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TUCKER v. LOYOLA UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

March 21, 2002

PAMELA TUCKER, PLAINTIFF,
V.
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Castillo, Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Pamela Tucker sues Defendant Loyola University of Chicago ("Loyola") for race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq.*fn1 Ms. Tucker alleges that Loyola discriminated against her in connection with her separation from employment as the Director of Administrative Services at Loyola. Currently before the Court is Loyola's motion for summary judgment. Because Ms. Tucker cannot establish a prima facie f case of race discrimination or demonstrate that Loyola's reason for taking adverse employment action against her was pretextual, Loyola's motion for summary judgment is granted. (R. 11-1.)

RELEVANT FACTS*fn2

On April 20, 1998, Ms. Tucker began working as the Director of Administrative Services in the Assistant Treasurer's Office at Loyola. Ms. Tucker is African-American and was forty-nine years old when she was hired by Loyola. Cynthia Redman, Loyola's Vice President for Finance and the Assistant Treasurer, hired Ms. Tucker and was her immediate supervisor when Ms. Tucker was employed by Loyola. Ms. Redman is Caucasian. Ms. Tucker was employed as Loyola's Director of Administrative Services from April 20, 1998 through November 3, 2000.

According to Loyola, Ms. Tucker's work performance and the quality of her work product began to decline in the summer of 1999. Ms. Tucker's work performance problems included missing deadlines, incomplete work and not following up on projects as assigned. (R. 11, Def's Facts ¶¶ 29-30.) Furthermore, Ms. Tucker "exhibited a bad attitude and did not exhibit a positive customer services approach to addressing issues and problems with people at [Loyola]." (Id. at ¶ 32.) Ms. Redman verbally warned Ms. Tucker about her work performance deficiencies. (Id. at ¶ 31.) Ms. Tucker denies that her work performance declined, that she exhibited a bad attitude or that she was warned by Ms. Redman regarding performance problems. (R. 19, Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 29-32.)

In the fall of 1999, Ms. Redman began having weekly meetings with Ms. Tucker to discuss new tasks as well as tasks outstanding from prior meetings. Ms. Redman initially saw improvement in Ms. Tucker's work performance. She stated, however, that the improvement ceased after a couple of months, at which time notwithstanding the weekly meetings — Ms. Redman noticed an increase in incomplete assignments, poor work quality and missed deadlines. Ms. Redman noted that the heads of the departments for whom Ms. Tucker worked complained to her about Ms. Tucker not returning calls and e-mails and exhibiting poor work performance and attitude. Ms. Tucker expressed concern regarding her workload to Ms. Redman and stressed that she felt she had too much work to do. (Id. at ¶ 44.)

In early 2000, Ms. Redman assumed Ms. Tucker's responsibilities for the mail rooms because she felt that Ms. Tucker was unable to complete the work that needed to be done in this area. Additionally, Ms. Redman assumed Ms. Tucker's duties regarding printing services, and Ms. Redman reduced Ms. Tucker's bookstore duties.*fn3 Despite the decline in responsibilities, Ms. Tucker's salary was never reduced. (R. 11, Def.'s Facts ¶ 88; R. 19, Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Facts ¶ 88.) Rather, Ms. Redman recommended that Ms. Tucker receive a raise in her salary in both 1999 and 2000.

In her 2000 performance evaluation, Ms. Redman rated Ms. Tucker's performance as a three out of five or "on target." Ms. Redman emphasized that she felt that there was a substantial decline in Ms. Tucker's work performance from the previous year. During this time, Ms. Redman never recommended that Ms. Tucker be terminated, nor did Ms. Redman ever take disciplinary action against Ms. Tucker for poor work performance. On several occasions, Ms. Tucker informed Ms. Redman that she was looking for another job because she wished to move to Florida. (R. 11, Def.'s Facts ¶ 63; R. 19, Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Facts ¶ 63.) Ms. Redman cites these expressions of intent by Ms. Tucker as the reason she never recommended disciplinary action or termination.

Prior to the creation of the Director of Administrative Services position for which Ms. Tucker was hired, there was a Purchasing Manager position at Loyola. The Director of Administrative Services position was created to encompass the duties of the Purchasing Manager as well as a number of other functions. Because Ms. Tucker was not performing all of the functions of the Director of Administrative Services position, Ms. Redman and Janet Gibbs, the Senior Vice President for Finance, decided to revive the Purchasing Manager position and to offer it to Ms. Tucker. In October 2000, Ms. Redman presented Ms. Tucker with three options regarding her employment at Loyola. One option was to remain in the revised and re-graded position of Purchasing Manager with a nine percent reduction in salary. The second option was to remain in her position as Director of Administrative Services at her current salary for three months, at which time her employment would be terminated. The third option was that Ms. Tucker could leave her position by November 10, 2001, and receive severance pay equivalent to eight weeks of her salary. Ms. Tucker chose to accept the third option, and notified Loyola's Director of Human Services that her resignation would be effective on November 1, 2000. (R. 11, Def.'s Facts ¶ 87; R. 19, Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Facts ¶ 87.)

Ms. Tucker contends that Ms. Redman informed her that Ms. Gibbs had hand-picked Ms. Tucker's successor prior to Ms. Tucker leaving Loyola. (R. 18, Pl.'s Add'l Facts ¶ 7.) Loyola, however, disputes this contention, (R. 20, Def's Reply to Pl.'s Add'l Facts ¶ 7), and maintains that Ms. Gibbs selected Ms. Tucker's successor after Ms. Tucker resigned. (R. 11, Def.'s Facts ¶ 91). Ms. Tucker's successor, Tim MeGuirman — a Caucasian and a current employee at Loyola — was selected by internal promotion to serve as the Director of Administrative Services.

On March 14, 2001, Ms. Tucker filed a complaint against Loyola asserting claims of race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act Presently before the Court is Loyola's motion for summary judgment, filed on October 11, 2001. After carefully reviewing the facts of this case, we grant Loyola's motion.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper only when the record shows there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue for trial exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nomnoving party and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Crim v. Ed, of Educ. of Cairo Sch. Dist No. 1, 147 F.3d 535, 540 (7th Cir. 1998). The Court, however, need not defeat a motion for summary judgment due to "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 247, or the existence of "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Moreover, in considering a motion for summary judgment, we need not assume the truth of a nonmovant's conclusory allegations on faith or scour the record to unearth factual disputes. Carter v. Am. Oil Co., 139 F.3d 1158, 1163 (7th Cir. 1998). Ultimately, this Court must decide "whether the state of evidence is such that, if the case were tried tomorrow, the plaintiff would have a fair chance of obtaining a verdict." Palucki v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 879 F.2d 1568, 1573 (7th Cir. 1989). Weighing evidence and making credibility decisions are jury functions, however, not those of the judge deciding a motion for summary judgment See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255. ...


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