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PEREZ v. COLWELL SYSTEMS

October 22, 1999

LINDA L. PEREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COLWELL SYSTEMS, DIVISION OF DELUXE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



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

  ORDER

In November 1996, Plaintiff, Linda L. Perez, filed a Complaint (# 1) against Defendant, Colwell Systems (hereinafter "Colwell"), alleging that Colwell had discriminated against her on the basis of age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (hereinafter "ADEA") (29 U.S.C. § 621-634) and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (29 U.S.C. § 206(d)). In September 1999, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (# 49), alleging only that Colwell discriminated against her based on the ADEA. In September 1999, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (# 45). After reviewing the pleadings and record, this Court GRANTS Defendant's motion.

I. Background

Colwell is a division of Deluxe Corporation with branch facilities in Champaign, Illinois, Shoreview, Minnesota, and Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Minnesota and Colorado facilities print checks and business forms and the Champaign facility produces health care forms. (Sweeney Dep., pp. 6, 116.) Plaintiff was employed at the Champaign facility.

In late 1994 and 1995, Colwell planned and instituted a major restructuring (called the Customer Fulfillment System or CFS initiative) to change the organizational structure and business systems of the call centers in Colorado, Minnesota, and Champaign. (Sweeney Dep., pp. 7-8, Rawson Dep., p. 26.) The new technology was originally scheduled to be implemented in April 1995 at the Champaign facility. (Azman Dep., p. 42.)

In late 1994, Mike Rawson, the customer satisfaction manager at the Minnesota facility, hired Laura Sapp for the new position of customer satisfaction coordinator at the Champaign facility. (Rawson Dep., p. 34.) He followed the same procedure that he had used to hire employees in the other facilities. (Rawson Dep., p. 35.) Sapp worked for him in his department but remained at the Champaign facility. (Rawson Dep., p. 38.) The customer satisfaction coordinator's job was to develop strategies that would help Colwell improve its interactions with customers. (Rawson Dep., pp. 36-37.) While working as customer satisfaction coordinator, Sapp also performed tasks that were outside her normal job description. (Rawson Dep., p. 37.) For example, she performed the duties of Gayle Bauer, one of the managers, while Bauer was on maternity leave.

Prior to the reorganization, Larry Sweeney managed the Order Processing & Graphic Design division at the Champaign facility, which consisted of six to seven department managers and approximately 75-100 employees. Jack Schlickting managed Champaign's Sales division, which consisted of seven to eight department managers and approximately 90-100 employees. These two divisions were involved in processing orders. In the Sales division, employees in the telesales department looked up information for customers who phoned in; they then created a handwritten order form. That form was sent to the Order Processing & Graphic Design division where it was processed by a data entry group (the OEP department). (Rawson Dep., p. 19.) Plaintiff managed the Champaign OEP department from September 1994 to April 1995.

The CFS initiative involved changing this procedure for handling sales to customers based on a new computer system and organization that would allow one person to perform both telephone sales/customer service and order processing. (Rawson Dep., p. 16). With the assistance of new technology, an employee would be able to talk to a customer on the telephone and enter data directly into the computer at the time of the telephone conversation. (Rawson Dep., p. 19.) The planned reorganization affected both the OEP department and the telesales department by consolidating them into a customer service division, called the Customer Management Center (hereinafter CMC), which Sweeney was selected to Manage. (Nice Dep., p. 8, Sweeney Dep., p. 8.) As a result of the planned reorganization, order processing would no longer exist as a separate department; it would be merged with telesales and the new technology would perform the order processing. (Azman Dep., p. 107.)

The changes in technology and organizational structure created new job requirements and needs that effectively reduced the number of available jobs. (Rawson Dep., p. 26.) Telesales skills were considered more valuable than order processing skills after the reorganization. (Sweeney Dep., pp. 34-35.) Based on estimates of the new technology's effect, Colwell undertook a reduction in force (hereinafter RIF), intending to decrease the number of employees from a total of 13 managers and 165-200 employees in the former telesales and order processing areas to seven team leaders and 75-100 employees in the newly created CMC. Colwell started the RIF with the managers in telesales and order processing. (Nice Dep., p. 13.) The 13 managers were informed that their jobs had been eliminated and they all had an opportunity to apply for the team leader positions. (Nice Dep., pp. 16-17.)

The new team leaders were selected from the 13 employees who had previously worked as managers in the two former divisions. In January 1995, seven of the 13 former managers were rehired to be team leaders in the CMC and one was hired in the (separate) Sales Development & Training division. The five managers not rehired as team leaders included Plaintiff, Lucy Stauffer, Wilma Woodrum, June Brooks, and Carol Wagner. Sweeney told these five employees that their employment would be terminated in April 1995 unless they were hired by another department. (Ex. E, # 6-7.) Of this group, Brooks and Wagner subsequently found positions as department managers in another part of the company. (Nice Dep., Ex. G, # 5.)

In January 1995, when Sweeney told Plaintiff that she had not been hired as a team leader, he asked her to train the new "team leader" to manage OEP. Plaintiff then trained Sapp to handle her duties. Sapp was never a team leader; she continued to hold the position of customer service coordinator in Rawson's department, and she continued to report to him in that capacity.

Plaintiff did not obtain another job in the company and her employment ended in April 1995. Her notice of employee separation states that her employment was terminated because her job was eliminated. In September 1995, she filed a formal complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. In August 1996, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (hereinafter EEOC) sent her a Notice of Right To Sue. Plaintiff filed a Complaint (# 1) in the district court in November 1996. She filed a First Amended Complaint (# 49) in September 1999.

II. Discussion

Colwell argues that the Court should grant summary judgment because Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination. Furthermore, even if Plaintiff established a prima facie case of age discrimination, she has failed to show that Colwell's proffered reason for her discharge was pretextual.

A. Standard of Review

The Court grants summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Id. 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. ...


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