [Call Center] handled traditional customer service inquiries via telephone.” 56(a)2 Stmt. ¶ 4. “The nature of the whole eService function, what we did independently as a team was to be able to support all the technology and the wholesalers and anything that came up. And it was a constant . . . testing, changing, learning. And the Call Center was just a different function than that.” Mendillo Dep. 61:4-10.

Mr. Hogard “revamped the customer service operations.” 56(a)2 Stmt. ¶ 6. “As part of this revamping, in or around 2006, [Mr. Hogard] decided that the services exclusively performed by the e-service team should be integrated into the services provided by the rest of the CSRs.” Hogard Aff. [Doc. No. 63] ¶ 5. “[T]he idea was that we would no longer have people only doing technology all the time in an individually-staffed group.” Mendillo Dep. 62:6-8. This “required that all CSRs be cross-trained on both traditional telephone and e-service inquiries.” Hogard Aff. ¶ 5. Ms. Mendillo was asked to attend product training for this purpose in 2007. Mendillo Dep. 62:12-25, 63:6-9. She attended formal classroom training for approximately six weeks, followed by two weeks of on-the-job training, and then approximately one month of call review and quality scoring that did not count for performance management purposes. 56(a)(2) Stmt. ¶ 10.

Mr. Hogard also added a new program for evaluating the performance of Customer Service Representatives using criteria established by Dalbar, Inc., which is a company that sets performance standards for call centers in the financial service industry and ranks companies on the quality of their customer service. 56(a)(2) Stmt. ¶ 6. The annuities business is highly competitive, and Prudential has been continuously working to improve customer service in order to help differentiate itself from other companies, with the new call quality program an important component of that effort. 56(a)(2) Stmt. ¶ 7.

The Call Center personnel worked on teams of about twelve to fifteen employees. Gabriel Dep. 29:16-24; Brand Dep. [Doc. No. 69-6] 26:13-16. An associate manager (or “STM”) ran each team and Jennifer Brand served as Ms. Mendillo’s associate manager for most of the period relevant to this litigation. See Doc. No. 69-3; Gabriel Dep. 27:7-9, 34:3-8. Each team also had a service team specialist (or “STS”) or “Call Coach, ” who was responsible, with the associate manager, for monitoring call performance of Customer Service Representatives on their team. Gabriel Dep. 41:15-42:20; Brand Dep. 37:1-39:12; Litvinchuk Aff. ¶ 4.

In appraising an employee’s performance, Prudential considered call monitoring information as one of a number of factors. Gabriel Dep. 41:16-23. Prudential measured the quality of a Customer Service Representative’s performance in part by reviewing and scoring a sample of the recordings of telephone calls handled by that Customer Service Representative. Typically, the Call Coach would evaluate two randomly-selected calls per week for each Customer Service Representative on her team. Gabriel Dep. 42:1-20; Litvinchuk Aff. ¶ 4.

The evaluation criteria categories are: Professionalism (10 points); Client Experience (10 points); Service Excellence (20 points); Company Initiatives (15 points); Product Knowledge (25 points); and Workflow (20 points). Litvinchuk Aff. ¶ 6. Each of these categories were comprised of sub-categories, and, if a Customer Service Representative missed a component of a sub-category, “that associate would lose points for the entire category, ” Brand Dep. 41:1-4, “even if all other elements under [that category] were covered, ” Litvinchuk Aff. ¶ 7. See also Doc. No. 69-19, at 33. A Customer Service Representative may challenge the scoring she receives within five days of receiving it, at which point a manager would review and either uphold or overturn the score. Litvinchuk Aff. ¶ 8. Call scoring involved subjective determinations, and discrepancies in scoring would occur as a result. Gabriel Dep. 48:3-25; Cahill Dep. 79:16-22; Thomas Dep. 38:21-40:19; Brand Dep. 41:5-43:24.

