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Greenholdt v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. RICHARD CADAGIN, Judge, presiding. JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied August 13, 1982.

Did Illinois Bell violate article I, section 17, of the State Constitution?

No — Illinois Bell's "intercity transfer policy" does not fall within the pale of section 17.


Henry Greenholdt had been an employee of Illinois Bell for 23 years. He started as a frame man installing wires at the central office in Chicago, worked his way up in the company over the years, and in 1962 was promoted to a systems staff analyst in the comptroller's office. In 1965, Greenholdt was appointed assistant data processing manager in Bell's Marquette Park office and two months later was promoted to manager. In 1969, he was transferred to the Arlington Heights office where he was responsible for converting the computer punch card system to a magnetic tape and disk program. This conversion became known as the CRIS (Customer's Records Information System) conversion.

In September 1970, Greenholdt was transferred to the comptroller's office in Springfield to head up the same type of CRIS conversion that he had managed in Arlington Heights. Several other Chicago employees were sent to Springfield to work on the conversion. Also, two persons were hired out of college to work on the project and there were some regular Springfield employees who were assigned to the conversion project. The project began in 1970 and was completed in 1971. After the conversion, there was an excess of management level employees in the Springfield office. Except for Greenholdt, everyone who had either been transferred to Springfield or specifically hired to work on the CRIS conversion was transferred to Chicago by the end of 1972. He stayed in Springfield, was promoted to district manager, and replaced the former district manager who was transferred to Chicago.

At a meeting in July 1978 between Greenholdt, Chuck Scott (his supervisor), and Joe Abel (Scott's supervisor), Greenholdt was asked what his position was concerning a transfer to Chicago. He said he did not want to leave Springfield because his two daughters were just entering high school, his wife was involved in "enterprises" that could not be duplicated elsewhere, both he and his wife were involved in the community, and one of his daughters had a medical problem that could best be handled in Springfield. Abel told Greenholdt that he did not know if any transfers were "in the mill" but that his name would come up when transfers were discussed and he wanted to know how Greenholdt felt before anything happened.

Towards the end of July, William Springer, the comptroller, met with the assistant comptrollers to discuss different job openings and the needs of the business. There was a staff opening in Chicago, which Joe Abel described as one of the more critical staff assignments, and it was decided that Greenholdt was the best candidate for the position. Abel testified:

"We did talk about the fact that Hank would not want to move from Springfield, but when we looked at the opportunity for him and the needs of the business, it seemed to be a good fit. We also had a man by the name of Bill Pietrowics at AT&T, and Bill had had a single District level assignment on AT&T staff and had not had any line experience, and it seemed also to be a good time to give him a directly centralized line operation, and the plan unfolded of Hank coming to Chicago to take the staff assignment and Bill Pietrowics to follow in behind Hank."

On August 7, 1978, Greenholdt's supervisor told him he was being transferred to Chicago and that Bill Pietrowics was replacing him in Springfield. Later that day, Greenholdt talked with Joe Abel who sympathized with his desire to stay in Springfield but told him that the transfer would enable him to progress in the company and that the transfer was good for Bill Pietrowics and good for the company. Later in August, Greenholdt arranged a meeting with Chuck Scott and Joe Abel. He told them he could not move to Chicago and reiterated the reasons he had expressed to them in their July meeting. Greenholdt subsequently wrote to William Springer, the comptroller, and Charles Marshall, the president of Illinois Bell, asking them to countermand the transfer. Both refused.

Abel had several conversations with Greenholdt, attempting to change his mind about moving to Chicago. When Bill Pietrowics moved into the Springfield office in September, Abel flew to Springfield and met with Greenholdt and Chuck Scott to discuss one more time Greenholdt's decision to refuse the transfer. Abel testified that Greenholdt's position in Chicago was left open for several weeks "in the hope that maybe something could come around here." Greenholdt never showed up in the Chicago office and the position was subsequently filled. None of Greenholdt's supervisors told him he was fired. His employment record indicates that he "resigned — abandoned job."

Count I of Greenholdt's three-count complaint alleged that he was deprived of his right to be free from discrimination based on sex in violation of article I, sections 17 and 18, of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. Count II alleged that Illinois Bell's act of sex discrimination was done knowingly, wilfully and deliberately, and count III alleged that Bell breached an implied contract by transferring Greenholdt. Pursuant to Bell's motion to dismiss, the trial judge dismissed counts I and II to the extent that they were based on article I, section 18. Count III was stricken but Greenholdt was allowed 10 days to file an amendment. At the close of Greenholdt's evidence, Bell again made a motion to dismiss the complaint. The motion was denied as to counts I and II and allowed as to count III. After hearing all the evidence, the trial judge entered a judgment in favor of Illinois Bell and Greenholdt appeals from that judgment.

Greenholdt argues that the trial court's judgment was against the manifest weight of the evidence. At trial, he attempted to establish that Bell's transfer policy discriminated against males, in that male managers were required to accept transfers or lose their jobs, whereas female managers were given the option to refuse transfers. Greenholdt's evidence consisted chiefly of the testimony of managerial employees who worked in the Springfield office from 1970 to 1978. This evidence was offered to show that more men than women were transferred from Springfield and that women were given the option to refuse transfers. Bell offered evidence showing that its transfer decisions were based on several factors but not on the employee's sex. The most compelling of Bell's evidence was that an employee's management level was a key factor in whether he or she was expected to transfer. The higher one was in the managerial hierarchy, the greater the expectation that that person would be transferred. Greenholdt, a level 3 manager, was the highest ranking employee in the Springfield office. All of the women in the Springfield office were level 1 managers except for one who was a level 2 manager.

We do not, however, reach the question of whether the trial court's judgment was against the manifest weight of the evidence, for we hold that the trial court erred in denying Bell's motion to dismiss ...

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