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TORAIN v. DELTA-T GROUP ILLINOIS

April 21, 2004.

SUSAN TORAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
DELTA-T GROUP ILLINOIS, INC., an Illinois Corporation, and DELTA-T GROUP, INC., a Pennsylvania Corporation, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Susan Torain ("Torain"), brings this action against defendants, Delta-T Group Illinois, Inc., an Illinois Corporation, and Delta-T Group, Inc., a Pennsylvania Corporation (collectively "Delta-T") alleging (1) race discrimination; (2) gender discrimination; and (3) retaliation, all under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1 et seq.*fn1 Torain's First Amended Complaint also contains a claim for violation of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, 820 ILCS 115/1 et seq., over which this court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Before the court is Delta-T's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS

  Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). To determine whether any genuine fact exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c) Advisory Committee's notes. The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986), In response, the nonmoving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone but must use the evidentiary tools listed above to designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). A material fact must be outcome determinative under the governing law. Insolia., 216 F.3d at 598-99. Although a bare contention that an issue of fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 492 (7th Cir. 2000), the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party as well as view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

 
FACTS STATED IN A LIGHT MOST FAVORABLE TO PLAINTIFF
  Delta-T Group, Inc. is a Pennsylvania corporation engaged in the business of temporary staffing. (Def. L.R, 56.1 ¶ 1.) Delta-T Group, Illinois, Inc., is an Illinois corporation specializing in staffing the behavioral health, mental health and social work industry. (Id.) Delta-T Group, Inc. and Delta-T Group, Illinois are related by common ownership. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 2.) Delta-T Group, Inc. also maintains oversight management for all of its nationwide branch offices and affiliates, including Delta-T Group, Illinois. (Pl. Resp. to Def, L.R. 56.1 ¶ 2.) Torain is an African-American female who was hired to work for Delta-T Group, Illinois in March 2001 as a staffing coordinator. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶¶ 3, 5.) At the beginning of her employment Torain received copies of the Delta-T Group Employee Manual, communications policy, and File Completion and Credentialing Policy. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶¶ 10-13.) Torain agreed to be bound by all of these policies. (Id.) In March 2001 she also entered into an Employment Agreement with Delta-T which stated, in pertinent part, that "Employee further agrees and promises to comply with and carry out those verbal directives that may be given to them by persons to whom Employee is accountable or who possess superior organizational jurisdiction over their position." (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 13.) All of the following Delta-T employees had superior organizational jurisdiction over Torain: Michael Martin ("Martin"), who served as Affiliate Administrator and was Torain's direct supervisor; Pat Graff ("Graff'), Regional Affiliate Administrator and Martin's supervisor; Joanne McAndrews ("McAndrews"), Company President; Marlina Von Rohr ("Von Rohr"), Director of Human Resources; and Rachana Patel ("Patel"), General Counsel. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶¶ 6-9.)

  Torain's duties as a staffing coordinator included processing and filling job orders, executing bulk scheduling, providing customer services to clients and contractors, administering new contracts, conducting file completion activities, administering new contractor interviews, and providing weekend and on-call services. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 23.) File completion, documentation and Credentialing were all essential job duties for Torain and all other staffing coordinators. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 25.)

  Torain's first performance review in her job was a "two-week follow-up" dated March 30, 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 27.) This review rated Torain as "needs improvement" in the category entitled "Following Department Rules & Procedures." (Id.) On May 22, 2001, Torain received a written reprimand for staffing a contractor without any references during April 2001, which violated Delta-T's File Completion policy. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 29.) On June 1, 2001, Torain received her forty-five (45) day performance review. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 30.) This review rated Torain as "needs improvement" in the following categories: (1) "displays understanding of the importance of customer service"; (2) "implements management direction"; (3) "providing self direction"; and (4) "following department rules and procedures". (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 30.)*fn2 This performance evaluation also specifically noted that Torain needed to improve her "file completion," "follow through" and "organization." (Id.)

