United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell United States District Judge
March 2, 2016, Defendant CyraCom International, LLC filed a
motion for summary judgment. Doc. 50. The motion is fully
briefed. Docs. 60; 61. Neither party requested oral argument.
The Court will grant Defendant’s motion.
following facts are undisputed. Defendant CyraCom
International, LLC (“CyraCom”) is a
privately-held company that provides interpreting services to
businesses. Doc. 51-1 at 2, ¶ 2. On August 13, 2012,
CyraCom hired Plaintiff Menqiong “Glenn” Liou as
a Mandarin interpreter. Id. at ¶ 3. When he was
hired, Plaintiff signed documents indicating that he agreed
to comply with CyraCom’s policies and procedures and
CyraCom’s Interpreter Code of Ethics. Id. at
2, ¶ 3; 7-8; 10. CyraCom’s Interpreter Code of
Ethics requires interpreters to provide “interpretation
without comment, ” where interpreters “render the
message in a meaning-for-meaning manner without adding,
omitting, or substituting information.” Id. at
2, ¶ 4; 10; 26, ¶ 3. Plaintiff understood that
meaning-for-meaning interpretation was important to CyraCom.
Id. at 83.
interpreter supervisors periodically monitor their
interpreters’ calls with clients. Id. at 64,
¶ 2; 73, ¶ 2. Two of Plaintiff’s supervisors,
Brian Ko and Julio Noriega, heard him violate the
“interpretation without comment” or
(“Policy”) on numerous occasions. Id.
After these incidents, both supervisors provided Plaintiff
with counseling and coaching on the Policy. Id.
During these coaching sessions, Plaintiff expressed to his
supervisors his disagreement with the Policy. Id. On
April 29, 2014, Plaintiff was again heard violating the
Policy. Id. at 26, ¶ 2. As a result, Plaintiff
received a “Needs Improvement” rating based on
his lack of compliance with the Policy. Id. at 26,
¶ 2; 31; 84.
2014, Plaintiff discussed the “Needs Improvement”
rating with Edmundo Alvarez, the CyraCom Call Center Manager.
Id. at 26, ¶¶ 1-2. Plaintiff told Alvarez
that the “Needs Improvement” rating was coded
incorrectly, and asked him to rescind it. Id. at
¶ 2. Plaintiff also told Alvarez that Plaintiff’s
supervisors had given him permission to violate the Policy.
Id. Alvarez investigated this claim and found that
Plaintiff had not, in fact, been given permission to violate
the Policy. Id. at ¶ 4. Plaintiff also argued
that he should be given permission to violate the Policy.
Id. On May 14, 2014, Plaintiff sent Alvarez an email
that explained his disagreement with the Policy and argued
that interpreters should be permitted to deviate at times
from the Policy. Id. at 26-27, ¶¶ 4-5;
33-37; 85. Alvarez did not rescind Plaintiff’s
“Needs Improvement” rating. Id. at 27,
2, 2014, CyraCom posted an internal job opening for a
first-line supervisor of CyraCom’s Mandarin and
Cantonese interpreters (“Supervisor Position”).
Id. at 3, ¶ 5; 12-15. The Supervisor Position
had a number of essential functions, including providing
meaning-for-meaning interpreting and complying with
CyraCom’s policies and procedures. Id. at 3,
¶ 5; 13. The job posting also sought candidates who
possess certain knowledge, skills, and abilities, including
that the candidate be skilled “at communicating, both
orally and in writing, ” and “in establishing and
maintaining effective work relationships.” Id.
at 3, ¶ 5; 14.
5, 2014, Plaintiff applied for the Supervisor Position.
Id. at 39-43. Because only four employees applied
for the position, Alvarez interviewed each of the candidates.
Id. at 27, ¶ 7; 39-43; 45-50; 52-56; 58-62.
Each candidate was given an identical application packet, and
each was asked identical questions. Id. Of the four
candidates, Plaintiff was the only interpreter who had
received a “Needs Improvement” rating on a recent
evaluation and who had expressed disagreement with the
Policy. Id. at 27-28, ¶ 8. During his
interview, Plaintiff focused on the technical aspects of
interpreting, rather than management, and “had problems
communicating ideas effectively during the interview.”