Repeatedly failing to meet call quality expectations could result in a Customer Service Representative being placed in Prudential’s Performance Improvement Process (or “PIP”), which can have up to three phases: Performance Building Plan (or “PBP”); Performance Counseling (or “PC”); and Decision Making (or “DM”). 56(a)(2) Stmt. ¶¶ 18-20. The first phase, performance building, “is more of the informal process where the business works with the associate to get wherever they’re lacking corrected.” Wells Dep. 77:20-23. A Customer Service Representative could be put onto a Performance Building Plan for “inconsistent” call quality scores. Wells Dep. 79:22-80:22; Hogard Dep. 43:7-44:9; Cahill Dep. 63:12-24. The determination that a Customer Service Representative’s call quality scores were sufficiently inconsistent to place her on performance building was made by her manager or assistant manager, and was a somewhat subjective determination that was made on a case by case basis, rather than according to any set formula or pattern. Wells Dep. 80:8-22; Doc. No. 69-14, at 19; Brand Dep. 146:10-14; Cahill Dep. 63:25-64:3.

Once on a Performance Building Plan, a Customer Service Representative can be removed after meeting the call quality goal for three consecutive months. Gabriel Dep. 76:13-17; Wells Dep. 96:6-8. While in the Performance Improvement Process, the number of calls scored per month increased from eight to ten. Litvinchuk Aff. ¶ 4. However, if a Customer Service Representative failed or demonstrated inconsistency in meeting the quality standards after being placed on a Performance Building Plan, the Customer Service Representative could be moved to the next phase of the Performance Improvement Process, Performance Counseling. Gabriel Dep. 89:6-10. There are no formal procedures in place for being moved to or off Performance Counseling; rather, such determinations are made on a case-by-case basis based on informal guidelines. Doc. 69-14, at 21; Gabriel Dep. 113:6-115:6. If the Customer Service Representative continues to fail to meet quality standards while on Performance Counseling, Prudential may choose to place them on Decision Making, at which point the Customer Service Representative has twenty-one days to choose to either “commit to the role and meeting their requirements, ” Brand Dep. 194:9-14, or to resign from the company voluntarily with a reduced severance package, Wells Dep. 175:2-6. If the Customer Service Representative chose to stay with the company, she would have a number of additional days, which varied on a case-by-case basis, to demonstrate success-the typical length of the Decision Making period was thirty days. Wells Dep. 62:5-63:22.

These specific Performance Improvement Process practices were not embodied in written rules or policies, but instead were merely considered discretionary guidelines that reflected Prudential’s typical practices. Wells Dep. 95:21-96:4; Brand Dep. 134:22-135:3; Scott Dep. 45:8-46:9, 51:8-14. Rather than applying hard and fast rules, Brand Dep. 135:1-3, Prudential would “review each individual situation to see what type of action was warranted, ” Scott Dep. 46:4-6.

B. Plaintiff’s Employment History at Defendant

During the time relevant to this litigation, Ms. Mendillo served as a Senior Customer Service Representative, a distinct job title from the entry-level Customer Service Representative position. A Senior Customer Service Representative demonstrated more expertise, skill, technical proficiency, and consistency than other Customer Service Representatives, and had gone “above and beyond in their role.” Thomas Dep. [Doc. No. 69-5] 19:4-12; see also Cahill Dep. [Doc. No. 69-4] 32:1-7; Scott Dep. [Doc. No. 69-7] 16:8-17:6, 17:24-18:7; Brand Dep. 28:3-9; Doc. No. 75, at 53 (“Prudential admits that a CSR was an entry level position.”). Ms. Brand could not recall any other members of her team who were Senior Customer Service Representatives. Brand Dep. 35:3-6, 50:3-9. Ms. Mendillo also was one of the oldest employees at the Call Center. Mendillo Dep. 75:18-76:2. Nearly all the other members of her team were in their twenties, and the majority of all employees at the Call Center were in their twenties or early thirties. See, e.g., Gabriel Dep. 32:5-12; Brand Dep. 34:10-14.

Prudential recognized Ms. Mendillo as an excellent and valuable employee during much of her time there, and rated her at the highest level of “exceptional contributor” in 2009, a rare accomplishment and the top accolade a Customer Service Representative could receive. Brand Dep. 44:17-45:3; Gabriel Dep. 57:7-9. “In many ways, ” Ms. Mendillo was more skilled than the other Customer Service Representatives. Brand Dep. 28:7-9. She possessed “technical ability . . . that other associates did not possess.” Brand Dep. 28:12-14. She was the individual who led the eService training sessions for other Customer Service Representatives. Brand Dep. 97:22-98:5; Thomas Dep. 24:25-25:3. She “served as a mentor for [the Call Center’s] new hire class for the eService role, ” Thomas Dep. 19:24-25, and because she “had the most experience in eService . . . people would come to her with questions, ” Brand Dep. 97:19-21.

