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HUFF v. UARCO

April 26, 1996

JIMMIE HUFF, Plaintiff,
v.
UARCO, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHADUR

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

 Jimmie Huff ("Huff") has sued UARCO, Inc. ("UARCO"), charging it with age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA," 29 U.S.C. ยง 623(a)) (Count I) and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"), 775 ILCS 5/1-101 to 5/10-103 (Count II). *fn1" UARCO has moved for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 56, both sides have complied with this District Court's General Rule ("GR") 12(M) and 12(N) and the motion is fully briefed and ready for decision. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, UARCO's motion is granted and this action is dismissed.

 Summary Judgment Standards

 Familiar Rule 56 standards impose on UARCO the burden of establishing the lack of a genuine issue of material fact ( Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)). For that purpose this Court is "not required to draw every conceivable inference from the record--only those inferences that are reasonable"--in the light most favorable to Huff ( Bank Leumi Le-Israel, B.M. v. Lee, 928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991) and cases cited there). While "this general standard is applied with added rigor in employment discrimination cases, where intent is inevitably the central issue" ( McCoy v. WGN Continental Broadcasting Co., 957 F.2d 368, 370-71 (7th Cir. 1992)), that does not negate the potential for summary judgment in cases where a movant plainly satisfies the Rule 56 standards ( Washington v. Lake County, 969 F.2d 250, 254 (7th Cir. 1992)). In those terms summary judgment is appropriate if the record reveals that no reasonable jury could conclude that Huff was treated in a statutorily prohibited discriminatory fashion ( Kirk v. Federal Property Mgmt. Corp., 22 F.3d 135, 138 (7th Cir. 1994)).

 As in any summary judgment proceeding, this Court accepts nonmovant Huff's version of any disputed facts. *fn2" What follows, then, is a version of the facts culled from the parties' submissions, with any differences between the two resolved in Huff's favor. *fn3" Other relevant facts, which fit somewhat better into the substantive legal discussion, will be set out later in this opinion.

 Facts

 Huff began his employment with UARCO in the mid to late 1960s, and by 1977 he had risen to the level of supervisor (P. 12(N) Supp. PP3, 8). Throughout his UARCO career Huff has worked at its Watseka, Illinois plant, which designs and produces business forms (P. 12(N) P1; P. 12(N) Supp. P9).

 In October 1993 UARCO's Watseka plant manager Ron Trillet ("Trillet") directed that as part of a cost-cutting effort two of the five line supervisors in the plant's finishing department should be demoted (Williams Aff. P2; Williams Dep. 21-22; Rhoades Dep. 27; P. 12(N) PP2-3; p. 12(N) Supp. P36). That would leave three line supervisors in the finishing department, a number equal to the three line supervisor positions in the adjoining press department (Williams Aff. P2).

 Trillet asked Richard Rhoades ("Rhoades"), the general supervisor of the finishing department (among others), and UARCO's Watseka director of human resources Robert Williams ("Williams") to make recommendations to Trillet as to which of the supervisors should be retained (Williams Dep. 21-22, 31; Williams Aff. PP2-3; Rhoades Dep. 4, 27-28). Huff (then age 56) was one of the finishing department's five line supervisors (P. 12(N) Supp. PP3, 37), the other four being Robert Landrey ("Landrey") (age 48), Joel Nasers ("Nasers") (age 48), John Paro ("Paro") (age 54 *fn4" ) and Bill Schoolman ("Schoolman") (age 55) (P. 12(N) Supp. PP37-38).

 Rhoades responded simply by ranking the five supervisors: Landrey was first, Paro second, Schoolman third, Huff fourth and Nasers fifth (Rhoades Dep. 27-32). Beyond making that initial ranking, Rhoades was not involved in the decision as to which two supervisors to demote (id. 31-32).

 In preparing to respond to Trillet's request for recommendations on whom to demote, Williams reviewed Rhoades' ranking and interviewed two other general supervisors, Fred Focken ("Focken") and James Reutter ("Reutter") (Williams Dep. 22-25, 54-55; Williams Aff. P4). Neither Reutter nor Focken had ever directly supervised Huff (Huff Aff. P18). Focken, who was general supervisor of the press department and who had occasion to interact with the finishing department supervisors, thought that Huff and Schoolman should be demoted (Focken Dep. 4, 13-14). Reutter did not discuss Huff with Williams, but Reutter (like Focken) said that he felt Schoolman was a poor supervisor (Reutter Dep. 9-10, 18-19, 21-22).

 Although Rhoades had effectively recommended demoting Huff and Nasers, Williams expressed the different view that Huff and Schoolman should be demoted. Williams also felt that Nasers and a press department supervisor, Dean Schippert ("Schippert") (age 51), should switch places--Nasers going to press and Schippert to finishing--because although Nasers was poorly ranked as a finishing supervisor, he had previously been considered an excellent supervisor in the press department (Williams Dep. 23-25; Williams Aff. PP4-5; Focken Dep. 12; Reutter Dep. 22; Trillet Dep. 80). Williams believed that those decisions would leave the press and finishing departments with the strongest overall management group (Williams Dep. 23-25).

 Trillet agreed with Williams' recommendations (Williams Dep. 38). In late October 1993 Huff was demoted from his position of finishing department supervisor to that of a "collator operator"--an hourly non-supervisory position where he operates a jumbo collator machine--a position in which he is still employed (P. 12(N) P11; Huff Aff. P20).

 ADEA Claim

 Weisbrot v. Medical College of Wis., 79 F.3d 677, 1996 WL 140276, at *3 (7th Cir. Mar. 28) (most citations omitted) has succinctly set out Huff's burden in this age discrimination action: *fn5"

 
An ADEA plaintiff may establish age discrimination in one of two ways. She may present direct or circumstantial evidence that age was the determining factor in the adverse employment action, or she may invoke the burdenshifting method outlined in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S. Ct. ...

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