The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Mary Santelli is a welder who claims that her employer, Electro-Motive
(EMD), a division of General Motors, discriminated against her in the
terms and conditions of her employment because she is a woman and
retaliated against her because she had previously complained about sex
discrimination. EMD has moved for summary judgment, claiming that
Santelli experienced the "same disappointments as many of her male
counterparts." For the reasons stated below, the motion for summary
judgment is granted in part and denied in part.
EMD first hired Mary Santelli as a welder on May 22, 1972.*fn1 EMD's
plant in LaGrange, Illinois manufactures locomotive engines. Although she
was laid off in 1985, Santelli returned to the plant in 1991 as a clerk.
In 1993, she began testing for placement in one of the two welding job
classification codes: W51 and W52. Of the two codes, the W51
classification requires a higher skill level and results in a higher
salary. In fact, it is the highest paying job classification in the
In November 1993, Santelli took the easier W52 test. Although she had
previously worked as a welder, the collective bargaining agreement in
effect at EMD provided for retesting of welders who had not worked as
welders for six months. She spent two days either practicing or testing
but failed two of the three parts of the test. One of the testers, Eph
Edwards, asked her in that month, "Why do you want to be a welder? Don't
you like being a clerk? It's a woman's job." According to Joe Ball, a
union representative, EMD Supervisor*fn2 Ivan Ivanov found out sometime
in 1993 that Charles Patton had failed the welding test. Ivanov
nonetheless allegedly found a welding job for Patton. Santelli however,
remained in a clerk's position after failing the W52 test.
On January 5, 1994, Santelli began preparing for the harder W51 test,
using as many test plates as she could during the 48 hours of training
and practice time allotted her over several days. On January 13, 1994,
Santelli failed four of the six parts of the W51 test. The examination of
the test plates from this test was conducted by EMD Tester Don Hinson and
EMD Engineer Richard Jasper. Of the four test plates that Santelli failed
to weld properly, Jasper determined that one failed the laboratory
examination, while Hinson failed the rest on visual inspection. Around
this time, Santelli claims that Supervisor Ivanov told her that she would
not be a welder because welding was "too difficult for a woman."
After failing the W51 test, Santelli was placed in the W52 code from
January 13 to February 16, 1994 for on-the-job training. She therefore
received approximately a month's training in welding at the W52 level. On
February 16, Santelli retook the portions of the exam that she had
previously failed. She got credit for those plates that had passed in
January and November, but she still failed the three-plate W52 exam.
Santelli admitted at her deposition that she made mistakes on the General
#1 test plate, but she still believes that she passed this exam. EMD
destroyed the test plates after examining them. Santelli claims that
around this time EMD Tester Don Hinson told her that she would "never
weld again" and that her failure to pass the exam might be a blessing in
disguise because welding is too hard for a woman.
On March 7, 1994, Santelli was moved out of welding and into a G-91
(general factory) position. The next day, EMD switched her to a night shift.
The day after that, Santelli filed her first complaint with the Illinois
Department of Human Rights. In that complaint, she cited the failed February
16 welding test. She stated that she was the only female welder at EMD, that
male welders had been allowed to remain in welding positions despite failing
the welding test, and that some had never been required to take the
test. Also, she alleged that several male welders passed only part of the
test and were placed in production welding, or they were allowed to
retake the test after a three-week training period. In her charge,
Santelli singled out Don Hinson, Eph Edwards, and Ivan Ivanov as
management officials who told her that she "would not be a welder because
it was too difficult for
women." She also alleged that William Donalds, an EMD superintendent, told
her that the company had lost her test plates, thereby preventing her from
examining them to see how she had erred.
From around April 1994 to the following January, Santelli took medical
leave, first for tendinitis and then for major surgery (a hysterectomy)
and job-related stress. Santelli returned to EMD on February 2, 1995, and
she began full-time training for another welding test. On February 21,
1995, Santelli passed the harder, six-plate W51 test. She claims that EMD
Tester Hinson told her that it was a "fluke" and required her to retake
the test. She passed again. On February 22, 1995, Santelli was promoted
to W51 welder and assigned to Department 7013. This department welded
small crankcase engines. The welders in Department 7013 had to lift
65-pound coils of welding wire. Santelli had her male colleagues lift the
coils for her. Loading the coils for Santelli took them five minutes
every other day.
