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Caputy v. Quad/Graphics, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 2, 2016

PAULA CAPUTY, Plaintiff,


          F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge.

         This is an employment dispute arising out of an alleged unlawful termination on the basis of age. Paula Caputy was one of five Sales and Service Representatives (“SSRs”) at Quad/Graphics, Inc. In the context of a reduction-in-force, she was selected for termination. Caputy, at age 64, was the oldest of the SSRs. The other SSRs ranged in age from 29 to 53. Unknown to her, the company's most recent SSR performance evaluations had also ranked her last out of the five SSRs. She had received an average rating of 3.2 out of 5, while the next lowest SSR received an average rating of 4.0. However, at the time of her termination, she was told that her termination was only because of the economy, and had nothing to do with her performance, which had been “fine.”

         Caputy then brought this action, alleging age discrimination in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B. Quad/Graphics has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, that motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         The facts are set forth in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the non-moving party.

         A. Factual Background

         Quad/Graphics, Inc. provides multichannel communications solutions, including print and other platforms, for a variety of markets. (Def. SMF ¶ 1). Sales Representatives sell the company's services to new and existing customers. (Def. SMF ¶ 2). Sales and Service Representatives (“SSRs”) support the Sales Representatives by determining project pricing, preparing customer proposals, overseeing projects, and ensuring customer satisfaction. (Def. SMF. ¶ 3).

         Paula Caputy was hired as an SSR at Quad/Graphics in September 2006. (Def. SMF ¶ 4). During the relevant time period, Quad/Graphics employed five SSRs and four Sales Representatives. (Def. SMF ¶ 7). The SSRs and sales representatives were directly supervised by Thomas O'Brien, the Sales Director. (Def. SMF ¶ 8). O'Brien reported directly to John Logan, the Regional Vice President of Sales for the East Coast, who in turn reported directly to James Capstick, the Vice President of Marketing Solutions. (Def. SMF ¶ 9).

         As Sales Director, O'Brien was responsible for conducting performance evaluations of the Sales Representatives and SSRs. (O'Brien Aff. ¶ 10). In addition to his own evaluations, O'Brien had the Sales Representatives evaluate the SSRs. (O'Brien Dep. at 45, 55). In December 2011, he asked the Sales Representatives to complete performance evaluations of the SSRs, raking each SSR on a five-point scale in sixteen different performance areas. (O'Brien Dep. at 45; O'Brien Aff. ¶ 11). O'Brien and the Sales Representatives all completed the evaluations, and he then compiled the results to create average ratings for each SSR. (O'Brien Aff. ¶ 11; O'Brien Dep. at 55). Caputy was scored as the lowest performing SSR out of five. (O'Brien Aff. ¶ 11). She received an average rating of 3.2; the next lowest SSR received an average rating of 4.0, and the highest rated SSR received an average rating of 4.6. (O'Brien Aff. ¶ 13; Def.'s Ex. C) Caputy was the oldest SSR, at age 64; the other SSRs were 53, 52, 46, and 29 years old. (Medeiros Aff. ¶ 6). Of the three highest-rated SSRs, two were in their fifties. (Def's Ex. C; Medeiros Aff. ¶ 6).

         In January 2012, Quad/Graphics determined that it needed to reduce its staff. (O'Brien Dep. at 39; Capstick Dep. at 10-11). O'Brien was asked by his superiors, Logan and Capstick, to identify individuals from his office to consider including in the reduction-in-force. (Capstick Dep. at 11-12). O'Brien selected Caputy. (O'Brien Dep. at 40; Capstick Dep. at 12). He contends that he was unaware of her age at the time of her termination. (O'Brien Dep. at 20). He also contends that his decision was based on the December 2011 performance evaluations, in which she was rated lowest out of five, as well as on seniority. (O'Brien Dep. at 47-49). Caputy, who was hired in 2006, had worked at Quad/Graphics for approximately five years. (Medeiros Aff. ¶ 6). Two other SSRs had begun working for Quad/Graphics in 2010; however, they had joined the company when it acquired their previous employers. (Id.). They were given credit for their years spent at their previous employers, making their effective start dates at Quad/Graphics 2005 and 1980. (Id.).

         Quad/Graphics required O'Brien to complete SSR Evaluation and Measurements (“SEAM”) questionnaires for each employee identified for possible termination in the reduction-in-force in order to “double check” their selection. (Capstick Dep. at 20-21, 27). When he sent Caputy's SEAM questionnaire to Capstick and Logan on January 16, 2012, O'Brien attempted to prevent her termination. (O'Brien Dep. Ex. 3). He wrote:

I would not identify Paula [Caputy] as someone who is underperforming on her overall job. However, relative to her SSR peers[, ] she ranks lower. . . . As we all make this difficult decision, I respectfully ask that we re-consider ending her employment based on the ramifications of how it will affect Boston Sales & Quad's ability to grow.

(Id.). Later than same day, Logan sent an e-mail to Capstick stating that he agreed with O'Brien's position. (Id.).

         Despite O'Brien's request, Quad/Graphics moved forward with Caputy's termination. (O'Brien Dep. at 28-29). On January 26, 2012, O'Brien, along with Shelly Medeiros, the Human Resources Manager, met with Caputy to inform her that she was being laid off. (O'Brien Dep. at 29). Medeiros did not participate in the decision to terminate ...

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