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SCOTT v. SEARS

March 25, 1985

MAXINE SCOTT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SEARS, ROEBUCK AND CO., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Maxine Scott ("Scott") charges Sears, Roebuck and Co. ("Sears") with employment discrimination in violation of:

1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e to 2000e-17 ("Title VII") and

2. the Illinois Human Rights Act (the "Act"), Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 68, ¶¶ 1-101 to 9-102.

Scott also claims her termination by Sears violated its implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing under the employment contract between them.*fn1 Sears has now moved under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 56 for summary judgment. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, Sears' motion is granted.

Facts

1. Scott's Position with Sears

On June 30, 1980 Scott was hired to participate in a job training course Sears was then conducting under contract with the Chicago Alliance of Business Employment and Training, Inc. Scott's wages were subsidized in part by federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act ("CETA") funds (Pl. Proposed Findings of Fact ["Findings"] ¶¶ 3-4). Scott never entered into a written contract with Sears beyond signing her employment application form, which said she would be an at-will employee (Scott Cont. Dep. 50 and Ex. A).

After Scott completed a 12-week course in automotive mechanics, she was assigned to work in the automotive department of Sears' Orland Park store. At that time the automotive department was managed by Ernest McDowell ("McDowell"), with Joseph Sanders ("Sanders") as the shop manager (Findings ¶ 6).

Scott was assigned to the department's brake section. Except for an occasional assignment to replace tires and batteries, all her work consisted of repairing and replacing defective brake systems (Gadberry Dep. 29). Sanders assigned brake mechanic Eddie Gadberry ("Gadberry") to train Scott during her first three months at Orland Park (because Gadberry was on vacation when Scott first arrived, mechanic Dave Fraser trained her during her first few weeks) (Findings ¶ 7).

Scott's training by Fraser and Gadberry consisted of her working directly with them on their brake jobs (Gadberry Dep. 11). They would instruct her as they went along and then have her try her hand at the work (Scott Cont. Dep. 37). After three months of that in-service training, Scott was assigned her own work. When she ran into problems she would ask Gadberry and other mechanics for help (id. at 40). On at least one occasion Sanders asked Gadberry to evaluate Scott's performance (Gadberry Dep. 46).

Scott testified at her deposition that Gadberry trained her adequately (Scott Dep. 22).*fn2 He was basically pleasant to her, and she considered him her "friend" in the same way she considered all the mechanics her friends (Scott Dep. 22). Gadberry testified at his deposition he considered Scott a competent, although somewhat slow, mechanic (Gadberry Dep. 32-33, 88) and that he gave her a favorable evaluation when Sanders asked about her performance (Gadberry Dep. 46, 48).

2. Alleged Sexual Harassment

Scott nevertheless claims Gadberry and other mechanics repeatedly sexually harassed her. Gadberry, the principal alleged harasser, supposedly "propositioned" her repeatedly (Scott Dep. 24, 29, Cont. Dep. 31). She said the other mechanics "flirted" with her (id. at 21-22, 42, 45, 56).

When pressed at her deposition about the details of Gadberry's alleged harassment, Scott clarified he had never touched her, made a lewd comment to her or explicitly asked her for sex (Scott Dep. 25-29). Scott said when she asked Gadberry for help with a brake problem, he often asked in reply "What will I get for this?" (Scott Dep. 25).*fn3 Scott interprets that to be an "obvious" request for sex (id.). There is no indication Gadberry ever refused to help Scott for failure to get something in return.

Scott also said Gadberry would often "ask to take me out" (id. at 21, 24, 28). She said he was no more specific than that (id. at 28, 34). He did suggest taking her to the "Green Grasshopper," a restaurant in the same mall as Sears where the Sears automotive employees often gathered (id. at 29). Again she interprets those requests as requests for sex (id. at 29):

  He didn't come out and tell me he wanted sex. You
  don't have to come out and say you want to have
  sex with somebody, if you want to take them out
  this is what it's going to lead to.

Beyond Gadberry's alleged "propositions," Scott claimed he was generally suggestive" or had an "attitude" (id. at 35-36). Again she could not specify any words or actions that were suggestive beyond an occasional wink (id. at 35-38). Finally, Scott testified Gadberry had once offered to "come over and give me a rubdown" (id. at 26), although Scott had not remembered this incident when she testified about sexual harassment at a co-worker's trial (id. at 26-27).

As for other mechanics, Scott claimed they were always "coming over to talk" to her (id. at 21-22), "trying to take me out on dates or whatever the case may be" (id. at 56) or flirting (id. at 42, 45). Here the only specific details Scott could offer are that mechanic Al Williams once made a lewd comment to her (id. at 41) and mechanic Winston Taylor once "hit me on my buttock" (id. at 44). As a result of the alleged harassment Scott found the work environment "very uncomfortable" (id. at 52).

Scott never complained to any supervisory personnel about any alleged sexual harassment (Scott Dep. 48-49, 69-70, Cont. Dep. 32-33). She said she just assumed they were aware of it (id.). She offered no evidence of their knowledge, asserting only that the men in the shop were a close-knit group and must have known what was happening (id.).

3. Scott's Work Performance

Sears imposes productivity requirements on its brake mechanics. They are generally expected to perform three brake jobs per day (Gadberry Dep. 35-37). Although brake mechanics are rotated in and out of tire and battery work, they receive less productivity credit for that type of work (Findings ¶ 15).

Scott claims Sanders and McDowell told her she would not be required to meet the normal quota during her first nine months (Scott Cont. Dep. 6, 10-11, 30). During that time she would not be judged on productivity, but she should try to work up to two or two-and-a-half brake jobs per day (id. at 6). Scott testified that by the end of the nine-month period she had achieved a rate of two brake jobs per day (Scott Dep. 49). She admits she was warned in April 1981 that she would be terminated unless she improved her productivity (Scott Cont. Dep. 46).

One reason Scott offers for failing to achieve a higher productivity rate is a shortage of work in the shop, which led to her frequent assignment to tire and battery duty. When work had to be done in a hurry, such as when customers were waiting, it was assigned to the regular male mechanics rather than to Scott (Scott Cont. Dep. 44-45).*fn4 Moreover, Scott claims the dispatcher discriminated against her on the basis of her sex by giving preference to the male mechanics when work was short (but she offers neither factual details nor any evidence to support that allegation) (id.). Finally, Scott asserts she relied on Sanders' and McDowell's promise by failing to compete aggressively for work when it was in short supply.

4. Scott's Discharge

On June 30, 1981 the CETA subsidy of Scott's wages was terminated. On July 17, 1981 Scott was discharged along with Arlene Otis ("Otis"), the only other female mechanic and the only other mechanic in the CETA program. Scott claims McDowell said when he fired her (Scott Dep. 59):

  that he didn't want to pay a woman $7 an hour
  when he could get a man to do three brake jobs
  for that.

After Scott and Otis were fired no new employee was hired to replace them. Their work was absorbed by the remaining mechanics (Gadberry Dep. 56-57). Gadberry testified that after Scott's and Otis' departure the per-mechanic workload was ...


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