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03/29/96 DIERDRE HANNA v. MARSHALL FIELD & COMPANY

March 29, 1996

DIERDRE HANNA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MARSHALL FIELD & COMPANY AND DAYTON HUDSON CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Martin C. Ashman, Judge Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Greiman delivered the opinion of the court: Tully, J., and Cerda, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greiman

JUSTICE GREIMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Following her discharge from employment, plaintiff Dierdre Hanna filed a three-count complaint against her employers, defendants Marshall Field & Company (Marshall Field) and Dayton Hudson Corporation (Dayton Hudson). Plaintiff alleged causes of action premised on breach of contract for defendants' alleged failure to comply with provisions of certain employee handbooks and personnel policies, false imprisonment and discharge relating to the filing of a worker's compensation claim. After voluntarily dismissing the worker's compensation claim, plaintiff now appeals the entry of summary judgment in favor of defendants on the contract and false imprisonment counts.

Two issues are raised on appeal: (1) whether defendants' personnel handbooks and policies created enforceable contractual rights; and (2) whether defendants' conduct constituted false imprisonmentof plaintiff while she was in an office being questioned by supervisors about the veracity of her time records.

We affirm summary judgment in favor of defendants on both counts, finding that no enforceable contract existed to support a breach of contract claim and defendants' conduct during an office meeting did not constitute false imprisonment.

On January 21, 1992, defendants discharged plaintiff from her job for falsifying time records and receiving pay for time not worked. Defendants did not issue any warnings before discharging plaintiff. Plaintiff had been employed at Marshall Field since September 14, 1981. In 1990, Dayton Hudson became the owner and operator of Marshall Field & Company.

On September 14, 1981, plaintiff was hired as a restaurant supervisor and worked in that position until July 1985 when she sustained a back injury in the course of her employment. With the exception of returning to work for a few days in February 1986, plaintiff did not return to work until May 1987. Upon her return, plaintiff worked as a personnel assistant in the restaurant division and remained there about one year.

About May 1988, plaintiff transferred to Marshall Field's personnel department and worked as an administrative assistant until her discharge in January 1992. Her duties included changing the timekeeping system from a manual to a computerized system, a project estimated to take five years. During her tenure as an administrative assistant, plaintiff was supervised first by Susan Wally until October 1, 1991, and then by Diane Franzese after Wally left Marshall Field's employ.

In her deposition, plaintiff testified that when she began reporting to Wally, she and Wally orally agreed that plaintiff would not charge Marshall Field for any double time when she worked seven days a week or for all of the overtime.

In her affidavit, Susan Wally stated that she held the position of general personnel manager of Marshall Field's State Street store from 1987 until she left in September 1991. Wally attested that plaintiff was not allowed to submit her extra hours when she was working in the restaurant division. Wally further attested that

"I advised her [plaintiff] in a face to face conversation with her *** that I would pay her for overtime but that I could not pay her for double time even though she would be entitled to it if she worked a Sunday or Seventh day.

[Plaintiff] and I during this conversation reached agreement that she would be paid at time and one half for overtime worked. I was aware that [plaintiff] was working more hours than she waspaid for even under this arrangement because she rarely took days off, rarely took holidays off and had to be ordered to go home at night. I was aware that to avoid double time and excessive overtime [plaintiff] would manipulate her time to the benefit of the company. [Plaintiff] was under reporting her hours. I made my superiors aware of [plaintiff's] time worked and the payment arrangements. The aforesaid agreement and arrangement with [plaintiff] was in effect when I left my position at Marshall Field's."

The week before she left Marshall Field, Wally met with her successor Diane Franzese and told Franzese of the payment arrangement with plaintiff regarding how plaintiff "would be paid for overtime and double time worked." Franzese told Wally that "I don't want to change anything; I want her [plaintiff] to do exactly as she has done for you." Wally told plaintiff of her discussion with Franzese.

In her affidavit, Diane Franzese stated that she assumed the position of general personnel manager of the State Street store, replacing Wally, and supervised plaintiff from October 1991 until plaintiff's termination on January 21, 1992. Franzese made the decision to terminate plaintiff. Franzese further stated that shortly after assuming her position of personnel manager,

"it appeared to me [Franzese] that Plaintiff was submitting and receiving substantial overtime compensation for herself despite my directives that no overtime be worked without my prior authorization, and also inputting and making adjustments to her own time. Employees were not to adjust their own time records."

Franzese further acknowledged that she "advised Plaintiff that she could not work overtime without my prior approval and could not make adjustments to her own time records. However, Plaintiff continued to submit substantial amounts of overtime." In addition, Franzese "became aware that [plaintiff] was requesting and receiving payment for hours she was not actually working." Accordingly, Franzese requested that the loss prevention department conduct an investigation of plaintiff's time practices. Ann Treis, an assistant loss prevention manager, then investigated plaintiff's timekeeping records and practices.

In her affidavit, Ann Treis stated that her investigation covered the previous two-month period and revealed that plaintiff had submitted and received payment for days and times when she was not in the building according to the store's sign-in log.

Julie Baublis, by affidavit, attested that in early January 1992 she held the position of investigations coordinator at the State Street store. Baublis was advised of the investigation regarding plaintiff's timekeeping practices and shown documentation which indicatedthat plaintiff had submitted time records for herself and other employees for days and times not worked. Treis, the investigator, and Keith White, the loss prevention manager at that time, requested that Baublis interview plaintiff regarding the investigation because Baublis did not know plaintiff and was not part of the loss prevention department.

On January 21, 1992, Baublis telephoned plaintiff at work and requested that she come to her office. After plaintiff arrived, Baublis, Treis and Franzese, in turn, each met individually with plaintiff in Baublis' office. The affidavits of Baublis, Treis and ...


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