United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. 31]
Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.
Anthony White (“White” or
“Plaintiff”) brings his unlawful employment
termination action, alleging discrimination based on
disability in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-60(a)(1), as
well as interference and retaliation under the Family and
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 2601 et seq. Defendant Smiths Medical
ASD, Inc. (“Smiths” or “Defendant”)
has moved for summary judgment on all grounds. For the
foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS summary judgment as to
the federal claims and withholds from exercising jurisdiction
as to the state claim.
is a “leading global provider of medical devices for
the hospital, emergency, home and specialist
environments.” [Dkt. 31-2 (D. Conn. L. R. 56(a)(1)
Stmt.) ¶ 1; Dkt. 34-2 (D. Conn. L. R. 56(a)(2) Stmt.)
¶ 1]. Smiths has a manufacturing facility in
Southington, CT, which manufactures a variety of devices,
including intravenous catheters. [Dkt. 31-2 ¶¶ 4-5;
Dkt. 34-2 ¶¶ 4-5]. White was employed at the
Southington facility from 1976 until October 2014.
See [Dkt. 31-2 ¶¶ 10, 14; Dkt. 34-2
¶¶ 10, 14]. In 1976, he began working for Johnson
& Johnson as a machine operator but was promoted over the
years and worked as a manufacturing team leader when Smiths
Medical took over the facility in 2005. See [Dkt.
31-2 ¶ 10; Dkt. 34-2 ¶ 10]. Although Smiths'
job description for the team leader position required a
Bachelor's Degree, which White did not have, Smiths
grandfathered White into the position due to his many years
of experience. [Dkt. 31-2 ¶¶ 12-13; Dkt. 34-2
¶¶ 12-13]. White remained at this position until
his termination on October 24, 2014. [Dkt. 31-2 ¶ 14;
Dkt. 34-2 ¶ 14].
2009, White's performance began to fall below a
satisfactory level. See [Dkt. 31-2 ¶ 15; Dkt.
34-2 ¶ 15]. This poor performance was documented in his
2009/10 annual performance review, wherein he received an
overall score of 2 out of 5 from his evaluator, Richard
Girard (“Girard”). [Dkt. 31-10 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex.
G, 2009/10 Performance Review) at SM 000212, -25]. The
overall score is measured as follows:
1. “Performance does not meet the requirements of the
position in several area and immediate improvement is
required (Objectives & Behaviors).”
2. “Performance meets the requirements of the position,
but improvement is needed in one or more areas (Objectives
3. “Performance consistently meets the requirements of
the position (Objectives & Behaviors).”
4. “Performance exceeds the requirements of the
position in one or more areas (Objectives &
5. “Performance consistently exceeds the requirements
of the position in all areas (Objectives &
Id. at SM000225-26; [Dkt. 31-11 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex.
H, 2010/11 Performance Review) at SM 000241; Dkt. 31-12 (Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. I, 2011/12 Performance Review) at SM 000255-56;
Dkt. 31-13 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. J, 2012/13 Performance Review)
at SM 000271]. White commented, “Even though I am not
100% agreeable with my overall rating of (2), I understand
the rational[e] behind this decision. The rating reflects
that as a ‘Team' we did not hit our ‘Smiths
Southington' overall objectives for the 2009/2010 fiscal
year.” [Dkt. 31-10 at SM 000225].
overall performance ranking declined to 1 in his 2010/11
annual review, which Girard also administered. [Dkt. 31-11 at
SM 000229, -41]. White indicated in the Reviewee's
I have received feedback regarding my fiscal year
performance, my response can only be that of deep hurt and
utter disappointment. Although I could respond to all of the
observations documented related to my performance, I realize
that it would be futile, it [sic] just difficult for me [to]
understand that with all the responsibilities that have been
assigned to the MTL's over the many years, it appears
that know [sic] one is paying attention to the
accomplishments, at least in my case. Furthermore, it is
without any doubt that over the past thirty-five years of
service, I have developed a deep appreciation for this
organization and I will do whatever necessary to maintain our
successful [sic] in the business, if this requires that I
submit to participating with a “Improvement Plan”
then I welcome it.
Id. at SM000240. The following year, 2011/12, Jeff
Bowen (“Bowen”) reviewed White and gave him an
overall rating of 2. [Dkt. 31-12 at SM 000244, -255]. White
did not provide any written comments. See Id. at
SM000254. White also received an overall score of 2 in his
2012/13 review, administered by Daniel Garcia
[Dkt. 31-13 at SM 000259, -70]. White commented,
“Although I am not in agreement with my final ra[t]ing
for 2012/2013, I understand the challenges we face in our
leadership position here at Smiths. It is quite clear to me
that it is critical to work one-on-one with my manager weekly
to determine if I am meeting the organization needs required
to drive this business forward.” Id. at
and Jim Goodrich (“Goodrich”) from the Human
Resources department, placed White on a performance
improvement plan (“PIP”) on January 16, 2014.
[Dkt. 31-14 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. K, PIP 1/16/14)]. The PIP
cites White's four consecutive years of scoring a 1 or 2
on his overall annual performance. Id. at SM000377.
