The opinion of the court was delivered by: McDADE, District Judge.
Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
on Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint is in one count alleging that he was discharged "in
retaliation for the Plaintiff filing a workmens' compensation
claim against the Defendant." (Amended Complaint para. 9). The
Court has jurisdiction of this diversity case pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1332.
"A motion for summary judgment is not an appropriate
occasion for weighing the evidence; rather, the inquiry is
limited to determining if there is a genuine issue for trial."
Lohorn v. Michal, 913 F.2d 327, 331 (7th Cir. 1990). See
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct.
2505, 2510, 91 L.ED.2d 202 (1986). This Court must "view the
record and all inferences drawn from it in the light most
favorable to the party opposing the motion." Holland v.
Jefferson National Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1312 (7th Cir.
1989). When faced with a Motion for Summary Judgment, the
non-moving party may not rest on its pleadings. Rather, it is
necessary for the non-moving party to demonstrate, through
specific evidence, that there remains a genuine issue of
triable fact. See, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324,
106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Bank Leumi
Le-Israel, B.M. v. Lee, 928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991).
Defendant is a trucking company engaged in the business of
freight transportation services. In 1986, Plaintiff resigned
his position as a road driver for Defendant to accept the
position of Safety Training Specialist. (Thompson Affidavit p.
1). The duties of the Safety Training Specialist involved
touring the United States with Yellow Freight's Safety
Training Unit to present a variety of safety programs to
various audiences. Id. The Safety Training Unit was a
tractor-trailer outfitted with VCRs, a monitor, safety video
tapes, displays, and its own generator. (Id. p. 2).
On October 31, 1990, Plaintiff fell off the tractor-trailer
and injured his back. (Plaintiff's Dep. p. 32-34). Plaintiff
continued to work until June 6, 1991, but eventually stopped
working because of pain. On January 23, 1992, Plaintiff was
laid off. (Thompson Affidavit Ex. C). His status was changed
to "termination due to lack of work" on April 9, 1992.
(Thompson Affidavit, Ex. D).
In November of 1991, Thompson recommended the elimination of
four Safety Coordinators, and those positions were eliminated.
Thompson subsequently recommended that Plaintiff's position as
Safety Training Specialist be eliminated. The stated reason
for eliminating Plaintiff's position is as follows:
The reasons that we selected the Safety Training
Specialist job to be eliminated as part of the
downsizing and restructuring of my department
included the high costs of operating and
maintaining the Safety Training Unit, the fact
that the Safety Training Unit did not directly
contribute to revenue for Yellow Freight, the
fact that the Safety Training Unit and the Safety
Training Specialist job were largely nonessential
public relations efforts on behalf of Yellow
Freight, and Yellow Freight's desire not to
alienate its customers by operation of the rather
extravagant Safety Training Unit when, at the
same time, it was implementing rate increases for
its customers' shipment of freight.
(Thompson Affidavit p. 4-5).
After the Safety Training Specialist position was
eliminated, the duties that had been performed by Plaintiff
were no longer performed by anyone in Defendant's employ. The
Safety Training Unit was put up for sale and eventually
purchased by the Pennsylvania Trucking Association in 1992.
Id. at 6. Subsequent to his discharge, Plaintiff filed workers'
compensation claims in both Illinois and Kansas. These claims
were filed at approximately the same time in "May or June" of
1992. (Rogers Dep. p. 137-38).
"Illinois courts have recognized a cause of action when a
Plaintiff is discharged in retaliation for filing a workers'
compensation claim." Washburn v. IBP, Inc., 910 F.2d 372, 373
(7th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). For Plaintiff to recover
for the tort of retaliatory discharge, he must prove that "(1)
he was discharged from employment; (2) in retaliation for his
activities; and (3) the discharge violates a clear public
policy." Id. When applied specifically to workers' compensation
claims, Plaintiff must prove the following elements:
First the plaintiff must have been an employee of
the defendant before the injury occurred. Second,
the plaintiff must have exercised or threatened
to exercise a right granted by the workers'
compensation act. Finally, the plaintiff's
termination must have been causally related to
his or her filing of a claim or statement of
intent under the act.
Mercil v. Federal Express Corp., 664 F. Supp. 315, 317 (N.D.Ill.
1987) (citations omitted). "The causation element is not met if
the employer has a valid basis, which is not a pretext, for
discharging the plaintiff." Id. (citations omitted). However,
if the plaintiff is an at-will employee who may be fired for no
reason at all, "the employer need not tender a legitimate
reason for the termination if the employee has not proved, or
at least presented a prima facie case, that he or she was fired
in retaliation for asserting workers' compensation act rights."
In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant argues that
Plaintiff cannot establish that he was discharged in
retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim because
he did not file the claim until after his discharge.
The essential allegations in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint
are set out in paragraphs nine and ten which state:
9. That the discharge of the Plaintiff was in
retaliation for the Plaintiff filing a workmens'