  Torain received a number of other disciplinary notices thereafter, including

 
On July 24, 2001, Martin issued written discipline and counseling for Torain's failure to correctly fill out the Week-to-Week Tracking Log for the weekend of July 20-23. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 32.)
On August 14, 2001, Torain received a written warning for continuous violations of file completion and documentation policies, specifically for failure to document conversations with clients and contractors. This written warning stated that her supervisor, Martin, would monitor Torain's performance each day to ensure that all calls and conversations are documented as they happen, This written warning also expressly placed Torain on notice that if she continued not to perform satisfactorily or follow policies and procedures, she would be subject to additional discipline including but not limited to discharge, (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 34.)
On August 20, 2001, Torain was verbally counseled for failure to properly document calls to clients and contractors in violation of policies and procedures. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 35.)
On August 24, 2001, Martin documented Torain's failure to properly validate and enter the schedule for J. Fuentes, Martin stated that he would re-check all of Torain's September schedules. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 36.)
Also on August 24, 2001, Torain received a written "Memorandum for Record" from Martin regarding her performance deficiencies. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 37.) Torain was placed on final written warning dated September 6, 2001 for continued failure to properly document her communications with clients and contractors, in violation of company policies and procedures. The warning described a series of performance issues and violations. (Def. L.R, 56.1 ¶ 38.)
Torain received written counseling on September 11, 2001, for violation of the company file completion policy. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 40.)
Torain received written counseling on September 17, 2001, for errors committed on weekend "Alpha4" reports. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 42.)
  These disciplinary measures notwithstanding, Torain points to aspects of her performance that she believes were impressive. For example, she testified (1) that she was successful in securing accounts with the University of Chicago and the Jane Adams Hull House (Pl. L.R. 56.1 ¶¶ 11-12); (2) that she "won" accounts with Guardian Angel House and Provena St. Joseph (Pl. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 13); (3) that she received a "Perfect Attendance" award for the second quarter of 2001 (Pl. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 14); (4) that she was one of only five employees nationwide who won Delta-T's "Bulk" award (Pl. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 15)*fn3; and (5) that she maintained higher billable hours and average spread compared to fellow staffing coordinator Sean Jensen ("Jensen"), who is a white male. (Pl. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 16).

  Martin testified that he and Graff had scheduled a meeting with Torain to take place September 18, 2001, in which they would discuss with Torain her performance since commencement of the final written warning period on September 6, 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 45.) Torain, however, had already obtained approval of a vacation request from September 17, 2001 to September 21, 2001 for her wedding and was apparently not at work on the 18th. (Pl. Resp. to Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶¶ 45-46.)*fn4 Thus, she did not attend the meeting. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 46.)

  Nevertheless, although she did not work on September 18, Torain did go to the office after hours. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 48.) She signed the security log and went to the office after nine o'clock at night.*fn5 (Id.) Torain claims that she went to the office at this time to pick up her wedding bonus. (Pl. Resp. to Def. L.R. 56, 1 ¶ 48.) She acknowledges signing her arrival in the signature book but claims that she forgot to sign out. (Id.) Torain's name was signed in the signature book indicating that she left at 1:30 p.m. (Id.) Torain denies that the signature is hers. (Id.)

  On September 19, 2001, at 9:33 a.m., Patel received an email from Torain in which Torain cited several specific email communications between Patel and Martin concerning Torain's performance. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 49.) Some of the cited emails had been sent with `courtesy copies to various interested persons such as Graff, Von Rohr and McAndrews. (Id.) Torain was not a party to any of these emails. (Id.) Torain's September 19, 2001 email to Patel directly quoted email communications between Patel and Martin. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 50.) One such email was sent 16 hours earlier, at 5:22 p.m. on September 18, 2001. (Id.) Torain also quoted other emails dated September 6, 10, 12, 17 and two from September 18. (Id.) Torain's performance was the subject of these email communications but, as noted above, she was never a party to them. (Id.)*fn6

  Although Torain never reported to anyone at Delta-T that she received copies of these emails (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 58), in her deposition she testified that she received the emails anonymously on the night of September 18, 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 53.) This is somewhat consistent with what Torain told investigators with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). She told EEOC Investigator Andrew Daley that she received copies of the emails anonymously through the mail. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 54.) Daley testified that when he asked Torain how she was able to quote a September 18 email on September 19 if she received copies in the mail, Torain paused and told him that she received the emails via Federal Express delivery. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 55.) In her deposition Torain denied ever making the claim that the copies were delivered by Federal Express and stated that the copies were left on her doorstep in early September. (Torain dep. at 228.) Torain further admitted that it took her two weeks to read through all of the emails, despite the fact that she was able to quote one such email only hours after it was originally sent. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 57.)

  After receiving Torain's September 19, 2001 email, Patel contacted Martin. At this point Martin had already noticed that his computer had been turned off, even though he only logged off his computer the night before. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 61.) After being contacted by Patel, Martin also discovered that all of his email communications to Graff, Von Rohr and/or Patel concerning Torain had been permanently deleted. (Id.) He also discovered that documents from employees' personnel files were missing. (Id.)

  Martin testified that he had previously given Torain his computer password but had not authorized her to access his email account. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 59.) Torain, however, denies ever having Martin's password or accessing his email account. (Pl. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 24.) Patel testified that the Delta-T Group Information Services Department confirmed that someone accessed Martin's computer on the ...


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