The PIP identified several “areas of opportunity”
from the performance reviews that consistently needed
improvement: (1) completing documentation for the Quality
Department; (2) following company safety incident reporting
procedures; (3) clearly communicating to staff and
management; and (4) improving behavioral competencies by
quickly developing a knowledge of company procedures and
policies, increasing productivity, and meeting deadlines.
Id. at SM000377-80. White refused to sign this
document. Id. at SM000381.
2, 2014, Garcia issued a 90-day follow-up of White's PIP
from January. [Dkt. 31-16 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. M, 90-day
Follow-Up PIP 5/2/14)]. White received a “meets”
rating for the first three areas of improvement, but he
received a “needs improvement” for the fourth.
Specifically, Garcia noted that White (1) submitted all
documentation to the Quality Manager by his deadline; (2)
reported safety incidents in a timely fashion; and (3)
participated in Gemba meetings and made positive
contributions, and timely communicated quality issues to
Garcia. Id. at SM000382. However, with respect to
his behavioral competencies, Garcia noted White overscheduled
“PTO time, ” which impacted component
inventories; he continuously erred in entering his payroll
data; and he “still needs to work on driving
self-directed productivity/quality initiatives while
balancing day to day work activities.” Id. at
SM000382-83. He did, however, volunteer to take a “6s
project in the Extrusion dept., ” which “was well
organized an on time.” Id. at SM000383.
Overall, Garcia opined that “[d]uring this 90 day time
frame, Tony has improved in some of the categories but has
also slipped on others, ” and elected to extend the
90-day PIP until the end of July. Id. The parties
did not submit into evidence an additional 90-day PIP
follow-up from July.
received an injection for his back pain in at some point
prior to August 2014. [Dkt. 34-3 at 154:25-155:24 (testifying
he received a shot in June or July of 2014); Dkt. 35-1 (Reply
Ex. Y, Medical Records) at WHITEPSR000011 (documenting on
8/4/14 that White had previously received a cortisone shot)].
He went to Rehab Dynamics on August 4, 2014, wherein he was
recommended for physical therapy 2-3 times a week for 4-6
weeks. [Dkt. 35-1 at WHITEPSR000011- 12]. Dr. Hilary Onyiuke,
MD and Larua LaBarbera, PA-C, referred White to Rehab
August 11, 2014, Garcia emailed Goodrich and Bowen suggesting
two options for White: termination or “re-assignment to
a Team Tech position with a reduction of pay to the higher
end of the scale or wage freeze.” [Dkt. 31-18 (Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. O, Email 8/11/14)]. In early September 2014,
Goodrich began communicating with Mary Ranalla, who was Human
Resources Manager Delivery Lead at Smiths' headquarters
in Minnesota during this time. See [Dkt. 31-4 (Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. A, Ranalla Decl. and Attachments) ¶ 3,
Attachment 1 at SM 000398]. With respect to the pending PIP,
Ranalla stated, “I am a little confused why a January
PIP has gone on through August. I see there was a 90 day
extension given but still, it's disappointing this has
taken so long to have action plus the rationalizing for the
extension is weak.” [Dkt. 31-4 at SM 000398]. Ranalla
He appears to meet most of the expectations but there is the
lone comment at the end that he has slipped in some areas.
There is no explanation as to what has slipped. That should
have been caught and coached to explain more there. Under
driving productivity the final notice states there were no
self-directed projects however in the 90 day it references
how he volunteered for a 6s projects and it went well. That
doesn't seem to align, or what am I missing? What exactly
is meant by a self-directed productivity project as it seems
like that may not be clear. If the PTO and payroll issues are
the biggest deal, can we move him into a role where he's
not responsible for that? If not, please explain what the
true issues are.
Id. Goodrich did not respond, and Ranalla
followed-up on September 21 requesting a report on White.
Id. at SM000394.
created a Performance Employee Evaluation for 2013/14
(undated), which evaluates White on competencies similar to
the aforementioned annual reviews. See [Dkt. 31-17
(Mot. Summ. J. Ex. N, 2013/14 Review)]. The report indicates
White received a range of ratings from 1 to 3 on specific
categories and an overall ranking of 1: “Does not meet
the requirements for the role.” Id. at
SM000290. White circulated on September 29, 2014, an email to
Garcia, Goodrich, and Bowen, attaching a document titled
“Performance Accomplishments, ” [Dkt. 31-19 (Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. P, Email 9/24/14)], wherein he acknowledged his
receipt of a 2014 review, stating,
Gentlemen, again for the 2014 review period I have been given
a less then [sic] acceptable review, I have mention[ed] in
past reviews that it feels as if I have been placed in a
“Pigeon Hole” and regardless of what I accomplish
in my present role, the end result will be an identical
“O.” The verbal communication given to me
pertaining “Why” I was rated as “needs
improvement in more than one area” is not substantial
enough to rate me so low. Below, you will find what I feel
are great accomplishments for this for the business and my
Id. at SM000373. White then listed his perceived
accomplishments in sectors of “Productivity, ”
“Quality, ” and “Other Project work /