She was considered the technical lead for customer service, meaning “anything that came as to being a project lead or subject matter expert, [she] was always given the task” by her manager. Mendillo Dep. 70:5-71:22. Even after the revamping of the Call Center eliminated the eService team as a separate group, Ms. Mendillo remained “the team lead for the EService function.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 21. Ms. Mendillo was praised for “her enthusiasm for her role and flexibility daily as she adjusts to the ever-changing needs of the Contact Center, ” and was viewed as “a role model for others in the organization.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 12. In June 2009, Prudential awarded her an “ACHIEVE Award, ” Doc. No. 62-8, at 8, which “recognizes outstanding performance for employees of Prudential Annuity, ” Pelletier Dep. 14:16-17.

During the time relevant to this litigation, there were about six or seven different categories of calls that would come in to the Call Center; each type of call would go into a separate queue, and different Customer Service Representatives would take calls from different queues, depending on their areas of specialization. Gabriel Dep. 79:20-80:9. Ms. Mendillo’s focus was on the eService, Independent Broker/Dealer, and Advanced Service Group queues. Mendillo Dep. 69:3-25. In addition to handling calls, Ms. Mendillo had numerous other job responsibilities; for example, she did “all the training, develop the manuals, [and] do the technical work with the wholesalers.” Mendillo Dep. 74:14-15. These “offline” duties constituted about 50 to 70 percent of Ms. Mendillo’s work. Mendillo Dep. 96:18-19; Gabriel Dep. 70:4-10; Brand Dep. 28:24-31:4.

C. Plaintiff’s Accident and Resulting Disability

On May 16, 2010, Ms. Mendillo had an automobile accident and sustained injuries necessitating that she take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Mendillo Dep. 21:22-25, 111:9-113:24; Doc. 69-10, at 5-13. Specifically, she suffered disabling injuries to the lumbar spine, right hip, right knee, right shoulder, and right elbow. Mendillo Dep. 18:13-17. “[T]hose injuries made it very difficult to sit and work in the capacity at a desk and a computer all day.” Mendillo Dep. 20:5-7. As a result of the accident, she is “functional with limitations.” Mendillo Dep. 20:12.

Prior to the accident, Ms. Mendillo typically arrived at the Call Center before and left after everyone else, “working ten plus hour days on a lot of project work and technical work.” Mendillo Dep. 26:6-9, 235:14-16. She would work overtime. Cahill Dep. 60:6-10. After the accident, however, she could no longer physically work a ten-hour day. Mendillo Dep. 26:10-11. Initially, she missed about six days of work, and then attempted to return to work, but “was in excruciating pain” and was re-evaluated the next day by her doctor, who limited her to half days. Doc. No. 69-10, at 8; Mendillo Dep. 111:18-112:1. After about two weeks, in or about late June, she was able to increase her workdays from four to five hours. Mendillo Dep. 118:24-119:20. About a month after that, around late July, she was able to raise it to six hours a day. Mendillo Dep. 119:25-120:8. After about another three weeks, around mid-August, she was cleared to work seven-hour workdays. Mendillo Dep. 120:3-7. Around mid-September 2010, Ms. Mendillo’s doctor ordered her to cut back to six-and-a-half hours because she “was having a lot more back issues” and “having trouble sustaining the seven hours.” Mendillo Dep. 120:16-121:1. Around November 2010, she was able to go back to seven hours and continued at that level until her termination in August 2011. Mendillo Dep. 121:7-11. After her termination, Ms. Mendillo reached the point where she would have been able to work full eight-hour days. Mendillo Dep. 21:18-22:8.

