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Hall v. Hayes Management Consulting

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 26, 2018

TODD HALL
v.
HAYES MANAGEMENT CONSULTING, PETER BUTLER, and SHAWN DEWANE

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RICHARD G. STEARNS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Todd Hall brought this lawsuit against his former employer, Hayes Management Consulting, and his erstwhile supervisors, Peter Butler and Shawn DeWane. The extant Count alleges violations of the anti-retaliation provisions of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, § 4 (Count IV).[1] More specifically, Hall alleges that defendants retaliated against him for, inter alia, filing a charge of employment discrimination based on his sexual orientation. For the reasons to be explained, defendants' motion for summary judgment will be allowed.

         BACKGROUND

         The facts, viewed in the light most flattering to Hall as the nonmoving party, are as follows. Hall was hired by Hayes in August of 2009 as a Senior Sales Executive. Hayes is in the business of providing consulting services and software to healthcare organizations. Sales representatives, like Hall, are assigned to designated territories (that can fluctuate over time) and are expected to meet an annual sales quota based on booked revenue (defined as “the total contract value for all contracts executed”). Defs.' Stat. of Facts (DSOF) ¶¶ 7-10. Sales representatives earn commissions based on billed revenue (defined as “the amount actually billed to the client”). Id. ¶ 12. A salesperson's failure to meet his or her assigned sales quota can result in disciplinary measures, ranging from placement on a performance improvement plan to termination.

         Hall maintains that he “consistently ranked among the top three revenue producers in the entire company.” Hall's Stat. of Facts (HSOF) ¶ 44b. However, Hall met his annual sales quota only once, in 2011. DSOF ¶ 44.[2] That year, Hall received a positive performance review that praised his networking, collaboration, and “candid and open style.” HSOF ¶ 17d.

         For the first three years of his employment, Hall was supervised by defendant Butler, the President and CEO of Hayes. Around the fall of 2012, Hall confided to Butler that he is a homosexual. Butler responded that “it really didn't matter.” DSOF ¶ 18.

         In the summer of 2012, defendant DeWane was hired as an Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Among his duties was the supervision of the sales representatives, including Hall. Although Hall never disclosed his homosexuality to DeWane, Hall inferred from his hostile attitude and remarks that DeWane knew that Hall is gay. HSOF ¶¶ 21a-b. DeWane once quizzed Hall about Atlanta's Midtown area, which is reputed to be a “gay friendly” neighborhood. Id. ¶ 20a. DeWane also once quipped that California is full of “fruits and nuts, ” a comment that Hall interpreted as a gay slur. Id. ¶ 21a. Sometime in the fall of 2012, Hall complained to Butler that DeWane was treating him unfairly because he is gay. In March of 2013, another sales representative, Lon Myers, complained to Jodi Narahara, then the Director of Human Resources, about DeWane's treatment of Hall. When DeWane learned of the complaint, he confronted Hall, stating that “it makes me so mother f***ing angry you have called my character and integrity into question.” Id. ¶ 20g. Hall reported the confrontation to Narahara and complained of DeWane's disrespectful treatment of Hayes's clients and employees, particularly women and racial minorities. On May 7, 2013, Butler issued DeWane a written warning, citing his attitude towards Hall and his incitement of “a hostile work environment.” Id. ¶ 20f.

         DeWane routinely made “crude comments . . . about strip clubs and women's bodies.” DSOF ¶ 25. In April of 2013, Hall complained to Narahara that he was “being singled out” by DeWane for his refusal to take part in condescending conversations about women, which made him feel uncomfortable. Id. ¶¶ 25-27, 30-31.[3] Hall also complained about DeWane to Andrew Treanor, then Hayes's Chief Operating Officer.

         On November 5, 2015, DeWane sent Hall an email warning him that he had to improve his sales numbers, as they were “well below where [they] need[ed] to be.” Id. ¶¶ 47-48. On November 20, 2015, Hall was issued a written warning regarding his poor sales performance. The warning also specified steps that Hall was expected to take to improve his sales figures. Hall was also given a reduced sales quota for the fourth quarter of 2015, which he met. On December 1, 2015, Hall complained about the warning to management, but did not make any reference to perceived discrimination or retaliation. In January of 2016, Hall was placed on a performance improvement plan because his 2015 sales in toto “were significantly below target.” Id. ¶ 56. Hall thereafter met his first quarter 2016 sales quota for software.[4]

         On July 18, 2016, Hayes received a letter from Hall's then attorney, Debra Katz, alleging that DeWane had discriminated and retaliated against Hall because of his sexual orientation. Katz requested that DeWane be replaced as Hall's supervisor. Hayes responded immediately and assigned John Cronin, then the Director of IT Administrative Services, as Hall's new supervisor. Hall maintains that Cronin had no experience or knowledge in sales or marketing.[5] On August 10, 2016, Hayes received a second letter from Katz, repeating the allegations of sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation.

         Hall did not meet his sales quota for the second half of 2016 or for 2016 as a whole. Hall blames his poor performance on DeWane, alleging that DeWane reassigned a software customer to another sales representative and removed five states from his sales territory. When Hall complained, DeWane yelled, “I am so mother f***ing angry with you because you have pushed me into a corner.” HSOF ¶ 60c.

         On December 12, 2016, Hall filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). He alleged sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation against Hayes and DeWane under state law and against Hayes for retaliation under federal anti-discrimination law.[6]Defs.' Mem. (Dkt # 8), Ex. A. Butler, on the advice of Cronin and Narahara, terminated Hall on January 3, 2017, citing poor work performance. DSOF ¶¶ 67, 70.[7] Hall filed this Complaint in the federal district court on October 27, 2017.

         DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment is appropriate when, based upon the pleadings, affidavits, and depositions, “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “To succeed, the moving party must show that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's position.” Rogers v. Fair, 902 F.2d 140, 143 (1st Cir. 1990). Although all reasonable inferences are drawn in the nonmovant's favor, the court cannot “‘draw unreasonable inferences or credit bald assertions, empty conclusions, rank conjecture, or vitriolic ...


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