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KOROTKO-HATCH v. JOHN G. SHEDD AQUARIUM

September 3, 1999

ANTOINETTE KOROTKO-HATCH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN G. SHEDD AQUARIUM, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Keys, United States Magistrate Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants Defendant's Motion.

FACTS

Plaintiff Antoinette Korotko-Hatch began working for Defendant John G. Shedd Aquarium ("the Aquarium") in 1983 at the age of 44. (Defendant's 12(M) Statement of Uncontested Facts [Def.'s 12(M)] ¶¶ 6, 15; Plaintiff's 12(N)(3)(b) Statement of Additional Facts [Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b)] ¶ 155.) In 1985, she became Coordinator of Volunteer Services and received a salary increase every year thereafter until she was terminated. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 12; Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 155.)*fn1 Her primary duties included recruiting new volunteers, speaking at community functions, preparing and distributing brochures and flyers, and supervising the volunteers. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶¶ 157-58.) Her other duties involved: developing, planning, and conducting individualized orientations for volunteers; developing training materials for volunteer-run outreach programs; and managing volunteer-conducted special-group tours. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 158.) Ms. Korotko-Hatch also developed a public outreach program at nursing homes and hospitals, and trained and assigned the volunteers. (Pl.'s 12(N) ¶ 160.)

The Volunteer Services Department and Ms. Korotko-Hatch were recognized and complimented for their outstanding work. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 165.) The Department received three United Way "Heart of Gold" Awards, and in 1994 the Brookfield Zoo sent the Aquarium a letter praising Ms. Korotko-Hatch for her work. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 165; Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Summary Judgment [Pl.'s Mem.Opp.] at Ex. AKH1.) Although Ms. Korotko-Hatch and the Aquarium differ as to the number, they agree that the number of volunteers at the Aquarium increased during her thirteen-year employment. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 162; Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 162.)

Nanette Schonberg was Ms. Korotko-Hatch's supervisor and signed her performance evaluations for 1993 and 1994. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 68-69, 83; Deposition of Antoinette Korotko-Hatch [Pl.'s Dep.] at 575, May 28, 1998.) For the evaluation period covering 1993, Ms. Korotko-Hatch received an overall performance rating of "More Progress Needed."*fn2 (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 70.) She received a rating of "Meets Expectations" in three of the seven areas under the category of Performance Characteristics, including Job Knowledge, Work Quality and Initiative. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 201.) She received a rating of "Progress Needed" under Adherence to Policies, Relationships, Resource Utilization and Supervision categories. (Defendant's Memorandum of Law in Support of Summary Judgment [Def.'s Mem.Supp.] at Ex. NS4; Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 202; Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 72; Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's 12(N)(3)(b) [Def.'s Resp.] ¶ 220.) Under Adherence to Policies, Ms. Schonberg stated that, although "Toni is a stickler for adherence to policies by the volunteers, and adheres to most policies and procedures," she has a "habit of bypassing her supervisor and going directly to the Director on matters. . . ." (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 204; Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS4; Pl.'s Mem.Opp. at Ex. AKH7.) Although Ms. Korotko-Hatch disagreed with her 1993 performance rating, (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 203; Pl.'s Mem.Opp. at Ex. AKH8.) she signed the evaluation but noted her own attached commentary. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 200; Pl.'s Mem.Opp. at Ex. AKH7 -8.) Ms. Schonberg recommended in the 1993 evaluation that Ms. Korotko-Hatch delegate some of her duties to employee staff and utilize the facility's other resources. (Pl.'s Mem.Opp. at Ex. AKH7; Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 207.) Other comments in the 1993 evaluation included that Ms. Korotko-Hatch "has a high sense of loyalty to the institution. . . . [and] has much to offer to the Aquarium." (Pl.'s Mem.Opp. at Ex. AKH7; Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 211.) However, Ms. Schonberg emphasized in the evaluation that Ms. Korotko-Hatch "needs to focus her attention on management and administration and spend less time trying to do training and educational duties," and Ms. Korotko-Hatch stated in her deposition that this comment was one of the Aquarium's concerns. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 71; Pl.'s Dep. at 535, May 28, 1998; Pl.'s Mem. Opp. at Ex. AKH7.)

The Aquarium underwent a reorganization when Ted Beattie became the President and CEO in 1994. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 18, 28.) As part of the reorganization, Mr. Beattie initiated changes in the various departments, which involved expanding programs and promoting or hiring new managers. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 27-30.) Mr. Beattie treated Ms. Korotko-Hatch as a member of the management team and solicited her opinion regarding problems at the Aquarium. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 178.) One of his goals was to remove some decision-making authority from individual managers and commit to a team approach. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 31.) He thought that less individual authority would require departments to interact more with one another and ultimately improve the Aquarium's success. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 32-33.)

