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HENRY v. AMERITECH CORPORATION

March 8, 2004.

BARBARA JO HENRY, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERITECH CORPORATION, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT GETTLEMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Barbara Jo Henry filed the instant lawsuit against her former employer, Ameritech Corporation ("Ameritech"), alleging that Ameritech "intentionally engaged in discrimination by terminating Plaintiff from her employment because of her race, Black, in violation of Title VII [ 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.] and 42 U.S.C. § 1981." Defendant has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 56, arguing that plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and also failed to rebut defendant's asserted non-discriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff's employment. For the reasons stated herein, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.

FACTS*fn1

  Plaintiff, an African-American woman, worked for Ameritech from November 11, 1971, through her termination on September 21, 2001. After working in a management position from 1999 to May 2001 in Ameritech's Chicago Heights office, plaintiff assumed the position of Customer Advocate in June 2001. Plaintiff's responsibilities included receiving incoming calls, handling disputes for local usage, new service, and misdirected payments. Customer Advocates also performed a sales function that required them to consult with clients about additional services and products.

  In 2001, Customer Advocates in the Chicago Heights Office participated in Ameritech's Cash Incentive Plan, which encouraged sales by awarding cash bonuses to employees who exceeded their monthly sales objectives as follows: (1) if a Customer Advocate achieved 100% of her monthly sales objective, she received a $250 award; (2) if she achieved 112% of her monthly sales objective, she received a $400 award; and (3) if she achieved 120% of her monthly sales objective, she received a $500 award. In June 2001, the monthly sales requirement was $3500 per month; this objective was reduced proportionately when a Customer Advocate took vacation or was temporarily assigned to another position.

  Each Customer Advocate is assigned a sales code, which is a unique designation that is used to identify the Customer Advocate who negotiated an order for a particular service (in case there is later contact from the customer concerning the order) and track his productivity. Customer Advocates are trained to accurately record their sales codes whenever contact with a customer results in negotiation of an order for services.

  The parties dispute whether Ameritech's management condoned a practice called "sales sharing," in which one Customer Advocate would take credit for a sale that she neither negotiated nor worked on herself. Although Ameritech did not provide a written directive explicitly prohibiting sales sharing per se, Ameritech's Code of Business Conduct provides as follows: You are responsible for the integrity of company records over which you have control. Company business records must be prepared accurately. Reliable records are of critical importance in meeting our financial, legal and management obligations. Reports, vouchers, bills, payroll and service records, benefit claims and records, measurement and performance records, and other essential data should be prepared with care and honesty. Service and cost performance measures, for example, are a key to the successful management of the business. Making a false or misleading report or record of measurement data is as serious as falsifying vouchers, financial data or records pertaining to company funds or property.

  Plaintiff received a copy of Ameritech's Code of Business Conduct and was given an opportunity to read the Code and ask any questions. Each year, Customer Advocates are required to re-read the Code and sign an acknowledgment that they have done so.

  According to plaintiff, Ameritech managers Tina Fisher-Harper, Kim Burdine, and Keith Roberts were aware that sales sharing occurred among Ameritech employees to enable those employees to attain their monthly sales objectives. To this end, plaintiff submitted affidavits from Sheila Childs and Ardilia Cross, Customer Advocates who were supervised by Fisher-Harper, in which they both state that Customer Advocates supervised by Fisher-Harper routinely shared sales, and that Fisher-Harper encouraged her team members to assist other team members in meeting their sales objectives. According to Cross, on at least one occasion, Fisher-Harper personally provided Childs with the sales code of a Customer Advocate on her team, Belinda Barnes, so that Childs could give Barnes a sale.

  When plaintiff was working as a Customer Advocate, she was not supervised by Fisher-Harper, Roberts, or Burdine, but rather was directly supervised by Kezia Morris. Plaintiff's senior manager was Jacqueline Payne. There is no evidence that either Morris or Payne were aware of sales sharing or otherwise condoned or authorized the practice. In May 2001, just before plaintiff was supposed to leave her temporary management position and resume her duties as a Customer Advocate, Sheila Childs asked plaintiff if she needed any sales to meet her monthly objective. Plaintiff felt that such a sale would give her a start for June and thus accepted Childs' offer. Plaintiff gave Childs her sales code so that Childs could complete the order and apply the sales revenue to plaintiff's sales code.

  This was not the first time that plaintiff had shared sales. When she was working in her temporary management position from 1999 to May 2001, under Keith Roberts' supervision, plaintiff did not have a sales objective. Rather than have plaintiff take credit for sales that did not amount to anything, Roberts permitted plaintiff to share her sales with Customer Advocates who had failed to meet their quotas.

  In June 2001, Childs brought plaintiff a slip of paper with an order number on it for the sale that Childs had offered plaintiff. Plaintiff does not dispute that she did not do any work on this particular sale. Childs told plaintiff that the order was for an ISDN contract. Plaintiff believed the contract was worth $1,800 and that Childs had made the sale herself, even though Childs did not indicate to plaintiff that she had done any work on the sale. Plaintiff placed the order number onto a tracking log on which Customer Advocates keep track of the value of their sales.

  As it turned out, the order was actually one of 23 ISDN Prime *fn2 orders generated by an Ameritech Authorized Distributor, not Childs, and resulted in $4,865 in revenue being credited to plaintiff's sales account. ISDN sales by Ameritech Authorized Distributors are forwarded to Ameritech's ISDN Provisioning Center (the "AIPC Center") for provisioning by Market Support Specialists ("MSS"), who neither have direct contact with customers nor receive any credit or bonus for ISDN sales. At least some of these 23 ISDN Prime orders came into the AIPC Center without a sales code. At Childs' request, two MSS's, Tondaleria Marcus and Latasha Sanders, placed Childs' sale code on those orders, and Childs in turn replaced her sales code with those of other Customer Advocates in the Chicago Heights Call Center, including plaintiff. The parties dispute whether Marcus and Sanders were authorized by their supervisor, Roberts, to place Childs' sales code on the unaccounted-for orders.

  In July 2001, Payne, the senior supervisor, asked Area Manager Jacqueline Jones to run a computerized report examining the sales activities of the Chicago Heights Call Center. In running the report, Jones noticed that the same customer number was appearing on several Customer Advocates' sales sheets for ISDN Prime orders. Further investigation revealed that the sales of ...


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