Santelli worked as a W51 welder in Department 7013 for eight months.
Her work was considered satisfactory despite the fact that she could not
lift the 65-pound coil. On March 24, 1995, she met with a number of
supervisors (Legan, Lane, DeLeon, and Talbert, along with Joe Ball, her
union representative) to discuss her welding. She told them that she was
doing the welding, but that her coworkers were installing the welding
coils and tightening clamps on the crankcases. The supervisors
transferred her to another W51 job in Department 7013, but she
demonstrated that she could perform the tightening of the clamps. Even
without being able to lift the welding wire, Santelli was reassigned to
her original W51 position.
In October 1995, Santelli was transferred out of Department 7013, where
she had been working on the first shift. EMD claims that this transfer
was part of a reduction-in-force (RIF)*fn3 in that department and notes
that three male welders were transferred out at the same time. EMD
asserts that its policy when a department RIF takes place is to reduce
those employees with the lowest plant-wide seniority.
Santelli flatly asserts this articulation of EMD policy is false. She
presents manpower sheets for several weeks in October 1995 which identify
the employees in Department 7013. Plaintiff's Resp. Br., Exh. 2. The
manpower sheets appear to refute EMD's articulation of its seniority
policy. If EMD actually made personnel decisions based on the plant-wide
seniority of workers within the particular departments, it would have
started by transferring and laying off some of the seven Department 7013
W51 welders who had later seniority dates than Santelli. W51 welders
Garcia, Marin, Martinez, Aguirre, Gonzalez, Alvarez, Ramirez all worked
the second shift in that department and had plant-wide seniority dates
from 1994, making them eighteen years less senior than Santelli.
Regardless of that fact, EMD reduced Santelli and, it appears, none of
those Department 7013 W51 welders. In fact, Vincente Aguirre transferred
to the first shift from the second shift. EMD seems to hint, see
Defendant's Reply Br. at 11, that the RIF was somehow shift specific, but
it has made no effort to provide evidence explaining why Department 7013
welders with 1994 seniority dates remained in the department when
Santelli, with a 1972 seniority date, was transferred out.
From Department 7013, Santelli was transferred to to Department 7021.
Santelli has described this as the "most demanding and dangerous welding
position in the company," and it certainly sounds formidable. In that
department, she worked on "B-29" crankcases, which are enormous
locomotive parts that must be secured to a fixture. The huge crankcases,
each weighing several tons, are secured to the fixture via large clamps
and bolts that must be tightened down using an impact gun or wrench. The
crankcase is then lifted off the ground by the fixture and maneuvered
into different positions so that the welder can access various points.
W51 welders work around the B-29 crankcase and also stand on an elevated
platform to reach certain spots. "Strongbacks" must be hoisted up to
15-foot platforms and attached to the ends of the crankcase to assist the
Not all welders in Department 7021 worked on the B-29 crankcases. EMD
asserts that Santelli's foreman, Tony Roberts, assigned Santelli to the
B-29 crankcases because she had the lowest seniority date in the
department. Santelli points out that three W51 welders had lower
seniority numbers than her, but at least one was not assigned to B-29
welding. Plaintiff's Response at 9 & Ex. 2. The manpower roster for the
week ending October 22, 1995 shows that Nicolas Garcia had a seniority
date of June 25, 1974, James Blotnicki had a seniority date of July 10,
1974, and Antonio Mosivais had a seniority date of September 26, 1994,
all later than Santelli's May 22, 1972 seniority date. Garcia did not
work on the B-29 crankcases.
Santelli points out that EMD Superintendent Danny Legan stated in his
deposition that department supervisors are "empowered to run their
department as they need to run it," including on what and where employees
work within each department. That suggests that EMD actually had no
policy that required Roberts to assign the lowest-ranking W51 welders in
Department 7021 to work on the B-29 crankcases.
