The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alesia, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the court are (1) plaintiff's motion in limine; (2) defendant's
motions in limine; and (3) defendant's motion for summary judgment,
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). For the following
reasons, the court (1) denies as moot plaintiff's motion in limine; (2)
denies defendant's motions in limine; and (3) grants defendant's motion
for summary judgment.
Plaintiff Shirley Riley ("Riley") brings this suit, claiming that
defendant UOP LLC ("UOP") discriminated against her on the basis of her
race, sex, and age. In order to understand the court's opinion, one must
be aware of a number of facts. For the sake of clarity, a recitation of
these facts is in six parts. Part A describes Riley's hiring at UOP and
her supervisory structure. Part 13 outlines Riley's training. Part C
discusses Riley's performance evaluations. Part D describes Riley's
disciplinary history. Part E explains UOP's decision to reduce its
workforce and Riley's termination. Part F outlines the current lawsuit.
A. Riley's Hiring and her Supervisory Structure
Riley is an African-American female and was born on April 27, 1948. She
began working at UOP — a refining, petrochemical, and technology
company — as an Operator Trainee at UOP's manufacturing facility in
McCook, Illinois (the "McCook facility") on November 3, 1998. During the
time Riley was employed by UOP, Cook facility consisted of several major
manufacturing processing lines ("plants") and a few minor plants. As a
newly-hired Operator Trainee, she was assigned to Plant 26 to begin her
training, which was frequently used for operator training because it was
the easiest of the plants to learn.
During the period of time at issue in this case, Aaron Beck ("Beck")
was Operations Manager for the McCook facility. Terrance Brodin
("Brodin") was an Area Coach at UOP and his duties included training
plant operators, as well as other tasks. Otis Dixon ("Dixon") was a Shift
Supervisor. A Shift Supervisor's duties included ensuring that all
operations at the facility ran smoothly and making sure that the operators
working on the plant were performing acceptably and were properly
trained. Steve Armstrong ("Armstrong") and Rod Ives ("Ives") were Shift
Breaker Operators, whose duties included the initial training of new
Operator Trainees. While she was working at UOP, Riley reported directly
to Dixon, as well as other supervisors, depending on her shift. Dixon and
Brodin reported directly to Beck.
Newly-hired Operator Trainees usually spend two to four weeks in "hands
on" training with a Shift Breaker Operator. Armstrong had primary
responsibility for Riley's "hands on" training when she was first hired.
He trained Riley for at least two weeks. According to Armstrong, Riley
had trouble understanding and remembering some tasks that he showed her.
Two or three days after Riley started, Armstrong met with Brodin to share
his disappointment in her progress. Subsequently, Armstrong sent an email
to Beck in which he described some of Riley's and another operator's
problems with understanding the plant. Brodin asked Ives to give Riley
additional training. When Beck asked Ives how Riley was doing, Ives
replied that Riley was "having a hard time grasping how to make
adjustments on [the belt]." (Ives Dep. at 26.) Additionally, Ives
informed Beck via email of Riley's problems understanding her training.
C. Riley's Performance Evaluations
Newly hired Operator Trainees are considered to be "in grade
progression" ("IGP") and receive written performance evaluations every six
months for two years. A standard UOP form was used for the IGP written
performance evaluations. The operator trainee received a grade in each of
thirteen categories as well as an overall grade. The assignment of an
overall performance rating was subjective, and the supervisor had
discretion to give weight to each category.
Beck participated in his employees' performance reviews. He would seek
early feedback on the performance of Operator Trainees by asking Shift
Breaker Operators and Shift Supervisors about the trainee's progress.
Beck received input for Riley's performance evaluations from Armstrong,
Ives, Brodin, and Dixon, and also referred to other performance
evaluations and disciplinary write-ups.
Riley's first IGP written performance evaluation was dated May 3,
1999. On that evaluation, Dixon gave Riley an overall rating of "M,"
which meant that she was "meeting most expectations, plus." (Beck Dep.
Ex. 47.) On that evaluation, Dixon wrote that Riley needed to ask more
questions when she didn't understand the plant or experienced other
problems. He also noted that she "was a little weak on the total
operations" of the belt that carried product through the plant. (Id.) Beck
did not participate in Riley's first performance evaluation.
Riley's second IGP written evaluation was dated October 22, 1999. Dixon
initially prepared the October 22 evaluation. He gave Riley a score of
"M-" in three of the thirteen performance categories. Beck reviewed the
evaluation and questioned Dixon giving Riley a score of "M" in five other
performance categories, because those scores conflicted with feedback that
he had received from other supervisors. After hearing Beck's reaction to
the evaluation, Dixon lowered Riley's score for productivity from an "M"
to an "M," and her score for team work from an "C" or "M" to an "M."
Also, Dixon changed Riley's overall score to an "M-."
Riley's third IGP written evaluation was dated April 21, 2000. Dixon
gave her an overall score of "M-." Dixon based that score on his personal
observation of Riley's work, as well as input from other Operators and
emails from Brodin. After Dixon drafted the evaluation, he submitted it
to Beck, who signed it and did not dispute any of the scores that Dixon
had given Riley.
