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MYRICK v. ARAMARK CORPORATION

April 28, 2004.

IDA L. MYRICK, Plaintiff,
v.
ARAMARK CORPORATION, Defendant



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Ida L. Myrick ("Myrick"), brings this action against defendant, Aramark Services Inc. ("Aramark"), improperly named as Aramark Corporation, alleging that she was terminated from her employment based on her race, sex and pregnancy, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA").*fn1 In addition, Myrick also alleges violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2101 et seq. Pending before the court is Aramark'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*fn2
  Aramark manages on-site restaurants, catering and office services for businesses. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 3.) At all times relevant to this action Aramark managed a cafeteria-style restaurant at an office complex called the Parkway Center located in Deerfield, Illinois. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶¶ 3-4.) Myrick, who is African-American, was employed by Aramark at the Parkway Center from July 17, 1995 to July 13, 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 4.) Myrick's supervisor at the Parkway Center, beginning in December 1999, was Jeff Yore ("Yore"). (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 7.) Jake Sweeney ("Sweeney") was also employed with Aramark at the Parkway Center from approximately June 1998 to June 2000, serving as a General Manager with responsibility for operations. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 8.)

  Also relevant to this action are Kate Maney ("Maney") and Maria Araiza ("Araiza"). Maney is the Human Resources Director for the Midwest Region of Aramark, a position she has held since October 2000. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 5.) Her responsibilities include human resource matters relating to the Parkway Center. (Id.) Maria Araiza ("Araiza") is a Human Resources Administrator for Aramark, a position she has held since February 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 6.) Araiza reports to Maney. (Id.) Both Maney and Araiza have their offices located in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶¶ 5-6.) At no time during Myrick's employment was either Maney or Araiza aware of Myrick's race. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 77.)

  When hired Myrick performed catering and cashier work at the Parkway Center. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 9.) In October 1996, she was promoted to the position of bookkeeper. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 10.) As a bookkeeper her hours were from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 12.) Her duties included performing payroll functions, preparing certain weekly reports and handling and invoicing catering orders. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 13.) Myrick was the only bookkeeper assigned to the Parkway Center and received high scores on her evaluations. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 14; PL L.R. 56.1 ¶ 108.) After August 1998, Myrick began performing the job of "office manager" although she was still being paid as a bookkeeper. (Pl. Resp. to Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 13.) As office manager Myrick was performing the same job but also began ordering more office supplies. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 18.) She received high scores on her evaluations while serving as an office manager. (PL L.R. 56.1 ¶ 109.)

  Myrick became pregnant in October 2000 and was scheduled to deliver her baby on July 21, 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 21.)*fn3 She had complications with her pregnancy, including a fibroid tumor that was discovered in December 2000 and gestational diabetes diagnosed in January 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 22.) Myrick's physician during her pregnancy was Dr. Steven Portes ("Dr. Portes"). (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 23.) On April 22, 2001, Myrick went into premature labor. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 24.) The next day-April 23, 2001-Myrick saw Dr. Portes. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 25.) He advised Myrick that she could no longer work during her pregnancy. (Pl. Resp. to Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 25.) The last day Myrick worked at the Parkway Center was April 20, 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 26.)

  On April 23, 2001, Myrick called Yore from Dr. Fortes' office to notify him of her need for leave from work. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 27.) Yore contacted Araiza regarding Myrick's request for leave. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 28.) Araiza sent Yore a packet that included information on family and medical leave, a blank leave of absence form, and an FMLA "Certification of Health Care Provider" form. (Id.) Araiza instructed Yore to have Myrick complete the leave of absence form and to have her doctor complete the "Certification of Health Care Provider" form. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 29.) Araiza told Yore to return the forms to her when they were completed and advised that Myrick's leave likely would be covered under the FMLA, entitling her to up to 12 weeks of leave with guaranteed reinstatement if Myrick returned to work within that time. (Id.)

  Yore sent both the leave of absence and "Certification of Health Care Provider" forms to Myrick. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 30-31.) He informed Myrick that human resources had told him that she needed to complete both. (Id.) After receiving the leave of absence form Myrick signed it and returned it to Yore. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 33.) Accompanying the leave of absence form was a disability certificate that Dr. Fortes had signed. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 34.) This disability certificate indicated that Myrick would be unable to work from April 23, 2001 to "indefinite." (Id.) Moreover, the leave of absence form Myrick completed also stated that the start date of her leave would be April 23, 2001 and her anticipated return date would be "indefinite." (Def. L.R. 56.1 135.)

  Araiza received the completed leave of absence form from Yore in May 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 36.) After receiving the form, Araiza telephoned Yore and told him that she still needed to receive the completed "Certification of Health Care Provider" form for Myrick. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 37.) Yore told her that he had not yet received that form from Myrick but that he would forward it once he did. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 37.)

  Araiza placed the leave of absence form in the "for signature" file of Jim Miller, the Regional Vice President for Aramark. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 38.) On June 6, 2001, Miller signed the form in the box on the lower right hand side of the page titled "Second Level Management." (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 39.) He signed the form in this place because District Manager Chris Ferenc had already signed the form in the only other space available for "Second Level Management" signatures. (Id.) In signing the form Miller intended to approve the leave of absence for Myrick. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 40.) His signature fell into the "Leave Denied" column because there was no other space available on the form for him to sign his name. (Id.)

  Myrick later had Dr. portes complete the "Certification of Health Care Provider" form and Dr. portes' office faxed the completed form to Yore. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 42.) In late June 2001, Araiza received a facsimile from Yore containing the completed "Certification of Health Care Provider" form for Myrick. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 43.) This form was then given to Maney, who noticed that Myrick's leave began on April 23, 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 45.) Maney calculated Myrick's leave up to July 13, 2001, based on her knowledge that the FMLA provided 12 weeks of leave during a 12 month period. (Id.) Maney wrote "12 weeks up 7-13-01" on the bottom of the leave of absence form when she signed the form on July 10, 2001. (Id.)

  On June 2, 2001, Myrick's baby was delivered by caesarean section. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 46.) After her delivery, Dr. Fortes told Myrick that it would take 10 to 12 weeks for her body to heal externally and a year to heal internally. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 47.) Dr. portes specifically told Myrick that she could not return to work for 10 to 12 weeks. (Id.) Dr. portes never gave Myrick a note documenting her 10 to 12 week work restriction and Myrick never asked him for one. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 48.) Myrick called Yore on June 2 and left a voicemail message for him stating that her doctor told her that it would take 10 to 12 weeks for her body to heal. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 49.) Myrick explained this to Yore over the telephone upon reaching him on June 4, 2001. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 50.) Thereafter, Myrick did not attempt communication with Yore until the end of June or the beginning of July when she left a voicemail message for him explaining that she was still on bed rest. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 52.) Myrick had previously received Aramark's Midwest Business Services Hourly Employee Handbook and appendix. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 57.) While on her leave, but prior to her termination, Myrick read the Family and Medical Leave policy contained within that handbook. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 58.) The Family and Medical Leave section of the handbook stated,
Employees who return to work from a family leave of absence within or on the first scheduled day following the expiration of the 12 weeks are entitled to return to their job or an equivalent position without loss of benefit pay.
(Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 59.) Aramark's ...

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