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Rosenwinkel v. Entrust Datacard Corp.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 9, 2019

Erich J. Rosenwinkel, Plaintiff,
v.
Entrust Datacard Corporation, Defendant.

          Michael J. Minenko, Minenko Law, LLC, counsel for plaintiff.

          Lillian Terese Dobson, Marilyn J. Clark, Dorsey & Whitney, LLP, counsel for defendant.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter is before the court upon the motion for summary judgment by defendant Entrust Datacard Corporation (Datacard). After a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court denies the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This employment discrimination dispute arises out of Datacard's decision to terminate plaintiff Erich J. Rosenwinkel's employment.

         I. The Parties

         Datacard “provides solutions for identity payment and security applications to primarily financial institutions, governments and other commercial enterprises.” Steele Dep. at 6:22-7:2. In January 2013, Datacard hired Rosenwinkel for a sales position. Rosenwinkel Dep. at 68:20-69:17. In April 2016, Datacard promoted Rosenwinkel to North America Sales Director for Identity and Access Management.[1] Id. at 74:11-75:4. In that role, Rosenwinkel was responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with third parties who sell Datacard products (referred to as “channel partners”). Id. at 79:11-80:2; Mattia Decl. ¶ 6; Mattia Decl. Ex. 1. He traveled extensively for the position and only spent approximately thirty percent of his time at Datacard's corporate offices. Rosenwinkel Dep. at 832:23-83:24. Rosenwinkel initially reported to Kathleen Phillips and later to Patrick Steele. Id. at 76:2-77:16.

         II. Performance

         Datacard asserts that it began to have concerns about Rosenwinkel's performance in 2017. The record is unclear as to exactly when those concerns arose, however. According to Ellen Mattia, Senior Human Resources Partner, Steele first told her about Rosenwinkel's performance issues in the spring of 2017. Mattia Decl. ¶ 5. But Steele testified that he first received negative feedback about Rosenwinkel from two channel partners - Plasco and Identisys - and from internal sources sometime in the summer of 2017. Steele Dep. At 75:7-76:12, 115:11-117:7, 123:19-124:4. Other Datacard employees vaguely state that Rosenwinkel had performance issues “[i]n the last year of [his] employment, ” Jones Decl. ¶ 4, “in the early part of 2017, ” Ball Decl. ¶ 6, “[o]n multiple occasions in 2017, ” id. ¶ 8, and “in the early months of 2017 ... and several months later.” Smolinksi Decl. ¶¶ 6, 14.

         Although Steele testified that he had numerous conversations with Rosenwinkel about his performance and that Rosenwinkel understood that he could be fired, Rosenwinkel denies having any such conversations.[2] See Steele Dep. at 41:14-42:14, 75:19-76:10, 124:5-22, 138:17-18; Rosenwinkel Dep. at 140:25-142:14, 184:21-185:3. Rosenwinkel does recall that on September 13, 2017, Steele vaguely mentioned the need to “get these guys to like you, ” but Rosenwinkel did not know who Steele was referencing and, when asked, Steele declined to elaborate. Rosenwinkel Dep. 137:5-140:24, 185:9-186:20. Rosenwinkel also denies causing problems with any channel partner or that he was ever reprimanded due to his interactions with those partners. Rosenwinkel Decl. ¶¶ 3-10; Rosenwinkel Dep. at 124:10-125:21, 130:16-132:24, 134:16-135:3, 136:11-24, 140:25-142:14, 149:22-150:3.

         Steele did not document his alleged conversations with Rosenwinkel and admits that no other writings reflect Datacard's concerns about Rosenwinkel's performance. Steele Dep. at 138:17 139:19. Steele also did not document his conversations with channel partners or internal employees in which they allegedly complained about Rosenwinkel. Id. at 116:3-121:3, 140:23-141:4.

         The only document addressing Rosenwinkel's performance is his 2017 performance review.[3] See Clark Decl. Ex. 3 at 1. Steele drafted the review in June 2017, but it covers the period of Datacard's 2017 fiscal year - April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017. See id. at 1. Steele gave Rosenwinkel an “Achieving” rating and commented favorably on Rosenwinkel's performance throughout the review. See Clark Decl. Ex. 3 at 1-3, 5-6, 13-17. He also noted that Rosenwinkel needed to continue to improve “partner relationships and feeling of trust across the board” and to “reestablish trust” with channel partners. Id. at 3, 16. Those comments, however, did not reflect concerns about Rosenwinkel's performance or ability to establish trust with channel partners, but instead referenced Datacard's commitment to improving its trustworthiness as a company. See Steele Dep. at 130:8-135:15; Rosenwinkel Dep. at 80:3-81:6, 167:2-168:22.

         III. Jury Duty

         On May 24, 2017, Rosenwinkel notified Steele and Mattia that he had been summoned to appear for federal grand jury service on June 20. Mattia Decl. Ex. 2. Steele responded “Ok we will figure ...


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