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Wrolstad v. Cuna Mutual Insurance Society

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

April 4, 2017

GARY WROLSTAD, Plaintiff,
v.
CUNA MUTUAL INSURANCE SOCIETY, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON District Judge

         Plaintiff Gary Wrolstad worked for defendant CUNA Mutual Insurance Society for more than 25 years. Then, in 2009, his department's priorities shifted, and senior management began demanding more from Wrolstad. Whether these evolving standards were adequately communicated to Wrolstad is an open question, but in fall 2009, the company decided to eliminate Wrolstad's position and assign his duties to a more senior employee. Wrolstad applied for several other positions with the company around that time, but the company refused to hire him in any of these capacities. Wrolstad signed a Waiver and Release of All Claims in exchange for severance pay and other consideration, and he left the company on December 30, 2009.

         Several months later, Wrolstad filed an age discrimination complaint against CUNA Mutual with the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission. As a result, CUNA Mutual turned around and sued him in state court for violating the terms of the Waiver and Release of All Claims. So Wrolstad filed this suit, bringing discrimination and retaliation claims against CUNA Mutual under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.

         Now CUNA Mutual has moved for summary judgment. Dkt. 10. In response, Wrolstad has moved for leave to amend his complaint to drop a number of allegations and claims. Dkt. 42. Wrolstad concedes that he cannot adduce sufficient evidence to sustain discrimination claims as to four of the five positions he applied for and did not secure.[1]CUNA Mutual agrees to the proposed amendments. The proposed amendments will streamline summary judgment, so the court will grant Wrolstad's motion. Wrolstad's proposed amended complaint, Dkt. 43, is the operative complaint, and the court will redirect CUNA Mutual's motion for summary judgment toward that pleading.

         Because Wrolstad has not adduced evidence sufficient to sustain his remaining discrimination claims, and because Wrolstad's retaliation claim is time barred, the court will grant CUNA Mutual's motion for summary judgment and close this case.

         UNDISPUTED FACTS

         Except where noted, the following facts are undisputed.

         A. Wrolstad's employment and termination

         CUNA Mutual provides insurance products and financial services to credit unions and their members throughout the United States. Wrolstad began working for CUNA Mutual in 1984. Over the course of his employment there, Wrolstad held a variety of positions. Most recently, beginning in August 2006, Wrolstad worked as a financial reporting manager. Wrolstad worked as a financial reporting manager until December 30, 2009, when CUNA Mutual eliminated that position and terminated Wrolstad.

         In July 2009, Michael Bress became CUNA Mutual's Vice President, Corporate Financial Planning & Analysis, and, in that capacity, oversaw Wrolstad (among others). Bress reported to Jerry Pavelich, CUNA Mutual's CFO at that time. In response to “a good deal of dissatisfaction with [the Corporate Financial Planning & Analysis] area of CUNA Mutual, ” Bress began exploring how to better organize the department and improve its financial reports. Dkt. 37, ¶ 18. In particular, CUNA Mutual's senior leadership wanted more analysis in the financial reports: they wanted the reports to explain the data and “tell a story.” Id. ¶ 26. Wrolstad prepared those reports, and these new goals marked the beginning of the end for Wrolstad.

         Tim Nygard, Wrolstad's direct supervisor at that time, addressed these new, increased expectations during Wrolstad's 2009 mid-year review. Wrolstad's mid-year evaluation-prepared in September 2009-provided:

Areas for development that have been observed in the short managerial window needed for the evolving expectations of the Corporate FP&A group:
• Change agency: with the group change, the focus has been on replication of the existing model. Success of the group will require crafting a new vision for reporting.
• Strategic view: reporting historically has been expected to be a compliance exercise which has been very focused on rudimentary variance analysis. Reporting commentary needs to move focus to impact of results upon expected performance (forecast) and alignment with strategic vision.
• Root cause analysis: variance analysis needs to move to a root cause from the strict plan vs. actual line item variance.
These will challenge [Wrolstad] as the Corporate FP&A group evolves to this new set of expectations. He will need to leverage his strong historical knowledge, network and work ethic to continue to be successful this year.
In the short term, I look to [Wrolstad] to draft an individual development plan (IDP) and establish goals for the rest of the year that take the above into consideration.

Id. ¶ 30. For his part, Wrolstad commented, “I feel like my job is to prepare and review our monthly financial results in formats that are understandable to most people in the company. I interact with and work well with a diverse group of personalities.” Id. ¶ 31.

         Around that time, Bress told Wrolstad, “Jerry doesn't like the reports.” Dkt. 27, ¶ 18. Wrolstad states that he did not understand what Bress and Pavelich expected, that Bress did not explain the comment, and that the performance review did not provide any concrete guidance for him. Wrolstad believes that the mid-year evaluation was not fair to him: he “was criticized for needing more strategic analysis in [his] reports when [he] was never told that by Nygard, Bress or Pavelich.” Id. ΒΆ 14. Bress-apparently rightly so-did not believe that Wrolstad understood what needed to be ...


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