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Boczar v. Anthem Companies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 19, 2016

LAURIE W. BOCZAR, Plaintiff,
v.
THE ANTHEM COMPANIES, INC. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. 30]

          Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Laurie W. Boczar (“Boczar” or “Plaintiff”) brings this employment discrimination action against her former employer, The Anthem Companies, Inc. (“Anthem” or “Defendant”), formerly known as Wellpoint, Inc. Her complaint raises claims for age and gender discrimination in violation of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60 et seq. Plaintiff initially filed this action in Connecticut state court, and the case was removed to this Court on June 1, 2015 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332. Defendant now moves for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons stated below, the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         Facts

         The following undisputed facts are drawn primarily from the Defendant's 56(a)1 Statement.[1]

         Boczar is a woman who previously worked for Anthem as Web Creative Director.[2] [Dkt. 26, Rule 56(a)(1) Statement of Facts, ¶ 3]. Boczar was hired in March 2009, and at all relevant times, Boczar was over the age of 40 years old when she worked for Anthem. [Dkt. 1, Ex. A, Complaint, ¶ 3; Dkt. 12, Answer, at p. 1; Dkt. 26, ¶ 3]. Boczar's employment was terminated on October 1, 2013, when she was 51 years old. [Dkt. 26, ¶¶ 8, 77.] Anthem is a corporation transacting business in Connecticut with a principal place of business in Indiana. [Dkt. 1, ¶ 2; Dkt. 12, at pp. 1-2]. Anthem provides health benefits as an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association to members across the country. [Dkt. 26, ¶ 1].

         At Anthem, Boczar was part of the User Design Experience (“UXD”) team, which was responsible for the information architecture and visual design associated with Anthem's web and mobile assets. [Id. ¶ 10; Dkt. 26, Ex. 4, Tollis Decl. ¶ 3]. She was the highest ranking person on the UXD team with a level of E14 and therefore would have received a higher salary than any of her peers at a lower level (E13 or below). [Dkt. 26, ¶ 11]. Giulia Tollis (“Tollis”), Boczar's manager in 2012, stated that she held Boczar to a “higher standard for her performance, gave her additional responsibilities, and expected her to be a thought leader for her peers when it came to creative design and strategy.” [Dkt. 26, Ex. 4, ¶ 4]. One of Boczar's responsibilities was to maintain Anthem's Style Guide, an internal guide used by the Web Design team and other internal groups to make sure the Anthem brand looked and felt consistent in all publications. [Dkt. 26, ¶ 13]. As Boczar's supervisor, Tollis had concerns regarding her performance, because she struggled to meet deadlines, failed to effectively communicate her deadlines and workload, and spent time on junior tasks as opposed to senior thought leader roles. [Id. ¶ 14]. On October 17, 2012, Tollis provided critical feedback to Boczar and followed-up with an email that same day expressing her disappointment in Boczar's performance. [Id. ¶¶ 15-16]. Specifically, Tollis stated, “As we discussed, I have concerns whether this is the right role for you based on these observations. You expressed a desire to be focused on more Senior level tasks - icons, style guide, etc. To do that effectively, it's important that you understand the expectations of your role and that you improve and sustain your performance.” [Dkt. 26, Ex. 5, Email (Oct. 17, 2012), at p. 2].

         Despite the critical feedback, Boczar continued to miss deadlines. On December 6, 2012, Tollis sent Boczar another email documenting her failure to meet status report deadlines from October 3, October 11, October 24, and December 5, as well as her failure to submit any report at all on November 14. [Dkt. 26, Ex. 6]. Tollis concluded, “As we've discussed in the past, I expect that all deadlines are met, unless otherwise discussed and agreed upon in advance of the miss. It's important that you understand the expectations of your role and that you improve and sustain your performance moving forward.” [Id.] This warning prompted no change in Plaintiff's performance, as she failed to submit another status report, prompting Tollis to remind Boczar on January 10, 2013, that another missing report may result in a written warning. [Dkt. 26, ¶ 23].

         In February 2013 Tim Brown (“Brown”) was hired to manage the UXD team, reporting to Tollis. [Id. ¶ 24]. Boczar's complaint alleges “[w]ithin a very short period from Mr. Brown's hiring, Plaintiff went from a consistently and highly successful employee who was rewarded a[s] such in each of her four years with [Anthem] to an employee who ‘consistently fails to meet expectations' with respect to any of Mr. Brown's stated criteria in the PIP.”[3] [Dkt. 1, Ex. A, ¶ 18]. Boczar described Brown's management style as “overbearing nitpickiness” and that he was “trying to set [her] up.” [Dkt. 26, Ex. 3, Boczar Dep., 36:17, 114:4-5]. In her deposition testimony, the Plaintiff challenges the Defendant's assertion that she missed deadlines, testifying, “I might have had a misspelling, I might have had an overall date on it that, you know, was not the correct date even though he receives it on the correct day.” [Id. at 114:20-23].

         In April 2013 Plaintiff received her 2012 annual performance appraisal. [Dkt. 26, ¶ 26]. Tollis rated Boczar a 3.18 out of 5, an average rating at Anthem, but compared to her peers Boczar it was “the lowest rated member of the UXD team.” [Dkt. 26, Ex. 4, ¶ 24]. The performance review specifically stated,

• “[A]n area of improvement is more broadly communicating & educating to her peers and interested parties the changes that have been made.” [Dkt. 26, Ex. 7, 2012 Performance Coaching, at p. 5].
• “Would like to see Laurie bring more to the table with her designs in rendering visual designs that are more interesting and where she is pushing the bounds of her work.” [Id. at p. 6].
• “Areas of opportunity for Laurie would be with her verbal communication and presence in meetings. Laurie is of a quiet nature. She tends to be reserved and holds back from responding in meetings. Due to our highly virtual environment, this is perceived as a lack of participation by project teams. Additionally, Laurie needs to become her own voice in the team. I'd like to see Laurie take a more active, vocal role. Communicating her thoughts an opinions to help drive change.” [Id. at pp. 7-8].
• “Additionally, Laurie will need to work on communicating her workload to leadership and where she stands with projects. At times, it has been difficult to gauge where or what she's really got for deliverables.” [Id. at p. 10].

         Boczar concedes that “there were a couple of things that could have slipped through that were fixed ultimately, ” and justifies them because “[i]t is human to err.” [Dkt. 26, Ex. 3, 77:22-78:7]. As a result of the performance review, Boczar received “one ...


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