One of Ms. Korotko-Hatch's duties, conducting special tours, was transferred to Lisa Pluta Woolford and Lindsey Foster, who were women in their "twenties."*fn3 (Affidavit of Antoinette Korotko-Hatch [Pl.'s Aff.] at ¶ 35; Deposition of Antoinette Korotko-Hatch ["Pl.'s Dep."] at 85-86, Mar. 20, 1998.) When Ms. Korotko-Hatch asked Ms. Foster and Ms. Pluta about the reassignment, Ms. Forster stated, "[i]t's a young group," and Ms. Pluta agreed. (Pl.'s Dep. at 86, Mar. 20, 1998.)

In early 1994, Ms. Schonberg rejected Ms. Korotko-Hatch's proposed format for the Aquarium's newsletter because she wanted "something more youthful." (Pl.'s Mem.Opp. at 20; Pl.'s Dep. at 57, Apr. 8, 1998.) She stated that "[w]e have got to start thinking youthful . . . and this newsletter is too academic. . . ." (Pl.'s Dep. at 58, Apr. 8, 1998.)

For the 1994 evaluation period, Ms. Korotko-Hatch again received an overall rating of "Progress Needed." (Def.'s Mem. Supp. at Ex. NS5.) The evaluation stated that Ms. Korotko-Hatch worked well with the volunteers and succeeded in selecting appropriate people. (Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS5.) However, under the Overall Performance section, Ms. Schonberg stated that "[a]t this time, some of the short term goals have not been totally met." (Def.'s Mem. Supp. at Ex. NS6.) Other concerns that Ms. Schonberg stated in the evaluation were that Ms. Korotko-Hatch had not responded to her requests in a timely manner, resisted the internal changes, and needed to improve relationships with other managers. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. at Ex. NS5.)

Under the Relationships part of the 1994 evaluation, Ms. Schonberg stated that:

  [s]ome of the volunteers and staff are reluctant to
  work with Toni or talk to her because of the rigid,
  inflexible rules. Sometimes her expectations for the
  volunteers and the expectations for the department

  are not the same. Toni often blames others when there
  is a problem and becomes defensive, instead of
  looking for solutions and ways to alleviate the
  situation.

(Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS5.) Ms. Schonberg further stated in the evaluation that Ms. Korotko-Hatch failed to complete many assigned tasks. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 101-02; Mem.Supp., Pl.'s Dep. at 601-602, May 28.) Ms. Korotko-Hatch's goals for the following year included becoming more flexible with changes, improving relationships, and completing tasks timely and appropriately. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 86; Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS5.) Ms. Korotko-Hatch and Ms. Schonberg together agreed to these goals. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 93; Def.'s Mem.Supp., Pl.'s Dep. at 589, May 28, 1998.) In her deposition, Ms. Korotko-Hatch stated that, although she was aware of the comments she received in her evaluation, she, nonetheless, made no effort to improve her relationships. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 97; Def.'s Mem.Supp., Pl.'s Dep. at 592, May 28.)

In April of 1995, Ms. Schonberg revised Ms. Korotko-Hatch's evaluation to "Meets Expectations," because Ms. Korotko-Hatch "followed up with departments . . . and ha[d] been working hard on directives from Ted." (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 221; Pl.'s Mem.Opp. at Ex. AKH11.) Ms. Korotko-Hatch then received a salary increase from $34,200 to $35,500. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶ 222; Pl.'s Mem.Opp. at Ex. AKH11.)*fn4

As part of the reorganization, Mr. Beattie decided to form a separate Public Interpretation Department.*fn5 (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 124.) Ms. Korotko-Hatch disagreed with Mr. Beattie and told him that Public Interpretation should remain within the Education Department. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 124.) Mr. Beattie hired Lisa Woolford and Betsey Starinchak, women in their twenties, to run the new Public Interpretation Department. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 35; Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 127.) Ms. Korotko-Hatch again disagreed with Mr. Beattie's decisions and told him that she believed that Ms. Woolford was not qualified and lacked organizational skills, and that Ms. Starinchak was too immature for her position. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 128-130; Def.'s Mem.Supp., Pl.'s Dep. at 471, May 28.) However, Mr. Beattie assessed their educations and skills and concluded that they were well qualified to handle running the new program. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 127.) Mr. Beattie expected Ms. Korotko-Hatch to support Ms. Woolford and Ms. Starinchak's efforts to devise and implement their new program utilizing volunteers. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 131.)