When Santelli protested her assignment to B-29s, Roberts told her "You
want to be treated equally, don't you?" and "You don't want me to
discriminate, do you?" She accepted her assignment and started work.
Just as in Department 7013, certain aspects of the B-29 work were beyond
Santelli's physical capabilities. She could not lift the crankcase onto
the platform and could not secure the bolts with a power drill (her
fingers were too small for the trigger). She could not carry up to the
15-foot platform the coils of welding wire which needed to be replaced
every few days. According to her affidavit, welding a B-29 took eight
hours, while installing the "strongbacks" took five minutes per eight
hours and mounting the welding wire took five minutes every other day.
Santelli had no difficulty with the welding.
Unlike in Department 7013, however, Santelli's difficulty with lifting
heavy objects was not tolerated in Department 7021. After one week
working on B-29s, Santelli requested a transfer back to Department 7013.
To increase her chances, she requested a shift change in an attempt to
bump one of the less senior welders mentioned above who was working on
the second shift in Department 7013. Santelli was transferred to the
second shift but was not allowed to change departments.
On October 23, 1995, Roberts removed Santelli from her W51 position
under a procedure called "Red 618." A Red 618 is essentially a finding
by a supervisor that an employee is unqualified. (It is unclear whether
it means the employee is unqualified for a work assignment or unqualified
for a classification code regardless of assignment). Roberts justified
this action by
noting that Santelli could not attach the "strongbacks," use the power
drill, or load the welding wire. The first of those two tasks were specific
to the B-29 work, but the last is common to all W51 welding jobs. Santelli
could not load the welding wire in either Department 7013 or 7021, although
this alleged deficiency, as we have noted, was apparently not a problem for
the eight months that she had welded in Department 7013 as a W51 welder.
Santelli's supervisor at the time of the Red 618, Warren McGrew, allegedly
handed her a broom and asked her, "I wonder if you can handle sweeping?
It's a girl thing." Santelli has cited seven instances where she claims
that a male welder received preferential treatment, either by being
permitted to work for years as W51 welders without passing the welding
test, or by being allowed to continue welding in the W51 code after
receiving a "Red 618." Plaintiff's Ex. 8.
Santelli was returned to the G-91 general factory work code on October
31, 1995, and her pay was reduced. On that same day, she filed a second
EEOC charge. In the charge, Santelli stated that she was "placed in
welding duties which were very demanding and I believe this was done in
an effort to frustrate me in giving up the position." The form reveals
that she claimed that the discrimination took place on October 23, 1995
(the day of the Red 618). She also denied that she had told her EMD
supervisor that she was physically unable to do the job. On the charge
form, the "Retaliation" box is checked, but her comments on the form also
included as one of the reasons for her belief that she had been
retaliated against the statement that "I am the only female in the
On November 13, 1995, Santelli transferred to Department 3116 as a
lower-paid W52 welder. She worked there until May 13, 1996, when a RIF
sent her back to the G-91 code. She was the welder with the lowest plant
seniority in Department 3116 at that time.
In September 1996, Santelli needed time off to spend with her disabled
brother and sick father, so she took personal leave, vacation time, and a
voluntary deferred layoff. This layoff was planned to last until
January, 1997, but EMD recalled her to work in the G-91 code on October
28, 1996. She started work in Department 2022.
Santelli took family medical leave in April and May 1997 and then
worked at EMD as a W52 welder. On May 16, 1997, she received a
right-to-sue letter from the EEOC covering both her 1994 and 1995
complaints. She took and passed a W52 welding test, as well as a pipe
welding test on June 5, 1997. This test was administered by Trancito
After receiving her EEOC letter, Santelli filed a pro se complaint in
this Court on August 17, 1997, alleging that she "was deprived of higher
welding classification and work opportunities based on defendant's
contention that she/I was not physically fit to perform that type of
work." She worked in the W52 code until ...