United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
L. CABELL, U.S.M.J.
Steven Higgins applied for several positions at defendant
John Hancock Life Insurance Company (John Hancock) but failed
to receive an interview for any of them. He contends it
was because of his age and asserts claims for discrimination
under M.G.L. c. 151B, § 4(1B) and the Age Discrimination
in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 623. The defendant
moves for summary judgment; the plaintiff opposes the motion.
(D. 43, 50). For the reasons discussed below, the motion will
The Plaintiff’s Work Experience
2015, Higgins was 63 years old, with 43 years’
experience in finance, accounting, and audit work. (Pltf. SOF
p. 3). He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting
cum laude, and an M.B.A. in finance from Suffolk
University. He is also a certified internal auditor (CIA) and
certified fraud examiner (CFE). (Id. Exh. 1, p. 23).
1981-1991, he served in several capacities with the Millipore
Corporation, a life sciences company. His roles included
senior corporate auditor and manager of worldwide financial
reporting. (Id. Exh. 1, p. 26).
he worked for approximately 12 years for the Massachusetts
Department of Revenue, serving as a senior internal audit
manager for over seven years; a manager of special projects
for approximately two-and-a-half years; and a manager of
account reconciliations for another two-and-a-half years. In
these positions, he planned, organized, and conducted various
audits; reconciled accounts; resolved overbilling and billing
error issues; and developed and implemented procedures for
approximately 100 employees. (Id. Exh. 1, pp.
2004-2009, the plaintiff served primarily in contract
positions as Chief Financial Officer of Quincy College
(September 2004-June 2007) and Financial Consultant with the
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (December 2008-April 2009).
From December 2007 to October 2008, he also served as
Assistant Vice President-Internal Audit for CitiStreet, an
employed position. (Id. Exh. 1, pp. 24-25).
with Quincy College, he addressed unethical budgeting
practices, improved reconciliation and reporting standards,
and designed and implemented an improved annual budgeting
process. (Id. Exh. 1, p. 25). At CitiStreet, he
conducted operational, financial, compliance, and money
laundering audits and ensured staff compliance with corporate
policies and procedures. (Id. Exh. 1, p. 24).
the Federal Reserve, he oversaw a five-month project to
review a multi-billion-dollar government program with
accounting inconsistencies. According to his supervisor at
the Federal Reserve, he “exemplified great leadership,
communication and organization skills” and exhibited
great determination to complete the project on time.
(Id. Exh. 1, p. 27).
2009-2014, the plaintiff worked as an advisor/broker through
a business he incorporated. (D. 45-2; Deposition of Steven A.
Higgins (Higgins Depo.), p. 37 l. 20 – p. 38 l. 24).
However, although the plaintiff had over 5, 000 inquiries for
financing, he did not close a single financing deal.
(Id. p. 42 l. 4 – p. 43 l. 20).
John Hancock’s Hiring Approach
Hancock posts job opportunities both internally and
externally but it looks favorably upon internal employees for
advancement. (D. 45; Defendant’s Statement of
Undisputed Material Facts in Support of Its Motion for
Summary Judgment (Def. SOF) ¶¶ 3, 5). It also
focuses on recent experience and technical skills such as
computer and software programming proficiency. (Id.
¶ 8). It evaluates the suitability of job candidates by
assessing their current relevant work experience and
comparing it to the job qualifications. (Id. ¶
The Three Positions at Issue
2007 to 2015 the plaintiff applied for 49 different positions
at John Hancock but did not receive an interview for any of
them. Three of them are at issue here.
Global Compliance Auditor
Global Auditor is responsible for completing audits focused
on risks and delivering “high quality, professional,
cost-effective, [and] value-added” services.
(Id. Exh. 6). Specifically, this job called for the
following knowledge, skills, competencies, and education:
(a) Willingness to obtain in-depth and current knowledge of
financial institutions, particularly life insurance, and
(b) Demonstrated understanding of business processes and
associated risks, with ability to analyze situations, reach
appropriate conclusions, and make value-added and practical
(c) Demonstrated knowledge of auditing, project management,
and risk management practices, along with knowledge of
regulations and specifically, anti-money laundering;
(d) Ability to effectively communicate ideas and
recommendations orally and in writing, and to listen and
consider ideas of others;
(e) Strong customer focus and commitment to quality;
(f) Ability to develop and carry out audit programs to
deliver quality results on ...