On September 6, 1995, C.L. Kaiser, a manager in the new Public Interpretation Department, wrote a memo to Mr. Beattie describing three meetings that had occurred between herself, Ms. Korotko-Hatch, and the new Public Interpretation managers (Ms. Starinchak and Ms. Woolford). (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 132; Def.'s Mem. Supp. at Ex. NS18.) Although the Public Interpretation Department managers wanted to proceed with their agenda regarding recruitment and training of volunteers, they were unable to do so because Ms. Korotko-Hatch's volunteer department deemed their agenda to be unworkable. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 132; Def.'s Mem. Supp. at Ex. NS18.) Upon receipt of this memo, Mr. Beattie sent a memo dated September 8, 1995 to Ms. Korotko-Hatch, Ms. Starinchak, and Ms. Kaiser, directing that Ms. Korotko-Hatch cease interference with Public Interpretation's new program and with the training and management of volunteers in that department. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 133; Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS19.) Mr. Beattie concluded from this incident that Ms. Korotko-Hatch would not cooperate and that she wanted to "block and interfere with" Ms. Woolford's and Ms. Starinchak's new programs. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 134.) Ms. Korotko-Hatch stated in her affidavit that she recruited a large number of volunteers and placed them in Public Interpretation, but many of these volunteers were displeased, and the Department's volunteer staff eventually decreased by half. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) ¶¶ 196-97; Pl.'s Mem.Opp., Pl.'s Aff. at ¶ 26.)

The Aquarium also contained an Outreach Program, which was designed to educate the public about the Aquarium and, prior to Mr. Beattie's reorganization in 1994, was administered through the Volunteer Services Department. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 20-21.) After the reorganization, the Outreach Program moved from Volunteer Services to the Education Department. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 27; Def.'s Mem.Supp., Affidavit of Nanette Schonberg ["Schonberg Aff."] at ¶ 17.) Mr. Beattie promoted Bert Vescoloni to Director of the Education Department. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 109.) Ms. Korotko-Hatch again disagreed with Mr. Beattie's decision and told him that Mr. Vescoloni lacked organizational skills. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 110.) Mr. Beattie expected Ms. Korotko-Hatch to cooperate and respect his decision to move the Outreach Program to the Education Department under Mr. Vescoloni. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 111.) On numerous occasions during Ms. Korotko-Hatch's last year of employment, Mr. Vescoloni and his staff requested information from her regarding the Outreach Program; however, Ms. Korotko-Hatch refused to cooperate and instead criticized Mr. Vescoloni's ability to do his job. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 112.)

For example, on December 15, 1994, Mr. Vescoloni sent Ms. Korotko-Hatch a memo requesting information regarding the Outreach Program. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 113; Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS7.) Ms. Korotko-Hatch did not even respond to his request until February 5, 1995, when she stated in a memo that she planned to have the information to him by May of 1995. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 114; Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS8.) Following her memo, Bill Street, who worked under Mr. Vescoloni, sent a memo to Ms. Korotko-Hatch requesting that she provide specific information about the program, including program objectives, lists of volunteers, and budget figures for 1995. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 115-17; Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS9.) After receiving no response, Mr. Street sent another memo to Ms. Korotko-Hatch requesting the same information by the following Friday. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 118, Def.'s Mem. Supp. at Ex. NS10.) On November 9, 1995, at Ms. Schonberg's request, Ms. Korotko-Hatch provided some numbers, but did not provide the information that he requested. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 119, Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS11; Schonberg Aff. ¶ 32.) Almost one year from the initial request from Mr. Vescoloni, on November 16, 1995, Mr. Street sent Ms. Korotko-Hatch another memo thanking her for compiling the numbers, but again requesting that she provide the specific information that he initially requested. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 120; Def.'s Mem.Supp. at Ex. NS12.) About a month later, on December 12, 1995, Mr. Street sent Ms. Schonberg a memo indicating that he still had not received the information that he had requested back in February. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 121; Def.'s Mem. Supp. at Ex. NS13.) Mr. Beattie believed that Ms. Korotko-Hatch failed to cooperate for selfish reasons, and (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 122), she was terminated two weeks later, on December 31, 1995. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 1.)

During Ms. Korotko-Hatch's last year of employment, Ms. Schonberg and Mr. Beattie attempted to remedy Ms. Korotko-Hatch's performance. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 140-41, 146; Def.'s Mem.Supp., Deposition of Ted Beattie ["Beattie Dep."] at 29.) Mr. Beattie met with Ms. Korotko-Hatch in individual meetings every five to six weeks. (Def.'s 12(M) ¶ 141; Beattie Dep. at 29.) In these meetings, Ms. Korotko-Hatch expressed to Mr. Beattie her difficulty with the reorganization within the Education Department, "constantly blamed others" as the reason for uncompleted tasks, and "was very direct in questioning the ability of other managers to perform their jobs." (Beattie Dep. at 29-30; Def.'s 12(M) ¶¶ 143-45, 154.)

In Mr. Beattie's view, Ms. Schonberg had given Ms. Korotko-Hatch a number of tasks to complete over the course of a year and a half which Ms. Korotko-Hatch failed to accomplish. (Def.'s 12(M) ΒΆ 139; Def's Mem.Supp., Beattie Dep. at 27-28.) Furthermore, Mr. Beattie and Ms. Schonberg had received numerous complaints about her from other managers that indicated her inability or refusal to ...


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