In conjunction with the April 21, 2000 evaluation, and because Riley
had earned a score of "M-," Dixon at Beck's request — drafted a
document entitled "UOP and My Expectations for the Next Six Months." (the
"May Personal Improvement Plan") (Beck Dep. Ex. 50-51.) This document
listed a series of goals that Dixon had for Riley. Dixon expected that
someone with Riley's training and tenure at UOP should not have been
having the types of problems that were listed on the May Personal
Improvement Plan. When Dixon spoke with Riley about the written
evaluation and May Personal Improvement Plan, he informed her that her
performance needed to improve because she had been with UOP for a year and
a half. Dixon submitted a copy of the May Personal Improvement Plan to
Beck, but did not discuss it with him. Dixon placed Riley on a second
Personal Improvement Plan for the period from May 3, 2000 through
November 3, 2000. He gave her a score of "M," overall, on the two
personal improvement plans,
indicating that she was meeting most
expectations with regard to Dixon's goals for her. However, at the time
Dixon reviewed the second Personal Improvement Plan, in November 2000, it
was his opinion that, although Riley had improved, she "still had a ways
to go." (Dixon Dep. at 150.)
Dixon prepared Riley's fourth IGP written evaluation in November 2000.
On November 13, he and Brodin exchanged email regarding Dixon's proposed
scores for Riley. Dixon adopted Brodin's suggestion that Riley receive an
"M" rather than an "M" in the categories of "Technical Skills" and
"Planning and Organizing." Riley was terminated before this evaluation
D. Riley's Disciplinary Record
According to UOP's Corrective Action Policy, "progressive corrective
action may include such steps as 1) verbal warnings, 2) written
warnings, 3) time off." (Beck Dep. Ex. 67.) Under the policy, there are
supposed to be verbal warnings before a written warning is given, but in
a case of a major infraction of safety, a written warning can be imposed
without any prior verbal warning.
On August 11, 1999, Brodin issued Riley a written warning for violating
a UOP safety policy. Riley had failed to complete all of the required
information on a Line Breaking Permit. The permits indicate the status of
a piece of broken equipment to an employee making repairs on the
equipment. When Brodin discussed the Line Breaking Permit with Riley, he
thought she seemed confused about what she had done wrong and did not
understand that she was supposed to have filled out all the
On February 17, 2000, Dixon issued Riley a written warning for running
a piece of equipment outside of its stated limits. Dixon drafted the
warning and submitted it to Beck for his approval. However, Dixon did not
check the proper box to indicate that it was a final warning for Riley.
Thus, Beck wrote "final warning" on the warning document to indicate to
Riley that her next written warning would result in a suspension.
On February 23, 2000, Riley was suspended for violating UOP safety
rules. The documentation of her suspension stated that she had violated a
safety practice by climbing onto the platform without the guard rail in
place.*fn3. Riley took responsibility for the incident.
Early in 2000, employees at the McCook facility were concerned about
future layoffs. UOP's senior supervisors met with Beck in order to
discuss the possibility of a future reduction in force ("RIF"). At that
meeting, Riley, Roy Willis ("Willis"), Vince Hristinski ("Hristinski"),
Brian Gardner ("Gardner"), and Ellis Funchess ("Funchess") were named as
people who were not "keepers," if a RIF occurred. (Brodin Dep. at 22.)
During the summer of 2000, Beck asked Brodin who should be eliminated in
a RIF and Brodin replied, "probably [Riley] would be at the head of the
list." (Brodin Dep. at 26.) He told Beck that he was disappointed in
Riley's progress, given her time at UOP.
Later in 2000, UOP decided to reduce its workforce, including workers
at the McCook facility. Part of this RIF was to eliminate authorizations
to hire for vacant positions. However, the reduction also included the
termination of some active employees. In October 2000, Vice President of
Manufacturing Allen Arneson ("Arneson"), to whom Beck reported directly,
directed Beck to identify three employees to be included in the workforce
reduction. Arneson told Beck to base his recommendations upon employee
Soon after receiving Arneson's telephone call, Beck identified Riley,
Dixon, and Hristinski as his three worst performers. He also considered
Willis a poor performer, but did not think that he should be included in
the RIF because he had a clean disciplinary record. Beck reached his
decision based upon his overall familiarity with employee performance and
disciplinary records. He did not review any documents except possibly for
a worksheet of employee ratings that he maintained. Beck testified that
he had not seen the November 2000 IGP written evaluation that Dixon had
prepared for Riley or either of Dixon's two personal improvement plans for
Subsequently, Jerome Caufield ("Caufield"), another employee, engaged
in conduct that warranted his termination. Beck decided to include
Caufield in the RIF, instead of one of the employees whom he had already
selected. Beck decided to replace Hristinski and not Riley with Caufield
even though Hristinski and Riley each had received "M-" ratings on their
most recent performance evaluations. Beck made this decision because it
was his recollection that Hristinski had higher performance ratings and a
cleaner discipline record over the past two or three years. Arneson
approved Beck's recommendations for employees to be terminated.
On December 5, 2000, Beck met with Riley to inform her that she was
being terminated. He explained that she was being terminated as part of
the RIF and due to her performance. No other Operator Trainees have been
hired by UOP since Riley's termination.
F. Riley's EEOC Charge and the Current Lawsuit
On December 27, 2000, Riley filed a discrimination charge with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She received a notice of her
right to sue dated August 10, 2001, and she filed this lawsuit on
November 1, 2001, within the required ninety days of receiving her right
to sue letter. Count I of Riley's complaint alleges that she was
discriminated against due to her lace, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981
("section 1981"). Count II of her complaint is a claim for race
discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Count III of Riley's
complaint contains a claim for age discrimination under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.
("ADEA").*fn4 Count [V of Riley's complaint
alleges that she was
discriminated against due to her sex, in violation of Title VII. Because
all of Riley's claims arise under federal law, the court has subject
matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. UOP now moves for
summary judgment arguing that: (1) Riley cannot establish a prima facie
case for discrimination; (2) UOP had legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reasons for firing Riley; and (3) Riley cannot prove that those reasons