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BURTON v. SOUTHWESTERN BELL MOBILE SYSTEMS

November 17, 1999

JOHN BURTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SOUTHWESTERN BELL MOBILE SYSTEMS, INC. D/B/A CELLULAR ONE-CENTRAL ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge.

OPINION

Employee claims reverse discrimination.

However, he cannot show that employer's legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for his termination were pretextual.

Summary judgment granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems, Inc., d/b/a Cellular One-Central Illinois ("Cellular One") hired John Burton to be the branch manager of its Decatur, Illinois, store on October 1, 1996. Throughout his employment with Cellular One, Burton reported to Julie Chiaro, the manager of internal distribution; Chiaro reported to Kim Wenda, the director of sales; and Wenda reported to Ray Cagle, the vice president and general manager. As part of his job duties as a branch manager, Burton supervised two sales representatives, Larry Allen and Tracy Manns.*fn1

On December 10, 1996, Yvette Casner, a then current Cellular One customer, visited Cellular One's Decatur store. Allen was the sales representative responsible for Casner's account, and he assisted her in disconnecting her existing telephone line and activating a new line.*fn2 On December 26, 1996, Robert Leady, also a then current Cellular One customer, visited the Decatur store seeking to upgrade his two existing telephone lines. Although Allen upgraded one of Leady's lines, his second line was disconnected and a new line was activated.*fn3

On December 21, 1996, Bob Tobin, Cellular One's communications supervisor, sent Chiaro an e-mail message stating that Paula Reed, a Cellular One customer care representative, suspected Allen of engaging in churn activity and that Burton may have known that Allen was engaging in churn activity.*fn4 On December 26, 1996, Chiaro responded to Tobin in an e-mail message by stating that she needed some concrete facts and information before she could look into this matter. On January 3, 1997, Chiaro sent Burton an e-mail message requesting that he investigate the Casner and Leady contracts to determine whether there had been any improper churn activity on those accounts. That same day, Burton asked Allen whether he had engaged in any churn activity. Allen denied that he had.

On January 13, 1997, Burton sent Chiaro an e-mail message indicating (1) that Allen did not know that Casner had another line which she later canceled and (2) that Leady had presented a falsehood to Cellular One's credit and activations division. In short, Allen accused the customers of lying. However, after looking at the accounts on the computer, Burton concluded that Allen had engaged in churning on both the Casner and Leady accounts.*fn5

On that same day, Manns telephoned Vicki Willis, Cellular One's human resources manager, regarding some concerns which he had about the activities which were occurring at the Decatur store. Accordingly, on January 14, 1997, Willis and Chiaro went to the Decatur store to meet with Manns. Before meeting with Manns, Willis and Chiaro met with Burton. During this meeting, Burton gave Willis a handwritten document setting forth the problems which he had encountered with Manns, including the fact that Manns arrived to work late, left work early, and took long lunches.

After these two meetings, Willis reviewed Manns' and Allen's time sheets. Manns' time sheets indicated that he had worked his scheduled 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. shift every day. Manns' time sheets did not reflect that he had ever arrived to work late, had left work early, or had taken a long lunch. Willis' inspection also revealed that Burton had reviewed and signed Manns' time sheet every week.*fn6

When Willis reviewed Allen's time sheets, they indicated that he had worked a full day on December 26, 1996, even though he had not worked at all that day.*fn7 Likewise, although Allen did not arrive to work until 10:30 a.m. on January 2, 1997, Burton allowed him to indicate on his time sheet that he had arrived at his scheduled starting time of 8:30 a.m. as compensation time for Allen's having to work during his lunch hour.*fn8

On January 20, 1997, Willis telephoned Mara Wasar,*fn9 Cellular One's assigned asset protection manager, and informed her of the meetings which she and Chiaro had with Burton and Manns. Willis told Wasar that Burton had expressed concerns regarding Manns' attendance but that his allegations did not correspond with the information recorded on Manns' time sheets. Willis also told Wasar that Manns had expressed concerns about Allen's attendance. Willis explained that Allen's time sheets did not reflect any absences, but several employees had stated that Allen was not at work one day. Accordingly, Wasar asked Willis to draft a ...


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