Prudential knew about Ms. Mendillo’s accident, her resulting physical condition and limitations, and her use of FMLA leave. See, e.g., Gabriel Dep. 93:22-25; Brand Dep. 62:16-64:4, 66:22-67:5, 137:21-138:4; Wells Dep. 30:21-31:13; Cahill Dep. 59:6-14, 120:24-121:13; Thomas Dep. 42:9-43:7; Doc. No. 69-12, at 1-10. Her supervisors also knew that Ms. Mendillo required accommodations after suffering her accident. Brand Dep. 64:7-66:16; Gabriel Dep. 95:23-97:17. Ms. Mendillo brought the challenges and limitations imposed by her physical condition directly to Prudential’s attention repeatedly during the remainder of her employment there. See, e.g., Doc. No. 69-14, at 29; Gabriel Dep. 132:10-11. Prudential has an accommodations unit to address such issues, and while Ms. Mendillo’s supervisors discussed whether the unit might be able to assist them with what they described as Ms. Mendillo’s scheduling-related problems caused by her FMLA leave, the unit never appears to have suggested any accommodations for Ms. Mendillo nor to have contacted her to discuss her disability. See Doc. No. 69-13, at 32; Wells Dep. 91:16-92:22; Gabriel Dep. 96:20-97:12; Brand Dep. 64:7-68:15, 136:15-138:4; Scott Dep. 46:14-49:25.

D. Plaintiff’s Performance Evaluations and Discharge

Ms. Mendillo’s 2007 annual performance appraisal shows that Ms. Mendillo met or exceeded expectations in every category of her competency evaluation. Doc. No. 69-8, at 30-33; Brand Dep. 70:15-23. Her overall performance rating was 4 out of 5, or “Exceeds Expectations.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 35. Her appraisal noted that she “is an exceptional employee who is highly respected by her peers as a leader in the Call Center.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 34. That year, the goals for both “overall call quality” and “service excellence” were 92%; Ms. Mendillo scored 93% on call quality and 91% on service excellence. As noted supra, the job responsibilities at the Call Center shifted drastically that year, with all Customer Service Representatives expected to handle both traditional telephone and e-service inquiries.

Ms. Mendillo’s performance appraisal noted that she “was recognized by her Call Center trainer . . . for her perserverance [sic] throughout training and a positive attitude during this period of transition, ” who stated that she was “truly a role model to me and to others here in the Annunities Call Center” and “a treasure who captures the essence of Customer Service and the true Client Experience.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 34. Her call quality performance results for the year were “solid, ” and she was “recognized throughout 2007 by both internal employees as well as external callers for her outstanding service.” Id. Her job performance earned her multiple awards in 2007. Id.

In 2008, Ms. Mendillo once again received an Overall Performance Rating of 4, now retitled as “High Contributor.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 24; Brand Dep. 74:6-8. She once again met or exceeded expectations in every category of her competency evaluation. Doc. No. 69-8, at 20-22. The goal for overall call quality was again 92%, but in this year, Ms. Mendillo only scored 91%. Because of her inconsistent call quality scores in the first half of 2008, Ms. Mendillo had been placed on a Performance Building Plan, effective June 27, 2008, with a target date to achieve the call quality goal of October 31, 2008. Doc. No. 65-15. Ms. Mendillo received call quality scores of 94% in June, 85% in July, 93.5% in August, 93.5% in September, and 93.3% as of October 17, 2008. Doc. No. 65-15.

Ms. Mendillo’s 2008 performance appraisal noted that she “should continue to focus on consistency with the [call] quality program to ensure the new goals of 93% for 2009 are met, ” but that she “has delivered significant results in her job performance in 2008” and “continues to make contributions with a focus on the organization as a whole.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 23. It also noted that as “the team lead for the Eservice function, ” Ms. Mendillo worked on many projects with employees in other departments, and that she “partners with many throughout the organization for the benefit of our callers.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 21. In addition, she provided “continual training to our Eservice call takers.” Id.

In 2009, Prudential raised the overall call quality goal from 92% to 93%. Doc. No. 69-8, at 7, 23 Ms. Mendillo received a score of 94%, and even received a perfect 100% score in January of that year. Doc. No. 69-8, at 7. Once again, she met or exceeded expectations in every category of her competency evaluation. Doc. No. 69-8, at 9-11. Ms. Mendillo’s overall performance rating this year was “Exceptional Contributor, ” the equivalent of previous years’ “5” rating.

