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SCHREIBER v. CHICAGO MERCANTILE EXCHANGE

November 12, 2004.

KATHLEEN SCHREIBER, Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO MERCANTILE EXCHANGE, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRY LEINENWEBER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case arises out of Defendant Chicago Mercantile Exchange's (the "CME") termination of Plaintiff Kathleen Schreiber's employment while Schreiber was on Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave. Before the Court is CME's Motion for Summary Judgment, which is GRANTED.

I. INTRODUCTION

  The following facts are either undisputed or taken in the light most favorable to the non-movant. In 1985, Schreiber began her employment as a secretary for CME, a futures exchange. After several promotions, Schreiber became the Corporate Communications Representative of the Corporate Communications Division (the "Division") in 1997, a position that she held until her termination in September 2003. While in such position, Schreiber reported to William Burks, the Associate Director of Corporate Relations, who in turn reported to Ellen Resnick, Director of Corporate Relations. The Division falls within the larger umbrella of the Corporate Relations Department (the "Department").

  A. Schreiber's FMLA Leaves

  Schreiber took two FMLA leaves during her tenure at CME. Her first FMLA leave was in August 2000 for the birth of a child. Schreiber returned to CME after a twelve-week leave in November 2000. Schreiber suffered no adverse employment actions as a result of taking FMLA leave. In fact, Resnick, who had previously taken maternity leave herself, reacted happily to Schreiber's maternity news, hugging Schreiber and expressing excitement for her. (D. SOF ¶ 9).

  In late December 2002 or early January 2003, Schreiber announced to the employees in the Division that she was pregnant again and would be taking another FMLA leave. In March 2003, Schreiber met with CME's Employee Benefits Manager regarding her request for FMLA leave, who explained CME's FMLA benefit plan to Schreiber. In addition to the full twelve-weeks of FMLA leave, Schreiber requested an additional two weeks of vacation prior to the start date of her FMLA leave. CME granted her request. Schreiber began vacation in late June 2003, and she gave birth to her baby in early July. She was scheduled to return to her job on September 24, 2003. Schreiber acknowledged that "[a]t no point did anyone at CME suggest . . . that her job could be in jeopardy if she took FMLA leave, nor did anyone ask her to perform any job duties while on leave." (D. SOF ¶ 37).

  B. CME's Organization and IPO

  Prior to December 2002, CME operated as a private company. In December 2002, CME undertook an initial public offering (the "IPO"). In preparation for the IPO, CME embarked on various changes to reorganize and upgrade the Division, including hiring Anita Liskey as Director of Corporate Communications to oversee the Division. At this time, the Division consisted of eight employees under Resnick, including: Liskey; Burks; Schreiber; Thielen, the Associate Director of Corporate and Financial Communications; Kosin, the Manager of Broadcast Communications; Bongat, the Production Assistant of Broadcast Communications; Love, the Clips Production Editor; and Stevenson, the Assistant to the Director. The Division was "fairly cross-functional, meaning that the Division members provided back-up support for each other in many areas." (D. SOF ¶ 26). Schreiber, Resnick, Burks and Thielen had all taken FMLA leave or other maternity leave during their tenure at CME. See id. ¶¶ 93, 113-14.

  In 2003, Schreiber mainly performed administrative duties and back-up tasks that were also shared by other employees in the Division, such as answering calls, escorting media, and disseminating press releases. Schreiber also had certain duties assigned specifically to her, but CME planned to eliminate several of such tasks, including the quarterly agricultural teleconferences, MercWide internal newspaper, and daily agricultural commodities update. (D. SOF ¶¶ 17-20). Resnick testified that Schreiber "was not that busy a lot of the time," (Resnick Dep. at 71), and Liskey attested that Schreiber "did not have enough work to keep her busy on a consistent basis." (Liskey Aff. ¶ 9). Schreiber herself testified that in 2003 "sometimes it was really busy and sometimes it wasn't." (Schreiber Dep. at 76). Schreiber was not reprimanded or otherwise disciplined during her tenure at CME. (Pl. ASOF ¶ 61).

  Over the spring of 2003, the Department continued with its reorganization plans. Resnick and Liskey met with the Director of Organizational Development (collectively, the "Directors") to evaluate whether the job positions and employees within the Division performed to the level required of a newly public company. The Directors continued to meet over spring and summer and conducted strategy meetings aimed at elevating the performance of the Division. The Directors concluded that the Division needed "a stronger writing team and a more sophisticated knowledge of the CME product." (D. SOF ¶ 37). In response, Resnick and Liskey worked with the Organizational Development Department to construct a new organizational chart, and as a result, CME eventually added the following positions: Manager of Product Communications, Manager of Technology Communications, Senior Writer, and Production Assistant. (D. SOF ¶ 37). CME also eliminated Schreiber's Representative position. Liskey attested that:
when we performed the restructuring analysis, it was apparent that Schreiber simply did not have enough to do, that her job duties could be easily shifted to others who were either more skilled (i.e., Thielen and Burks), or in lower-level administrative positions (i.e., Stevenson), and that she did not have the skill set to move into another open position. These factors, and nothing related to her leave, motivated the decision to eliminate her position and terminate her employment.
(Liskey Aff. ¶ 37). Although the Directors attempted to fit their existing personnel into the new organizational chart, they did not assign Schreiber to one of the new positions.

  Liskey contacted Schreiber on September 22, 2003 and requested that she come to the office for a meeting. At that time, Liskey informed her that the Division was going through a reorganization and that her position had been eliminated. The next day, Liskey and CME's Associate Director of Human Resources called Schreiber and further explained that, due to the reorganization, her position was eliminated effective immediately. During the telephone conversation, they explained CME's severance package, which generally included six months of salary and COBRA coverage, outplacement services, and a no-rehire provision which CME later agreed to modify to a one-year provision. On September 25, 2003, Schreiber received a letter memorializing the telephone conversation, which explained: [CME] management had analyzed the staffing levels in the department to optimize performance, determined that the Corporate Communications Representative position did not require full-time attention, and decided to eliminate the position and discontinue or distribute the duties of that position to other employees.

 (D. SOF ¶ 48). Schreiber admitted that she had no reason to believe that any of the statements in the letter were untrue. (Schreiber Dep. at 132-134).

  After Schreiber's position was eliminated, others in the Department absorbed her job duties, including Stevenson, Burks, Resnick, Thielen, Liskey, and Love. (D. SOF ¶ 49). Although people in the Division became more busy, Burks testified that his workdays did not get any longer as a ...


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