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Vigil v. Servicesource Delaware, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 3, 2017

MICHELE VIGIL, Plaintiff,
v.
SERVICESOURCE DELAWARE, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ALETA A. TRAUGER United States District Judge.

         The defendant, ServiceSource Delaware, Inc. (“ServiceSource”), has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 28), to which the plaintiff has filed a Response (Docket No. 34), and ServiceSource has filed a Reply (Docket No. 37). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         This case arises from the plaintiff's employment with ServiceSource in the company's Nashville, Tennessee office. The plaintiff, Ms. Vigil, began working with ServiceSource in April of 2012 and, within a couple of months, had been promoted to Team Lead for ServiceSource's account with a company named Arriba. As Team Lead, Ms. Vigil was the “front-line manager[]” for all day-to-day activity on the Arriba account, with her “main responsibilities” including (1) the coaching and management of the account's sales representatives, and (2) responsibility for ensuring that client goals were accomplished. (Docket No. 36 ¶¶ 8-9, 17.) In June of 2012, ServiceSource made the decision to expand its account with SAP, which was originally staffed with only one Team Lead. Ms. Vigil was transferred to the SAP account with the understanding that she would work as its second Team Lead and that she and the original Team Lead on the Account - a man named Alastair Miller - would share the same duties and responsibilities, with the sales representatives on the SAP account divided between the two of them. As Team Leader for the SAP account, Ms. Vigil was supervised by, and reported directly to, Account Manager Cody Green, who, in turn, reported to Client Delivery Director Brian Butler.

         I. Ms. Vigil's Performance as Team Lead of the SAP Account

         During Ms. Vigil's tenure as Team Lead, the SAP account performed well enough to meet all of its revenue goals, and Ms. Vigil received every performance salary bonus that was available to her. (Docket No. 35, pp. 2, 9-12.)[2] Based on these “quantitative metric[s]” (Docket No. 36 ¶¶ 17), Ms. Vigil asserts that her performance as Team Lead was successful when “judged by the bottom line” (Docket No. 35, p. 2). The undisputed facts, however, demonstrate that Ms. Vigil's performance as Team Lead did not meet ServiceSource's expectations with regard to her management and development of the sales representatives under her supervision and her understanding of SAP and its business. The undisputed facts further demonstrate that these issues with Ms. Vigil's performance required consistent and repeated coaching not only from Ms. Vigil's immediate supervisor, Mr. Green, but also from a director, Mr. Butler.

         In Ms. Vigil's first months as Team Lead of the SAP account, at least five sales representatives expressed concerns to Mr. Green regarding her performance as Team Lead, including criticism that she lacked a working understanding of SAP's business and was ineffective in managing and developing sales representatives. (Docket No. 36 ¶¶ 23, 26-29 (citing Docket No. 30-4 (Depo. C. Green), 23:24-24:5, 26:16-27:6, 42:25-43:10).)[3] The concerned sales representatives included not only employees under Ms. Vigil's direct supervision, but also employees who worked on the SAP account under her counterpart, Mr. Miller, over whom Ms. Vigil had no authority. One sales representative on Mr. Miller's team, Lucy Buttitta, complained to Mr. Green on more than four occasions that the tone and style by which Ms. Vigil spoke to her and attempted to manage her was unprofessional and unwarranted. Ms. Buttita eventually resigned from her employment at ServiceSource and told Mr. Green that the sole reason for her departure was the way that she had been treated by Ms. Vigil. (Id. ¶ 23 (citing Docket No. 30-4, 23:4-8).)

         Mr. Green conducted multiple one-on-one sessions with Ms. Vigil to discuss these employee grievances and provide her with guidance on the proper way to manage the sales representatives on the SAP account. Mr. Green further met with Ms. Vigil weekly to review her management of the team, areas of concern, and needs for improvement and development. Finally, to assist her in developing the business intelligence necessary to be effective on the SAP account, Ms. Vigil was required to participate in biweekly shadow sessions. Despite this additional coaching, however, Mr. Green found that Ms. Vigil's management of the sales representatives improved only intermittently, and her understanding of SAP's business did not improve at all.[4] (Docket No. 30-4, 23:5-23:23 (“Q: So she would improve for a short period of time and then new issues would arise? A: Correct.”); id. at 27:20-25 (“[H]er understanding of the business didn't improve.”).) Mr. Green's informal coaching, therefore, failed to produce sustained improvement in Ms. Vigil's performance, and Ms. Vigil does not dispute that, “[f]rom [Mr.] Green's perspective, [her] attitude was consistently poor throughout the whole time she was part of the SAP account team.” (Docket No. 36 ¶ 42.)

