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Williams v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections

March 9, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") (Doc. 10). Plaintiff Paul A. Williams ("Williams") has responded to the motion (Doc. 14), and IDOC has replied to that response (Doc. 15).

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396. This standard is applied with special scrutiny in cases that turn on issues of intent and credibility. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000). Where the moving party fails to meet its strict burden of proof, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Michas, 209 F.3d at 692. Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; accord Michas, 209 F.3d at 692.

II. Facts

Viewed in the light most favorable to and drawing all inferences in favor of Williams, the evidence establishes the following relevant facts.

Since 2000, Williams worked as a youth supervisor for IDOC at the Illinois Youth Correctional Facility in Murphysboro, Illinois ("IYC-Murphysboro"). During his employment, Williams had always performed his job in a satisfactory manner and, although there were times he was unhappy working there, in the fall of 2004 Williams was happy in his job.

Williams's employment with IDOC was governed by a collective bargaining agreement. To implement rights guaranteed under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., the collective bargaining agreement provided for Family Responsibility Leave for up to one year. An employee requesting Family Responsibility Leave was required to request the leave in writing reasonably in advance of the leave unless it was an emergency and to provide the purpose of the leave and the expected duration of the absence. On at least two occasions, IDOC gave Williams a packet explaining his rights under the FMLA.

In the fall of 2004, Williams's mother became ill from kidney failure, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, and in October 2004 on her doctor's advice, Williams determined that he needed to care for her in her Ohio home for an undetermined period of time. His sister had been caring for her up until that time, but she was in the middle of a career change and needed to devote more time to her new career and less time to caring for their mother.

On November 1, 2004, Williams met with Warden William Kilquist ("Kilquist") and told him that his mother was very sick and might have to go on kidney dialysis and that her doctor had said she needed constant care. Williams told Kilquist he felt he needed to take leave from work to be with her. Because Williams did not have sufficient leave time accrued to take the leave he needed, Kilquist told him his only option was to resign. Kilquist also told Williams that he would provide a positive letter of recommendation and that his job at the IYC-Murphysboro would be there for him if he ever wanted to return. Neither Williams nor Kilquist mentioned Family Responsibility Leave or the FMLA.

Relying on Kilquist's assessment of his options, on November 2, 2004, Williams turned in his resignation letter stating that his resignation would be effective November 15, 2004, the end of the pay period. The letter did not mention that Williams was resigning to care for his ailing mother. IDOC human resources representative Pam Wilkey ("Wilkey") completed the necessary forms, indicating that Williams was resigning in order to move to Ohio, and forwarded Williams's letter and the paperwork to IDOC's central office for processing. That evening, Williams reviewed his employee handbook and was reminded of his rights under the FMLA.

The following day, November 3, 2004, Williams met with Wilkey and orally requested that his resignation be withdrawn and that he be allowed to take leave under the FMLA. Wilkey told him it was too late to rescind his resignation because the paperwork had already been sent to the central office and that it was too late to request FMLA leave. Williams never submitted any written request for Family Responsibility Leave or leave under the FMLA and never disclosed to Kilquist or Wilkey details about his mother's illness other than that she might have to go on dialysis.

Although it is unclear when IDOC received Williams's resignation and when the IDOC director finally approved it, IDOC's central office actually entered Williams's resignation in ...

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