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Bunting v. Kellogg's Corp.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 30, 2016




         Plaintiff, Lenworth Bunting, brought this action against his former employer, Kellogg's Corporation (“Kellogg's”), and Michael Goss, who was a Distribution Center Manager at Kellogg's facility in Newington, CT during the times relevant to this lawsuit. Mr. Bunting asserts two causes of action against both defendants. He first alleges discrimination on the basis of race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”). He also alleges that defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq. (“the ADEA”).

         Defendants, Kellogg's and Goss, move for summary judgment on all of Mr. Bunting's claims. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. Factual Allegations

         The relevant facts are taken from defendants' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement and Exhibits attached to the Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement, ECF No. 36, and the plaintiff's Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement, ECF No. 41. See D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 56(a).

         The Court notes that Plaintiff's Local Rule 56(a)(2) statement does not contain any citations to the record and does not comply with the requirement that any denials of facts in a non-movant's Local Rule 56(a)(2) statement “be followed by a specific citation to (1) the affidavit of a witness competent to testify as to the facts at trial and/or (2) evidence that would be admissible at trial.” Local Rule 56(a)(3). In the absence of such citations, the Court may “deem[] certain facts that are supported by the evidence admitted.” Local Rule 56(a)(3); see Dolan v. Select Portfolio Serv., No. 03-CV-3285, 2016 WL 3512196, at *1 n. 4 (E.D.N.Y. June 22, 2016) (“Where a party either (i) admits or (ii) denies without citing to admissible evidence facts alleged in the opposing party's Local Rule 56.1 Statement, the Court shall deem such facts undisputed.”); see also Cashman v. Ricigliano, No. Civ. 3:02CV1423(MRK), 2004 WL 1920798, at *1 n.2 (D. Conn. Aug. 25, 2004) (deeming facts in a Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement admitted because the opposing party did not file a Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement); August v. Dep't of Corrections, 424 F.Supp.2d 363, 365 n.2 (D. Conn. 2006) (same); see also Vt. Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 BEARGRAM Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004) (in adjudicating summary judgment, courts “must be satisfied that the citation to evidence in the record supports the assertion”). Accordingly, the Court deems the facts in the Defendant's Local Rule 56(a)(1) statement admitted, to the extent that the facts are supported by the record.

         Plaintiff began his employment at Kellogg's Newington Distribution Center in 2005. Def.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt., ECF No. 36, at ¶16. In March 2012, Kellogg's posted an opening for a “Warehouse Manager” at the Newington Distribution Center. Id. at ¶20. Mr. Goss was the “Hiring Manager” for Kellogg's as it conducted this search. Id. Kellogg's hired a third-party recruiter, The Right Thing, to assist in filling the position. Id.

         Kellogg's used a three-level hiring process to select the Warehouse Manager. First, the Right Thing posted the job, collected applications, and screened applicants. Defs.' L. R 56(a) Stmt. at ¶¶22-23. Then, it passed those applicants who met the minimum qualifications to Mr. Goss. Id. Mr. Goss screened these candidates and interviewed several of them. Id. at ¶27. After those interviews, one applicant was selected for the final review stage, a “panel review” interview with Mr. Goss and two of his associates, Regional Director Michael Demmers and Transportation Manager Tom Veroneau. Id. at ¶¶29-31.

         On June 11, 2012, Kellogg's cancelled the initial listing for the Warehouse Manager position, because it was dissatisfied with the candidate pool. Def.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt. at ¶43; see also Warehouse Manager Requisition (LOG000044), Def. Ex. 14, ECF No. 36-14. The Right Thing reposted the job with an offer of “relocation assistance” to attract more candidates. Def.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt. at ¶44; see also Warehouse Manager Requisition (LOG000123) Def. Ex. 15, ECF No. 36-15. Mr. Bunting applied to the original position but not to the second position. Id. at ¶47. The Right Thing continued to consider Mr. Bunting for the re-posted position. Morris Decl., Def. Ex. 13, ECF No. 36-13 at ¶5. However, Mr. Bunting was not aware of the new position or of the fact that he remained a candidate. Pl.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt., ECF No. 41 at ¶48.