Id. Alvarez concluded that, of the four candidates,
Lily Situ had the best interview and was the most qualified
person for the Supervisor Position. Id. at 28,
¶ 11. During her interview, Situ “provided
specific examples of how she could motivate and coach a
team” and “also showed that she was able to
communicate more effectively than the other
applicants.” Id. Situ received a higher
average rating on the interview than the other three
candidates. Id. at 43 (Liou: 3/5); 50 (England:
3/5); 56 (Xu: 3/5); 62 (Situ: 4/5). Alvarez selected Situ for
the Supervisor Position. Id.
26, 2014, Plaintiff sent an email to CyraCom’s Vice
President, Best Ihegborow, and copying CyraCom’s Chief
Executive Officer, Jeremy Woan. Id. at 3, ¶ 6;
17-18. The subject line was “[t]he employment law
expressly prohibits deceitful and unfair hiring
practices.” Id. at 17; 86. In the email,
Plaintiff asked Ihegborow to conduct “a thorough
investigation” of the hiring process for the Supervisor
Position. Id. at 17. Plaintiff stated that he had
“heard some rumors” that Situ had received extra
training before her interview, had been asked different
interview questions, and had been generally preferred for the
Supervisor Position before the interview. Id. at
17-18. Plaintiff stated that this email contained all of his
complaints against CyraCom. Id. at 86.
June 26, 2014 email was shared with CyraCom’s Human
Resources Director, Penie Porter. Id. at 2-3,
¶¶ 1, 6. Porter was asked to “investigate and
address the selection process” for the Supervisor
Position with Plaintiff. Id. at 3, ¶ 6. Prior
to meeting with Plaintiff, Porter spoke with Alvarez, who
told her about Plaintiff’s expressed disagreement with
the Policy and his assessment of the four candidates.
Id. at 3, ¶ 7; 28, ¶ 12. Porter also spoke
with Plaintiff’s supervisor, Ko, who explained
“that he had spent time with the other three
candidates, who were all on his interpreting team, and that
Ms. Situ had shown initiative on receiving training and
coaching.” Id. at 3, ¶ 7; 64, ¶ 6.
speaking with Alvarez and Ko, Porter met with Plaintiff to
discuss the selection process. Id. at 4, ¶ 8.
Porter explained to Plaintiff why he was not selected for the
Supervisor Position, but he “did not accept [her]
explanation and demanded that the decision be
reversed.” Id. Porter then brought up
Plaintiff’s email questioning the Policy, at which
point Plaintiff raised his voice, slammed his fist on the
desk, and demanded to speak with Ihegborow. Id.
Plaintiff left Porter’s office. Id. Porter
went to Alvarez and explained what had happened. Id.
at 4, ¶ 9; 29, ¶ 13. Alvarez and Porter then
summoned Plaintiff to Alvarez’s office to discuss the
selection process for the Supervisor Position. Id.
Plaintiff refused to look at or address Porter during the
meeting. Id. Plaintiff again refused to accept the
explanations for why Alvarez had chosen Situ, and left the
meeting in the middle of the conversation. Id. Both
Alvarez and Porter believed that Plaintiff’s
“behavior was defiant, unprofessional, and
meeting with Alvarez and Porter, Plaintiff sent a second
email to Ihegborow and Woan. Id. at 4, ¶ 10;
20-21. Plaintiff stated that he had met with Porter twice and
thought “she was completely out of it.”
Id. at 20. Plaintiff complained that Porter was not
focusing on his complaints about the selection process, and
that she had “failed to do her homework.”
Id. Plaintiff said Porter needed to “dig in
for more facts” about whether Ko had shown preferential
treatment in preparing Situ for the interview. Id.
and Porter met with Plaintiff’s direct supervisor,
Julio Noriega. Id. at 4-5, ¶ 11; 29, ¶ 14;
73, ¶ 4. They discussed Plaintiff’s performance
and recent behavior. Id. After this meeting, Porter
emailed Woan and copied Ihegborow and Alvarez. Id.
at 23-24. Porter summarized the meetings with Plaintiff and
with Noriega. Id. Porter also recommended that
“Corrective Action” be taken. Id. at 24.
Porter and Alvarez ultimately recommended that Plaintiff be
terminated. Id. at 4-5, ¶ 11; 29, ¶ 14.
Ihegborow agreed, and CyraCom terminated Plaintiff on June
30, 2014. Id. at 4-5, ¶ 11; 29, ¶ 14.
Prior to his termination, Plaintiff did not mention age
discrimination in his meetings with Porter or his emails to
Ihegborow and Woan. Id. at 5, ¶ 12; 86.