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Gomez v. Milwaukee Area Technical College

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 1, 2019

GEORGE GOMEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
MILWAUKEE AREA TECHNICAL COLLEGE, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          LYNN ADELMAN, District Judge

         George Gomez claims that Milwaukee Area Technical College (“MATC”) did not hire him as one of its full-time Barber/Cosmetology instructors because of his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). Before me now is MATC's motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.

         I. BACKGROUND

         MATC is a two-year technical college in Milwaukee. Its School of Business offers a Barber/Cosmetology program. As the name implies, the program prepares students to become barbers and/or cosmetologists. Instructors in the program are either full-time or part-time.

         In 2002, MATC hired George Gomez as a part-time instructor in the program. He remains in that position today. In 2014, Gomez applied to become a full-time instructor but was not selected for the position. In May 2016, when he was 59 years old, Gomez again applied to become a full-time instructor and again was not selected for the position. Gomez alleges that MATC's failure to hire him for the 2016 vacancy violated the ADEA.

         MATC used a multi-step process to fill the 2016 position. Each step was performed by a hiring committee with assistance from MATC's Human Resources Department. The first step in the process was an application review, in which committee members evaluated the candidates' written applications against the qualifications listed in the job description and gave each candidate a score. The highest-scoring applicants were invited to campus for the first of potentially two interviews. However, certain internal candidates, such as Gomez, were guaranteed a first interview.

         After the committee identified the candidates to invite for a first-round interview, MATC conducted a “certification review” to ensure that the selected candidates held the required credentials for the position. Def. Proposed Findings of Fact (“PFOF”) ¶ 53. Only the candidates who passed the certification review were invited for interviews.

         Six candidates passed the application and certification reviews and were invited for first-round interviews: Gomez (age 59), Celena Williams (age 38), Victor Zarate (age 32), Megan Jackson (40s[1]), Torrie Grade (age 44), and Amy Lopez (age 52). In the first-round interviews, the committee-which consisted of three MATC employees, Brian Carlson (age 35), Jonathan Feld (age 35), and Shari Tuska (age 56)-asked the candidates 10 questions that had been preapproved by Human Resources. The same 10 questions were posed to each candidate, and Human Resources instructed the committee members to “stick to the script” and ask each candidate the same questions using the same words in the same order. Def. PFOF ¶ 60. Each committee member evaluated the candidate's response to each question using a three-point scale, with one being the lowest and three being the highest. In addition to the 10 questions, each first-round interview included a teaching demonstration. The candidates were asked to “demonstrate the practical application of a tint-retouch.” Def. PFOF ¶ 56. The committee members rated each candidate's demonstration in three categories, again using a three-point scale.

         The candidates with the three highest first-round interview scores were invited back for second interviews. These candidates were Grade, Lopez, and Zarate. Gomez scored the lowest of the six first-round interviewees and thus did not receive a second interview. He was excluded from further consideration for the position at that point.

         The committee members' evaluation forms reflect that Gomez did not do well during the interview and demonstration. Carlson noted on his evaluation form for Gomez that Gomez “often didn't answer questions.” ECF No. 30-2 at 5. Feld also noted on his form that Gomez “didn't answer” a question, ECF No. 30-8 at 2, and that he “didn't give a solid example” in response to another question, id. All three committee members thought that Gomez's teaching demonstration was poor. Carlson and Tuska gave Gomez the lowest possible score for his demonstration (3 out of 9), and Feld gave him only one point above the lowest (4 out of 9). The comments that the committee members wrote on their evaluation forms indicate that they thought Gomez's presentation was disorganized and that he was not well prepared. ECF No. 30-2 at 4; ECF No. 30-4 at 20; ECF No. 30-8 at 4.

         The second-round interviews were conducted by a committee consisting of two MATC employees, Brian Carlson (who was also on the first-round committee) and Richard Busalacchi (who was not). As in the first-round interviews, the committee members asked the second-round candidates questions that were preapproved by Human Resources and rated the candidates' answers on a three-point scale. Zarate received the highest score of the three candidates who were invited for second-round interviews, but only by a single point. His second-round interview score was 43, while the score of another candidate, Grade, was 42. However, Zarate was an existing part-time instructor at MATC, while Grade had no prior MATC experience. According to Carlson, the committee recommended to Human Resources that Zarate be hired for the position because he had the highest second-round interview score and because the committee believed that his prior MATC experience would “likely provide him with additional points.” Carlson Dep. at 136:25-137:6.

         Although Zarate received a higher score than Grade and Lopez for his second-round interview, he did not receive the highest overall score, which human resources calculated after the committee recommended Zarate for the position. The overall score for each candidate consisted of the total points the candidate received during the whole interview process-the written application and two interviews-combined with a score that reflected any prior MATC experience the candidate had. Zarate's overall score was 64.79, but Grade's overall score was 64.80, a hundredth of a point higher. MATC states that because the committee recommended Zarate for the position and his overall score was only a hundredth of a point lower than the highest-scoring candidate, it deferred to the committee's recommendation and offered the position to Zarate. Decl. of Laura Domres ¶ 3.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment is required where “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When considering a motion for summary judgment, I view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must grant the motion if no reasonable ...


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