Aaron C. Rooney, Plaintiff- Appellant,
Rock-Term Converting Company; Rock-Tenn Services, Inc; Westrock Company; Defendants-Appellees.
Submitted: April 6, 2017
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Arkansas - Fayetteville.
COLLOTON and BENTON, Circuit Judges, and GERRARD,  District
GERRARD, DISTRICT JUDGE.
C. Rooney was fired and sued his former employer, alleging
that he was discriminated against for being male and
non-Jewish. But his former employer, Rock-Tenn Services,
Inc.,  contends that Rooney was fired for poor
performance. The district court granted summary judgment for
Rock-Tenn. We affirm.
was hired in March 2010 by Dean Metter, Rock-Tenn's
vice-president of business development and key retailers, as
an account executive in Rock-Tenn's Bentonville, Arkansas
office. Rock-Tenn was in the business of making packaging and
displays for retail merchants, and Rooney was responsible for
developing and selling in-store displays in the market served
by the Bentonville office. One of his primary
responsibilities was Rock-Tenn's account with Alcon.
reported to Metter until September 2013, when Nancy Collom
was hired and became Rooney's direct supervisor. But
Rooney's November 2013 performance evaluation was still
completed by Metter, who gave Rooney an overall rating of 3
out of a possible 5, described as "Met
Expectations/Solid Performer." At several points,
however, Metter noted issues with office attendance and
communication, and Rooney was only rated 2 out of 5 on some
aspects of performance affected by those concerns: "Met
Most Expectations/Inconsistent Performer." Metter
criticized Rooney's "collaborative team work
skills" and noted that Rooney did "not communicate
effectively in the office, " and also noted that Rooney
"fights the new office alignment, " presumably
referring to Collom's hiring.
to Collom, Rooney was "polite but disrespectful" to
her after she became his superior. Collom, like Metter, was
dissatisfied with Rooney's communication; in particular,
Collom did not believe Rooney kept her sufficiently apprised
of his schedule and whereabouts.
record also reflects issues with the Alcon account. The
responses on Alcon's June 2014 Rock-Tenn customer
satisfaction survey indicate general satisfaction with
Rock-Tenn's performance: although the Alcon
representative completing the survey complained about
Rock-Tenn's manager at Alcon's site, Jake Kramer, the
survey said that Alcon was otherwise "pleased" with
the account management. But later that month, Ashley Olson,
Alcon's manager for retail displays, emailed Rock-Tenn
seeking a "full process review" of Rock-Tenn's
operations due to recent problems, and listing the Rock-Tenn
employees she expected to attend the meeting at Alcon.
that, quality control and shipping problems persisted. In
July 2014, an Alcon job was printed upside-down, and by
August, Olson informed Rock-Tenn that because of
Rock-Tenn's mistakes, Alcon was in danger of missing its
own delivery deadlines to Walmart. And, she wrote, Alcon was
losing sales as a result of reduced in-store availability. If
an expected delivery wasn't made on time, Olson wrote,
Alcon would expect Rock-Tenn to cover any fines Walmart
in August, Metter emailed Rooney about a particular Alcon
project, instructing him: "Need to be proactive and push
everyday. We want to micro manage this project." But a
few days later, Metter wrote in a separate email to
Rock-Tenn's human resources director that despite
Olson's request to micro-manage the project,
"[Rooney] did not follow up per [Olson]'s
request." Metter also forwarded an overall assessment of
the Bentonville office, which noted Rooney's success in
growing the business, but opining that Rooney "is lazy
and lacks desire to help grow the local marketplace. His
internal communication skills are severely lacking both to
his boss [Collom] and the office. He should be replaced
because of attitude but we must find Alcon replacement."
September 2014, Rock-Tenn failed to deliver Alcon sample
products to a trade show. Olson emailed Rooney and Kramer on
September 3, making them aware that it was "important
that [the shipment] arrive on [September 10], "
preferably in the morning, for the September 11 event. But it
was discovered on September 10 that the products were
damaged, and they hadn't been shipped. At the same time,
on September 9, Olson had emailed Rooney and others at
Rock-Tenn about a different problem: an unexpected surplus of
a particular display was showing in Rock-Tenn's
inventory, without explanation. It was discovered that the
shipment tracking had been inaccurate, and that the surplus
inventory was actually product that had not been delivered.
Olson was "baffled how this has happened twice now,
" and was "really confused" by the oversight.
She wrote, "We have to get this under control."
September 18, Olson emailed Metter complaining, not just
about missed shipments (and there were more by then), but
about the lack of response from Rock-Tenn to persistent
inquiries from Alcon's representatives. Olson wrote that
"we have our people working to try to help resolve the
issues but that lack of responses is just not
acceptable." Rock-Tenn, she wrote, "need[ed] to
stop the bleeding with missed shipments and late shipments .
. . ." Alcon had been fined three percent of invoice by
Walmart for late orders in August and September, and asked
Rock-Tenn to reimburse those expenses.
repeatedly emailed Rock-Tenn's representatives-including
Metter, Kramer, and Rooney-complaining about Rock-Tenn's
failure to respond to Alcon's requests for information
and assistance. In late September, there was another delay in
shipping Alcon products, occasioned in part by internal
questions about production going unanswered. In October,
another set of displays that were supposed to have been
shipped went missing, and Olson had to email repeatedly
because Rock-Tenn's investigation into the matter did not
proceed promptly. In the end, Metter wrote, "[Alcon] is
tremendously frustrated. Key comment is around Alcon is why