         On June 11, 2012, Mr. Bunting received an e-mail implying that he had already interviewed for the position and indicating that he would not be moving forward to a panel interview. Def.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt at ¶49; Goss Decl., Def.'s Ex. 11, ECF No. 36-11 at ¶10. On June 12, 2012, one day after receiving this e-mail, he contacted Mr. Goss to describe the problem. Pl.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt at p. 20, ¶7. Mr. Goss told Mr. Bunting that the e-mail was sent in error. Goss Decl. at ¶10. Plaintiff also mentioned the problem to Kellogg's staffing and to Karen Morris of The Right Thing. Def.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt. at ¶¶53-54. Ms. Morris corrected Mr. Bunting's log on the “TALEO” hiring database to reflect the fact that The Right Thing was still considering Mr. Bunting for the job, despite the erroneous e-mail. Id. at ¶54. See also Morris Decl. at ¶7.

         Mr. Goss allegedly interviewed several candidates for the position and passed one along to the panel review stage. Goss Decl. at ¶7. The parties have only provided to the court a detailed review of one of these initial interviews-Mr. Goss's interview with Mr. Bunting on July 6, 2012. See Bunting Interview Questions, Def.'s Ex. 9, ECF No. 23-9. At that interview, Mr. Goss asked Mr. Bunting eight questions and recorded his impressions of Mr. Bunting's answers on a worksheet. See Id. Mr. Bunting claims that this interview was “ad hoc” and did not amount to a face-to-face interview with Mr. Goss. See Pl.'s Mem. Opp. Mot. S. J., ECF No. 42, at ¶24; Pl.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt. at ¶41.

         Mr. Bunting's initial interview occurred after Kellogg's conducted the only panel interview for the Warehouse Manager position. Goss Decl. at ¶7; Linnell Interview Questions, Def. Exh. 10, ECF 23-10 (identifying date). On July 5, 2012, Bradley Linnell, an external candidate for the position, completed his panel review. Id. At the panel review, Mr. Linnell did a presentation and answered the same eight questions that Mr. Bunting answered in his interview with Mr. Goss. See Id. At some point in July 2012, Kellogg's offered the Warehouse Manager position to Mr. Linnell. Goss Decl. at ¶11.

         Mr. Goss recommended Mr. Linnell for advancement to the panel review stage, and eventually for the position, “because he had retail experience and direct store delivery … experience, ” had received relevant educational training, and had worked as a Logistics Manager, onsite Logistics Manager/LTL Transportation Manager and Transportation Analyst. Goss Decl. at ¶8. Mr. Linnell had a Bachelor's of Science degree in Business with a focus on transportation and logistics and a Master's degree in Business Administration with a focus on supply chain management. Id. Ms. Morris of Do the Right Thing believed that Mr. Linnell was a “dream” candidate and a “perfect fit for the position, ” although Mr. Goss and his colleagues at Kellogg's made the final decision to hire Mr. Linnell. Morris Decl. at ¶¶8-12.

         When he applied for the position, Mr. Bunting had worked as a Supply Station Systems Manager at Hartford Hospital for six years. Bunting Resume, Def. Ex. 3, ECF 36-3. He also had approximately six years of experience at Kellogg's. Id. See also Pl.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt. at ¶38. At Kellogg's, Mr. Bunting worked as a “lead Person” or “unit leader” in the warehouse. Pl.'s Mem. Opp. Mot. S. J. at p. 21; Bunting Dep., Def.'s Ex. 12, ECF No. 36-12 at 48:10-19; Pl.'s L. R. 56(a) Stmt. at ¶¶16-17. In this position, he supervised storeroom staff, developed works schedules, monitored daily assignments and processed payroll and performance appraisals. Pl.'s L. R. 56(a) ¶38. Mr. Goss felt that Mr. Bunting “had some supervisory experience, but it was in a hospital setting, and not lengthy or recent.” Goss Decl. at ¶9. Mr. Bunting had a Bachelor's of Science degree in Business Administration and Finance, but did not have other advanced degrees. Generally, Mr. Goss believed that Mr. Bunting's “overall qualifications were not close to those of Mr. Linnell” and did not recommend that Mr. Bunting progress further in the hiring process. Id.

         Mr. Goss's interview notes reflect his belief that Mr. Bunting answered six of the eight questions “effectively” at Bunting's July 6, 2012 interview. Bunting Interview Questions, Ex. 9, ECF No. 36-9. He did not rate Mr. Bunting's response to the final two questions. Id. Mr. Goss noted that Mr. Linnell answered seven questions “effectively” and one “highly ...

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