Ms. Mendillo’s 2009 performance appraisal noted that she “continued her strong relationships not only within the Contact Center, but also with our . . . partners” in numerous other departments, and that she was “sought out by these groups and also peers across both Contact Centers for her outstanding website expertise.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 10. It also noted that she was “extremely diligent when it comes to escalated cases and will ensure timely resolution to exceed our caller’s expectations.” Id. She also “worked additional hours to support our eService offline activities as we realigned resources to assist our Client Acquisitions Team.” Id.

Her appraisal recognized that she demonstrated “enthusiasm for her role and flexibility daily as she adjusts to the ever-changing needs of the Contact Center-often switching from the role of call taker, to one of processor, to one of project analyst, ” and that “[t]hrough each twist and turn, [she] constantly displays a positive attitude and shares her energy constantly with her team members.” Doc. No. 69-8, at 12. Her supervisor encouraged her “to continue her drive for excellence by consistently maintaining her [call] quality and handle time metrics.” Id.

Like 2008, 2010 began with inconsistent call quality scores for Ms. Mendillo, and she was placed on a Performance Building Plan, effective May 6, 2010. Doc. No. 65-16. Ten days later, Ms. Mendillo’s car accident occurred and she could not return to work until nearly the end of the month and gradually increased her workdays over the next six months from half-days to seven-hour days. Because of Ms. Mendillo’s reduced hours, Prudential initially reduced the number of her calls that were being scored to four. Cahill Dep. 94:9-24; Brand Dep. 113:4-18. Ms. Mendillo achieved the call quality score goals in June and July. Gabriel Dep. 80:10-15. However, she would not have made the goal in one of those months if she had not challenged the scoring of one of her calls. Mendillo Dep. 136:4-16.

During this time, Ms. Mendillo challenged her call scoring regularly. Mendillo Dep. 136:17-19. She filed more challenges than most Customer Service Representatives. Thomas Dep. 57:4-6, 58:5-14. In August 2010, the number of her calls being scored was doubled to eight, possibly without any advance notice to Ms. Mendillo. Brand Dep. 117:11-119:1; Doc. No. 69-12, at18-19, 22; Doc. No. 69-13, at 2. Ms. Mendillo failed to meet the call quality goal in August by one percentage point, scoring 92%. Doc. No. 62-10.

Ms. Mendillo’s August score fell below the goal because of a deduction she received on one call for not stating the hours of operation when closing the call. Gabriel Dep. 80:19-81:25; Cahill Dep. 127:16-128:12; Brand Dep. 153:12-24. If this deduction had not been made, Ms. Mendillo’s August score would have met the call quality goal and she would have been removed from the Performance Building Plan. Gabriel Dep. 86:12-17; Brand 119:11-121:2. While she did not follow the formal challenge process with respect to this call score, Ms. Mendillo did ask for her score to be corrected, and Prudential denied this request. Cahill Dep. 98:13-99:13; Scott Dep. 57:10-22; Gabriel Dep. 82:1-9; Brand Dep. 120:25-121:7, 154:3-14.

In early September, Prudential asked Ms. Mendillo to train other employees on the eService function. Gabriel Dep. 87:3-5; Brand Dep. 143:15-20; Mendillo Dep. 96:6-7. Shortly thereafter, Prudential removed all of her offline eService work responsibilities and made her job exclusively telephone work.[2] Gabriel Dep. 82:18-22, 84:7-16; Brand Dep. 56:17-21; Mendillo Dep. 91:14-18, 96:13-14 . Ms. Mendillo protested the removal of her offline work. Gabriel Dep. 6-13. At the same time her offline work was taken away, Ms. Mendillo’s call volume increased drastically. In the four months before her injury in 2010, Ms. Mendillo was averaging about 390 calls per month. In the two months following her injury, Ms. Mendillo handled 129 and 184 calls. She worked her way back up to 265 calls in August, but when her offline work was taken away in September, her call volume spiked to 665 for the month. Doc. No. 69-13, at 23. Her monthly call volume remained above six hundred for the rest of 2010. Doc. No. 69-13, at 23.

