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COLLINS v. ARGONNE NATL. LAB.

January 31, 1991

IVORY COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY and the UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, Defendants


Brian Barnett Duff, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUFF

BRIAN BARNETT DUFF, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Argonne National Laboratory ("Argonne") and the University of Chicago ("University") have moved for summary judgment on Ivory Collins' claims against them under 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (1967). *fn1" Collins is a female over the age of forty; she seeks to recover under § 621 for 1) defendants' constructive discharge of her, and 2) defendants' pattern and practice of discriminating against employees over the age of forty.

 Facts

 The plaintiff started working as a janitor for Argonne on October 11, 1976. Within four months, she was promoted to the position of laborer. Approximately one year later, she was promoted to the position of custodial foreman. She retained this title until her alleged constructive discharge on October 28, 1988.

 As a custodial foreman, the plaintiff was in charge of providing janitorial services for certain designated areas within Argonne's facilities. This entailed monitoring and supervising custodial services provided by the janitors, laborers and labor group leaders. Because of this responsibility, she was hired to train her subordinates and discipline them if they stepped out of line. The plaintiff was supervised by a custodial manager, Kay Lawhorn. Lawhorn, in turn, reported to Mr. Bouie, the director of Plant Facilities and Services ("PFS").

 Because of numerous complaints about the custodial services, and his own personal observations, Bouie became increasingly concerned over the quality of the custodial services being provided. To remedy this situation, Bouie hired Servicemaster to create a detailed list of job assignments for each area. The custodial managers and their crews were made accountable to their supervisors for proper completion of their daily assignments.

 The plaintiff's problems with Argonne began on December 18, 1987. The custodial manager, Kay Lawhorn, received a report from a crew member that on the previous day, Collins had organized a birthday party in her office for one of her crew members. An investigation of this party was undertaken. A search of the plaintiff's office revealed several bottles of alcohol. Additionally, at least five of the ten crew members who were interviewed admitted that alcohol was served at the party. No one who was interviewed denied the presence of alcohol. The plaintiff denies that alcohol was at the party and for purposes of this motion this court will consider that statement as true. She does not dispute, however, that alcohol was found in her office, but she states that it could have been placed there by a number of people who have access to her office. Furthermore, she admits that several employees stayed beyond their lunch period to continue partying.

 It is a serious violation of company policy to have alcohol at work and a violation of policy to keep personnel beyond their lunch hour. The plaintiff is aware of these rules. Although for purposes of this motion this court must assume that no alcohol was served; it concludes, however, that Argonne had a reasonable basis to believe that alcohol had been served and that company policy was breached. Furthermore, the plaintiff admits that certain employees stayed beyond their lunch hour which was another violation and formed part of the basis for the disciplinary action. As a result of these alleged violations of company policy, the plaintiff was suspended for two weeks without pay, and denied her annual review.

 In April of 1988, Ms. Lawhorn evaluated the plaintiff's performance. This written evaluation covered the period of June 1987 through April 1988. A series of criticisms were leveled against the plaintiff. These criticisms were that the quality of services performed in the 363 Central Shops was poor, that she should take additional steps to ensure that the equipment is secure, that she failed to rotate blue slip assignments, that her inspection reports lacked sufficient detail, and that she did not adequately supervise one of her crew members. Her overall evaluation was slightly below average, but her evaluator stated that Collins was a hard worker and that she could become an excellent foreman.

 The plaintiff disputes the merits of some of these criticisms. Left uncontroverted is that there were complaints about the quality of service in the 363 shop area. *fn2" In fact, one employee was so disgruntled with the level of service in the 363 shop that he indicated that the conditions were deplorable. In addition, the plaintiff has not refuted the fact that she left the storage key hanging on a hook right next to the storage area. Thus, the criticism that she should take additional steps to secure the storage area was justified. As for the improper use of blue slips, it is undisputed that certain crew members and the union president complained to Lawhorn about the inequities in the plaintiff's blue slipping procedure. It is clear that many of the criticisms leveled against the plaintiff were legitimate, and not designed to harass her. *fn3"

 Plaintiff's final bone of contention was that she was improperly suspended for failing to obtain her supervisor's permission to take a vacation. In September of 1988, the plaintiff, on the spur of the moment, went to Las Vegas to attend a wedding. She called her secretary to inform her that she would miss the next three days of work. *fn4" The taking of such a vacation requires advanced approval by a supervisor. The plaintiff, however, believed that the absence was personal leave which she thought did not require permission from her supervisor. As a result, the plaintiff was not paid for the three day vacation and suspended for two additional days without pay.

 Constructive Discharge

 The prima facie case for age discrimination contains ...


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