The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bucklo, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Ella Wade alleges age discrimination and retaliation
under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and under Title
VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1 et seq. The defendant moves for
summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is
granted in favor of the defendant.
Plaintiff Ella Wade ("Ms. Wade") was an employee of defendant
Lerner New York, Inc. ("Lerner") for approximately nineteen years
until being terminated on April 27, 1997 at the age of 52. From
October 1996 to April of 1997, Ms. Wade alleges that her employer
subjected her to discrimination based on her age and because she
filed a discrimination complaint.
Ms. Wade alleges that she frequently requested a promotion to
the position of Co-Manager or Assistant Manager, including three
times during the fourth quarter of 1996. Instead, four younger
employees were promoted. Ms. Wade further alleges that she
requested but was denied the training defendant claims was
necessary to receive a promotion.
On November 21, 1996, Ms. Wade claims she arrived for work at
Lerner on time and was granted permission by her supervisor to
take a brief break to settle her stomach. Nonetheless, her
supervisor reported to the store manager that Ms. Wade had
falsified her time sheet. Ms. Wade denied this but was
disciplined via a written warning. On December 5, 1996, Ms. Wade
filed an age discrimination complaint with the Illinois Human
Rights Commission which included claims of discriminatory
discipline and failure to promote.
Ms. Wade claims that in response to her complaint of
discrimination, Lerner retaliated by reducing her hours. Ms. Wade
then filed an additional complaint with the Illinois Human Rights
Commission for retaliation on April 23, 1997. Ms. Wade was fired
on April 27, 1997 for insubordination, complaining and being
discourteous to customers, and for grabbing her supervisor by the
wrist. The events which occurred on April 26, 1997 are vigorously
disputed by the parties. Although several witnesses, including
customers, wrote statements corroborating at least one of these
reasons, Ms. Wade claims the events were fabricated and denies
them all. Ms. Wade claims that she simply reminded her
supervisors of her medical condition and requested a minor
accommodation; she denies raising her voice, being discourteous
to anyone, or touching Ms. Stovall, and claims that the customers
who complained were induced to make up their statements because
they were friends of her supervisor based on conversations she
overheard between them.
Both the discrimination and retaliation complaint were cross
filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"),
which issued a right-to-sue letter on June 25, 1998 on both
charges. Defendant moves for summary judgment on all claims.
Summary judgment is appropriate where there are no genuine
issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c); Lexington Ins.
Co. v. Rugg & Knopp, 165 F.3d 1087, 1090 (7th Cir. 1999). When
considering a motion for summary judgment, the court may review
the entire record, drawing all reasonable inferences from the
record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Cornfield by Lewis v. Consolidated High School Dist. No. 230,
991 F.2d 1316, 1320 (7th Cir. 1993). The party opposing the
motion, however, must make a showing sufficient to establish any
essential element for which it will bear the burden of proof at
trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct.
2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
III. ADEA Discrimination Claims
Under the ADEA, employers are prohibited from discriminating on
the basis of age against employees who are at least forty years
old. See 29 U.S.C. § 623(a), 631(a). The plaintiff may prove
her case using direct evidence or via the indirect
burden-shifting method of McDonnell Douglas v. Green,
411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973); Fuka v. Thomson
Consumer Elecs., 82 F.3d 1397 (7th Cir. 1996). "Under either
method, summary judgment is improper if the plaintiff offers
evidence from which an inference of age discrimination may be
drawn." Fuka, 82 F.3d at 1402-03. Ms. Wade has not come forward
with direct evidence, so she proceeds under McDonnell Douglas.
To support her discriminatory discipline claim, Ms. Wade first
has the burden of establishing a prima facie case of age
discrimination by showing she was: (1) in the protected age group
of 40 or older; (2) performing her job satisfactorily; (3)
subjected to a materially adverse employment action; and (4)
treated less favorably than younger employees. Taylor v. Canteen
Corp., 69 F.3d 773, 779 (7th Cir. 1995). Lerner does not dispute
that Ms. Wade meets the first three criteria but denies that Ms.
Wade was treated less favorably than younger employees for
violating the time-card policy. In fact, Lerner offers evidence
that it fired a 22-year old employee for falsifying his time
records. However, Ms. Wade argues that the disparate treatment
arises because younger employees are not falsely accused of
being late and ...