Ms. Mendillo warned her manager that being put full time on telephone work would cause exacerbation of her back pain. Mendillo Dep. 152:15-25 (“[W]hen she said we’re going to put you on a hundred percent phone work; I said, it’s hard when you can’t get up and stretch. My back is spasming. At least when I do the project work, I can stand up, I can stretch my back, try to lean back and move.”). Ms. Mendillo’s physical condition did worsen after her offline work was removed, and resulted in her physician ordering her to cut back her workday hours. Mendillo Dep. 150:5-151:2. Initially, Ms. Mendillo’s call quality score took a precipitous drop, only scoring 79% for September. Doc. No. 69-13, at 23; see also Mendillo Dep. 96:17-24 (“You can see a dramatic difference in scores when they removed me from my project work. I was doing 70 percent offline work and 30 percent call work. So you’re taking maybe seven to ten calls a day. And then they flipped a switch and said, start taking calls all day in September, after they had me finish training a class. And when they did that, my call scores dramatically dropped.”). In addition to a greater volume of calls, Ms. Mendillo also began receiving different types of calls than the ones she had been accustomed to handling. Doc. No. 69-14, at 16; Brand Dep. 145:6-11.

Ms. Mendillo raised her call quality scores back up in the subsequent months, scoring 91.5% in October and then surpassing the call quality goal in November and December by scoring 94.5% and 95% in those months, respectively. Doc. No. 69-13, at 23. Ms. Mendillo’s regular Call Coach was on leave in November and December 2010, and her calls were scored by another person during those months. Mendillo Dep. 90:21-25; 164:13-19. Purdential informed Ms. Mendillo in mid-November that she would be placed on Performance Counseling. Doc. No. 69-13, at 32-34. She protested, however, that placing her on Performance Counseling was contrary to the conditions she had been told she had to meet in order to avoid being placed on Performance Counseling, and so Prudential gave Ms. Mendillo “the benefit of the doubt” and “did not proceed with performance counseling” at that time. Gabriel Dep. 99:9-100:2; see also Brand Dep. 141:4-16.

The goal for overall call quality in 2010 was 93%, but Ms. Mendillo only scored 91% for the year. Doc. No. 69-15, at 8. Ms. Mendillo’s 2010 performance appraisal, however, noted that she “[u]nderstands the ‘big pictures’ and works to support those strategies, ” and that, throughout the year, she “worked to support the company and there were many ownership stories to support her dedication to the strategy of the business.” Doc. No. 69-15, at 12. For example, she led the development of a program that “result[ed] in over $20, 000 saved for the organization.” Doc. No. 69-15, at 16.

Her performance appraisal also noted that she “struggled to meet her core performance metrics, specifically call quality, ” and that “[h]er results were below expectations for her role.” The appraisal recognized that she “strives to exceed [our callers’] expectations and as a result has received numerous complimentary calls” and “was recognized publicly by one of our Top Financial Professionals . . . for her outstanding service support.” Doc. No. 69-15, at 14. Her supervisor noted that she “is focused on providing an outstanding client experience each time, all the time, ” and that “[t]his is evidenced in . . . complimentary calls received.” Doc. No. 69-15, at 20. Still, her appraisal concluded that her overall call performance in 2010 “was not consistent and she did not meet all expectations.” Id.

As Ms. Mendillo remained on a Performance Building Plan in January 2011, she requested to listen to some calls with perfect scores to determine how she could improve, but upon listening to them, she discovered that on some of these calls the Customer Service Representatives had made errors that should have resulted in deductions but did not. Doc. No. 69-14, at 31; Brand Dep. 158:6-159:15. Ms. Mendillo brought this issue up with Prudential, and her conclusions were confirmed by the resulting audit. Brand Dep. 159:16-20; Scott Dep. 28:25-29:4; Gabriel Dep. 48:23-25.

Prudential raised the overall call quality goal again in 2011, from 93% to 94%. Doc. No. 69-14, at 28. In early February 2011, Prudential met with Ms. Mendillo to discuss extending the Performance Building Plan because it appeared that she had missed the 94% goal for the month of January; however, Ms. Mendillo had in fact met the call quality goal for January 2011. Gabriel Dep. 129:5-14. Because she had achieved the call quality goal in three consecutive months, Prudential removed Ms. Mendillo from the Performance Building Plan. Doc. No. 69-15, at 2. “However, it was made clear that should she miss another month in the future she could go directly to Performance Counseling.” Doc. No. 69-15, at 2. Further, Prudential expected that going forward, Ms. Mendillo ...


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