         By November of 2012, Mr. Green's supervisor, Mr. Butler, found it necessary to become personally involved in addressing complaints about Ms. Vigil made by both sales representatives at ServiceSource and clients at SAP. Mr. Green had already informed Mr. Butler of the complaints he had received from sales representatives regarding Ms. Vigil - including that her performance was negatively affecting morale on the SAP account - as early as July of 2012. In November of 2012, however, two sales representatives under Ms. Vigil's supervision contacted Mr. Butler directly to complain about Ms. Vigil and her leadership. Mr. Butler was further aware that a client at SAP had expressed concern over Ms. Vigil's knowledge of SAP's business and her ability to properly manage the account. (Docket No. 30-3 (Depo. B. Butler), 89:16-23, 119:3-8.)[5]

         Accompanied by Mr. Green, Mr. Butler approached ServiceSource's Human Resources Director, Michelle Gillmore, for advice in preparing for a November 26, 2012 coaching session with Ms. Vigil to address these complaints. Ms. Vigil does not dispute that, during this meeting, Mr. Butler instructed Ms. Vigil that “she needed to work on her knowledge related to the account and that a customer had expressed concern about [her] knowledge of the account.” (Docket No. 36 ¶ 56.) Ms. Vigil responded positively to Mr. Butler's suggestions regarding her management of the sales representatives and her knowledge of SAP's business, acknowledging that she could improve. For a few weeks after Ms. Vigil's meeting with Mr. Butler, the “problems” improved between Ms. Vigil and the sales representatives who had complained but, by mid-December of 2012, Mr. Butler was advised that the representatives' issues with Ms. Vigil were ongoing. (Id. ¶ 58.) By this point, Mr. Butler had determined that efforts to coach Ms. Vigil were proving fruitless and that he would likely need to institute a formal Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”).[6] (Id. ¶ 62 (citing Docket No. 30-3, 108:12-25).)

         Ms. Vigil's performance as Team Lead stands in stark contrast to the performance of Mr. Miller, the other Team Lead on the SAP account. Ms. Vigil does not dispute that no one at ServiceSource received any complaints by sales representatives on Mr. Miller's team or from the client, SAP, regarding Mr. Miller's performance. On the contrary, ServiceSource received positive feedback from SAP regarding Mr. Miller's work. Moreover, there is no evidence in the record suggesting that Mr. Miller was the subject of any remedial coaching or disciplinary action during the time that Ms. Vigil was also working on the SAP account.

         II. ServiceSource's Reorganization

         In early 2013, ServiceSource implemented a reorganization - as recommended by outside consultants - to simplify the structure of its sales organization. The reorganization “eliminated the account manager and team lead structure, and replaced it with first-line level managers, categorized as Sales Manager 1 and Sales Manager 2, based on experience and proficiency.” (Docket No. 36 ¶ 69.) These new job titles and responsibilities were developed by Grant Clarke[7]and Michael Poe (Vice President of the Nashville office), assisted by representative from Human Resources. One of the goals of the reorganization was to retain as many experienced managers as possible and, to that end, ServiceSource focused its reduction efforts on its Team Leads, the least experienced managers in the sales organization.

         In conjunction with the directors in the Nashville office, Mr. Clarke, Mr. Poe, and Ms. Gillmore developed criteria and a rating system for the evaluation of employees during the reorganization. In January of 2013, the Nashville office's vice-presidents, directors (including Mr. Butler), and Ms. Gillmore met to evaluate all Team Leads and Account Managers based on these criteria and the rating system. At the meeting, each director evaluated and conducted talent assessments for each of the Team Leads he or she supervised, with the four criteria for evaluation including “Leadership/Engagement, ” “HPS/Sales Coaching, ” “Potential, ” and “Critical to Customer Relation.” (Docket No. 30-3 (Depo. B. Butler (Ex. 5)), p. 56.) During the meeting, each director verbally suggested a rating on a scale of 1 to 3 for the employee being evaluated, with 1 being the lowest rating. The meeting was then opened up for discussion about the employee until the director had agreed upon a numerical rating in each category for evaluation. As the director who most closely supervised Ms. Vigil, Mr. Butler suggested ratings for her performance based on his personal observations and interactions with her; his weekly meetings with others who worked with her, including Mr. Green; his weekly calls with SAP; and comments and reports made by other ServiceSource employees. Ultimately, Ms. Vigil was the only Team Lead to receive the lowest possible rating in all four categories, and no one present at the meeting challenged these results. Ms. Vigil ...


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