United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Torresen United States Chief District Judge.
action, Plaintiff Dennis Bouyea
("Bouyea") claims that Metz
Culinary Management, Inc. ("Metz"), violated the
Maine Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), 5 M.R.S. §
4451 et. seq., and the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621
et. seq., by unlawfully terminating his employment
based on his age. Compl. ¶ 8 (ECF No. 3-2). Metz now
moves for summary judgment. Def's. Mot. (ECF No. 24). For
the reasons set out below, and after reviewing the pleadings
and the record in its entirety, I DENY
approximately June 23, 2015, Metz terminated the employment
of Dennis Bouyea, who had worked at St. Mary's Health
System in Lewiston, Maine since 1987. Joint Statement of
Material Facts ¶¶ 34, 48 (ECF No. 48)
("JSMF"). St Mary's chose Metz, a
Pennsylvania-based corporation, to take over its nutrition
service (which previously operated in-house) in January 2013.
JSMF ¶¶ 1-2. Metz hired Bouyea as General Manager
of the St. Mary's account on January 20, 2013, because
St. Mary's requested that Metz retain all food service
management staff. JSMF ¶¶ 3, 45. Metz's
contract with St. Mary's stipulated that employees like
Bouyea would be retained with their pre-existing salaries,
benefits, and seniority. JSMF ¶ 45. Also incorporated
into the contract was a provision allowing St. Mary's to
give formal notice of performance issues or deficiencies.
JSMF ¶ 55. This provision was never invoked during
Bouyea's time at Metz. JSMF ¶ 55.
the relevant time period, St. Mary's food service areas
included: (1) Campus Cuisine, the main kitchen, located in an
apartment building for the elderly; (2) the apartment
building's main dining room; (3) the Market Cafe, located
in the hospital building; (4) a galley kitchen on the
hospital's third floor; and (5) seven dining areas
located in the D'Youville Pavilion. JSMF ¶ 75.
accounts, Bouyea played a pivotal role in helping ensure a
smooth transition. In December 2013, he received a letter
commending his handling of the change. JSMF ¶ 50. Citing
Bouyea's "incredible work," the letter enclosed
a bonus and stated that the prior year was "filled with
many successes." JSMF ¶51. It singled out Bouyea
for exemplary performance, including "leading the
department through tremendous change" and completing
"incredible work" on the new in-house Market Street
Cafe, which had replaced a Dunkin' Donuts. JSMF
¶¶ 46, 50.
in the management structure followed the transition. First,
in January 2013, District Manager Ray Farrow became
Bouyea's direct supervisor. JSMF ¶ 5. Second,
Metz's point of contact changed after St. Mary's
hired Philip Hickey, in late 2014 or early 2015, as its new
vice president of elder care services. JSMF ¶¶ 8,
52. Hickey was put in charge of the D'YouviUe Pavilion.
JSMF ¶ 8.
Farrow and Bouyea seem to have shared a relatively cordial
relationship. Tensions emerged after Hickey became vice
president. JSMF ¶ 4. Bouyea alleges that he overheard
Farrow make several age-related comments about St. Mary's
workforce. JSMF ¶ 62. Such comments included that
"[h]e couldn't understand why the people that are
over 40 are still doing salad prep or scooping muffins in the
bakeshop." Bouyea Dep. 178:15-17 (ECF No. 23-12);
see also Bouyea Aff. ¶ 30 (ECF No. 28-1)
("Ray Farrow questioned why older individuals remained
in entry-level positions."). Metz denies that Farrow
made comments directly related to age, but admits he
mentioned that the salad prep workers had been at the
hospital for a long time, that they topped the pay scale, and
that Metz could probably replace two salad people with one
chef to save money. JSMF ¶ 63.
The Termination & Preceding Events
Metz's Failures to Meet Budget
financial standpoint, the transition was bumpy from the
start. In 2013 and 2014, Metz repaid $25, 000 of its
management fees for each year due to budgetary shortfalls.
JSMF ¶ 65. Despite the rough financial start, things
gradually began improving. In 2014, the company served more
meals than expected. JSMF ¶ 68. According to Metz's
Senior Vice President Craig Solomon, Metz anticipated that
increased volume would contribute to revenue growth.
See Solomon Dep. 14:15-22 (ECF No. 23-1). Judged
from a cost-per-meal perspective, the 2014 numbers met
budget. JSMF ¶ 69. Things took a more concrete turn for
the better by March 2015. JSMF ¶ 71. In his District
Manager Report of April 14 and 15, 2015, Farrow wrote that
Metz met budget: "March 2015 will go down in history as
the FIRST time that both Campus Cuisine and Market Street met
and exceeded budget targets!" JSMF ¶71.
Bouyea knew that client satisfaction-including matching
budget goals-was important to his role at Metz,
was not solely responsible for budgeting. Several matters
that were entirely out of Bouyea's hands contributed to
Metz's financial struggles. For example, Bouyea played no
part in the decisions to negotiate a fixed-price contract or
to replace the Dunkin' Donuts with the Market Street
Cafe, which caused budget shortfalls. JSMF ¶ 67.
Similarly, Metz's inability to downsize due to its
obligation to retain St. Mary's management with their
preexisting salaries and benefits was unique to the St.
Mary's contract. See Solomon Dep. 10:16-24,
19:12-14, 20:2-25, 21:9-13.
February of 2015, Farrow wrote a largely-positive evaluation
of Bouyea. See JSMF ¶ 57. That evaluation
included phrases such as "100 [percent] compliant,"
"excellent," "very detail-oriented,"
"moving in the right direction," "consistently
meet[s] and exceed[s] expectations," "worked very
hard at perfecting the programs at MSC [Market Street Cafe]
and CC [Campus Cuisine]," "high standard of
performance/results for his team," "moving in the
right direction," and "a pleasure to have on my
team and an asset to [Metz]." JSMF ¶ 58.
March 20, 2015, Farrow asked to speak with Hickey
"privately about your impressions of Dennis Bouyea in
your dealings with him thus far." JSMF ¶ 72. On
April 13, 2015, Farrow sent an email to Hickey indicating
that he wanted to set a 60-day target with Bouyea for hitting
budget and a 30-day target for hitting other goals. JSMF
¶ 90. In that same email, Farrow indicated that he would
be actively recruiting for a "temporary (and permanent)
replacement" of Bouyea. JSMF ¶ 90. Farrow also
noted in the April 13 email that he had clarified "the
severity of the issues (financial and other) with
Dennis." Ex. 8 (ECF No. 23-8). Farrow had emailed Bouyea
on March 31, 2015 to express disappointment with that
month's budget performance. JSMF ¶ 15.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services
took a turn for the worse on May 27, 2015, when the Maine
Department of Health and Human Services
("DHHS") visited St. Mary's
D'Youville Pavdion. JSMF ¶ 83. Subsequent to that
visit, DHHS issued a Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of
Correction. JSMF ¶83. Although the parties dispute which
specific areas cited in the report were Metz's versus St.
Mary's responsibilities, it is undisputed that Metz and
St. Mary's were in joint control of certain areas cited
by DHHS. See JSMF ¶¶ 75-89. DHHS cited the
D'Youville Pavdion for numerous deficiencies ...