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McLeish v. Elite Audio Visual Solutions

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

November 8, 2017



          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment by defendant Elite Audio Visual Solutions (“Elite”). (DN 18.) Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for decision. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         This case arises from Elite's employment of plaintiff Hugh P. (“Pat”) McLeish from December 17, 2012, to October 29, 2015. When McLeish was hired by Elite, he was 49 years old. (Dep. McLeish [DN 18-4] at 27:19-21.) McLeish worked for Elite as the director of audio visual at two hotels in Nevada and California before being transferred to Louisville in May 2015. (Id. at 27:22-28:2, 40:16-42:3, 44:11-18.) He worked at three hotels while in Louisville, eventually becoming the “director of audio visual” at the Crowne Plaza on July 1, 2015. (Id. at 56:6-8.) McLeish was the highest-ranking Elite employee at the Crowne Plaza and reported directly to Chad Lucas, the CEO of Elite. (Id. at 74:2-5, 61:10-14.)

         Beginning “the first day” of his employment at the Crowne Plaza, Elite began to receive complaints from Amy Falkenstein, the director of catering at the Crowne Plaza, about McLeish's performance of his on-site duties. (Id. at 75:21-77:9.) These complaints were “occasional but ongoing” from July onward. (Id. at 77:1-3.) Emails sent by Falkenstein at the time these issues arose show that McLeish and his staff regularly failed to provide the necessary audio and visual equipment to meeting rooms in a timely manner and that Falkenstein was not satisfied with Elite's overall performance. (Falkenstein September 30 Email [DN 18-10] at 2; Falkenstein October 8 Email [DN 10-14] at 1.) Following receipt of these complaints, Elite, through its CEO Lucas, attempted to implement changes that would rectify some of these issues, including changes to when McLeish was to have audio and visual equipment set up and how the Crowne Plaza would be staffed. (Dep. McLeish [DN 18-4] at 102:6-105:7; Lucas October 8 email [DN 18-15] at 1-4.)

         Even after these changes were made, Lucas continued to receive complaints about McLeish's performance at the Crowne Plaza. (Falkenstein October 12 Email [DN 18-16] at 1.) On October 14, McLeish sent Lucas an email in which he stated that “[n]o one is happy with the job I am doing here, including me. I am no longer certain what that job is, what the priorities are, or where it is going.” (McLeish October 14 Email [DN 18-17] at 1.) He continued that he saw “three scenarios, ” which included a “[w]orst case scenario” of a “[d]ramatic departure. I slam my keys on [Falkenstein]'s desk.” (Id.) His “[b]est case scenario” was that “[e]verything works out this week. I continue here until the end of the year.” (Id.) His “[r]ealist scenario” was that he “give [his] 30-45 day notice. You use this time to hire, train and acclimate my replacement. I pledge to my absolute best to initiate the changes in your plan for here . . . I will do everything I can to make for a smooth transition.” (Id.) He concluded by stating that “[i]t is very important to me to leave ELITE on the best note possible. I hope we can make that happen.” (Id.)

         After receiving this email, McLeish and Lucas spoke on the phone, and Lucas states that he and McLeish agreed that McLeish would remain at his position until the end of 2015. (Aff. Chad Lucas [DN 18-12] ¶ 5.) On October 14, McLeish also received an email from Jim Forrest, the director of event technology at the Galt House for Elite, offering advice as to how he runs his operation and how it could be implemented at the Crowne Plaza. (Forrest October 14 Email [DN 18-18] at 1-4.) However, Lucas continued to receive complaints from Falkenstein and other Crowne Plaza staff over the next few days. (Falkenstein October 15 Email [DN 18-19] at 1; Falkenstein October 20 Email [DN 18-20] at 1; Falkenstein October 20 Email [DN 18-21] at 1.) In response to these complaints, Elite president Lawrence Williams visited the Crowne Plaza on October 21 and 22 and met with McLeish. (Williams October 22 Email [DN 18-22] at 2-4.) Williams observed that McLeish's staff felt that they needed more training but McLeish could not offer it to them; that the equipment storeroom “was not clean, organized or secured;” and that overall his “observation of Pat and his operation was very disappointing[, f]rom the lack of attention to details, his lack of organization, enthusiastic but poorly trained staff, unprofessional emotional state of mind and his lack of timeliness and absents on the floor[.]” (Id.)

         On October 23, McLeish then emailed Lucas and stated that Williams' visit “did not change my perception that this is not a winning situation for me. This position needs a great administrator. I am not that person.” (McLeish October 23 Email [DN 18-23] at 1.) He reiterated that he would “stay at [his] job through the remainder of 2015.” (Id.) McLeish denies that this was a letter of resignation, but he did testify that he was concerned that he might be relieved of his position at this point “because [he] had been getting repeated complaints from [Falkenstein], and the visit with [Williams] did not go that well.” (Dep. McLeish [DN 18-4] at 133:25-134:12.)

         On October 28, McLeish sent an email to four Elite employees, including Jim Forrest, requesting certain pieces of equipment to be set up that night. (McLeish October 28 Email [DN 18-25] at 2-3.) Forrest replied with concerns about McLeish's plan to obtain the equipment, chastising McLeish for the failure to arrange for the equipment to be brought in sooner and seeking an explanation for the miscommunication. (Id. at 2.) McLeish then replied, “How about fuck off Jim. I will not be [coming] to get that gear after all.” (Id. at 1.) On either October 29 or 30, McLeish spoke on the phone to Lucas who told him that he was “letting [him] go.” (Dep. McLeish [DN 18-4] at 175:18-23; Lucas Aff. [DN 18-12] ¶ 7.)

         McLeish sent an email to Nicole Duran, Elite's vice-president of finance, on November 9, in which he stated that there was some confusion over how his employment ended. (McLeish November 9 Email [DN 18-29] at 1.) He stated that “either I was terminated on 10/30/15 for reasons not yet specified; or my two week resignation that would have been effective 11/1/15 was accepted by ELITE.” (Id.) Duran responded by stating that, “On Oct 23rd, you submitted notice of intent to resign from your position with ELITE due to an inability to consistently meet the basic requirements of the job. ELITE chose to forgo your notice and dismiss you earlier than your requested last day of employment (end of 2015) based on your lack of performance and your unprofessional treatment of coworkers and ELITE customer(s).” (Id.)

         On October 29 and 30, McLeish was 52 years old. (Dep. McLeish [DN 18-4] at 27:19- 21.) Elite's operations at the Crowne Plaza were temporarily managed by Antonio Allen, a 23-year-old male, after McLeish's employment ended, but Elite ultimately filled McLeish's former position with an unnamed 32-year-old male. (Lucas Aff. [DN 18-12] ¶ 10.)

         McLeish filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in Kentucky. (EEOC Dismissal and Notice of Rights [DN 18-30] at 1.) This charge was dismissed, and McLeish subsequently filed the present complaint against Elite, alleging that he was terminated due to his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (“KCRA”). Elite has now moved for summary judgment as to both claims. (DN 18.)

         II. Standard of Review

          Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party ...

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