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RIORDAN v. J.C. WHITNEY CO.

August 13, 2004.

DENNIS RIORDAN, Plaintiff,
v.
J.C. WHITNEY CO., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUZANNE CONLON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Dennis Riordan sues J.C. Whitney Co. for retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").*fn1 Riordan claims he opposed unlawful discrimination and was terminated by Whitney in retaliation for his protected conduct. Whitney denies that it engaged in retaliation and states that Riordan was terminated as part of a financially necessary reduction in force. Whitney moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

BACKGROUND

  I. Local Rule 56.1

  Local Rule 56.1 requires litigants to follow a detailed procedure in filing and responding to summary judgment motions. Riordan has failed to comply with Local Rule 56.1(b)(3); he did not respond to Whitney's Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement of undisputed material facts. Whitney's undisputed facts are therefore deemed admitted. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003); L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). This admission severely penalizes Riordan, for the court must depart from its usual posture of construing all facts in his favor. Waffer v. Indian Creek Ranch Club, Inc., No. 99C6413, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9008, at *3 (N.D. Ill. June 20, 2000), quoting, Johnson v. Gudmundsson, 35 F.3d 1104, 1108 (7th Cir. 1994). The court will not consider any facts contradicting Whitney's Rule 56.1 statement. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 425-26 (7th Cir. 1997). Summary judgment will only be granted, however, if Whitney demonstrates there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Davis v. Con-Way Transp. Cent. Express, Inc., 368 F.3d 776, 782 (7th Cir. 2004).

  II. Facts

  All facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Whitney is a direct marketer of automobile parts and accessories. On October 23, 1995, Whitney hired Riordan as its inventory control manager.

  In the Fall of 2000, Riordan had lunch with Carol Warshawsky, chair of Whitney's board of directors. According to Riordan, Warshawsky wished to discuss: (1) employees' understanding of company objectives; and (2) morale and cultural differences between Whitney's LaSalle and Chicago facilities. Warshawsky has no recollection of discussing these topics with Riordan.

  In response to issues raised at the lunch meeting, on October 18, 2000, Riordan sent Warshawsky an e-mail regarding communication of corporate objectives. Riordan sent Warshawsky a second e-mail on November 3, 2000, which noted "the remarkable attrition that has occurred of recent." Def. Mem. Ex. I. The November 3, 2000 e-mail attached three documents. The first document detailed Riordan's perception of Whitney's strengths and weaknesses and included a statement that "the management team is not diverse — relatively few women and minority managers, fewer women and minority directors, no non-owner executive team members who are women or minorities." Def. Mem. Ex. I. Riordan did not know the number of women or minorities who held managerial titles when he prepared this list. The second document listed "Key Departures in the Last 24 Months — Chicago Only." Def. Mem. Ex. I. The list included the names and job titles of several former employees who either voluntarily quit or were terminated, but did not identify the races or sexes of the individuals. According to Whitney, of the twenty-eight individuals listed, eleven were women and one was non-caucasian. The final document listed "CARS Original Core Team Members of 10/97," including the names of team members and their employment status. Def. Mem. Ex. I. Riordan asserts these e-mails provided Warshawsky with concrete examples of minorities and women who quit or were terminated from the Chicago facility.

  In 2001, Whitney adjusted its business processes in order to generate sales, increase productivity and reduce costs. Economic considerations led to a series of layoffs and position eliminations. In January and February 2001, six people were terminated. Riordan was not terminated at this time. Indeed, Riordan was promoted in January 2001 to director of merchandise support and his salary increased from $85,000 to $88,000. In April 2001, seven employees were terminated. Riordan was not terminated as part of this April reduction, although three employees from his department were terminated and at least one departmental position was eliminated. As a result, Riordan assumed additional job responsibilities and his salary was increased from $88,000 to $91,000. Ten more employees were terminated between May and August 2001. On October 11, 2001, Tim Ford, Whitney's president and CEO, issued a memorandum to all employees outlining Whitney's financial woes in light of the 9-11 terrorist attacks and its intended cost-cutting measures, including further layoffs. In Riordan's department, Eugene Geiger, vice-president of merchandising and Riordan's supervisor, reduced spending and consolidated three director level positions into two. Geiger assessed the three directors and determined Riordan's duties could be assumed by the other two directors. Geiger recommended, and Ford approved, elimination of Riordan's position. Consequently, Riordan was one of twenty employees terminated on October 11, 2001.

  Neither Ford nor Geiger knew of Riordan's e-mails to Warshawsky when the decision was made to terminate Riordan. Although Warshawsky received Riordan's two e-mails, she did not discuss or forward them to others. As chair of the board of directors, Warshawsky had no direct role in the formulation of departmental plans for cost-cutting or the decisions regarding job consolidation or elimination.

  DISCUSSION

  I. Standard of Review

  Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving papers and affidavits show there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); King v. Nat'l Human Res. Comm., Inc., 218 F.3d 719, 723 (7th Cir. 2000). Once a moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(e); Silk v. City of Chicago, 194 F.3d 788, 798 (7th Cir. 1999). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return ...


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