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Weinand v. Dep't of Veteran's Affairs of the State of Illinois

June 22, 2007

RONALD J. WEINAND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERAN'S AFFAIRS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Department of Veteran's Affairs of the State of Illinois' (Department) Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 36) (Defendant's Motion). Plaintiff Ronald J. Weinand brings this action alleging that the Department discriminated against him on account of gender as to the payment of wages, in violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA), 29 U.S.C. § 206 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. For the reasons stated infra, the Department's Motion for Summary Judgment is ALLOWED.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

On April 1, 1990, Weinand began working as a staff pharmacist at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, Illinois (Veterans Home), and was hired at Step 7 on the pay scale, the highest pay step available for the staff pharmacist position at that time. Defendant's Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 37) (Defendant's Mem.), Exh. 17, Special Salary Request for Weinand. Weinand continued to be paid at Step 7 until June 2000. Prior to assuming the position of staff pharmacist, beginning in November 1976, Weinand worked on a contractual basis as a pharmacist at the Veterans Home. He also served on the pharmacy and therapeutics committee at the Veterans Home during the 1980s. While working as a staff pharmacist at the Veterans Home, Weinand reported directly to Edwin Kerr, the Medical Director at the Veterans Home. Weinand was not authorized to supervise any employees since he was in a collective bargaining unit. However, he was the staff pharmacist in charge at the Veterans Home, and in that capacity he reported improprieties to the State of Illinois.

Weinand holds a bachelor of pharmacy degree from St. Louis College of Pharmacy, which was awarded in 1968. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 38) (Plaintiff's Response), Excerpts from Deposition of Ronald Weinand (Weinand Dep.), at 14-15. After obtaining his degree in pharmacy, Weinand also became a member of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists and took various courses, including a college computer course, to become educated in chart review and institutional pharmacy. Id. at 17. Weinand was a licensed pharmacist in both the State of Illinois and the State of Missouri. Id. at 19.

The staff pharmacists employed at the Department are represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is responsible for negotiating salary ranges and pay steps on behalf of the staff pharmacists statewide. From 1990 until July 2002, there were seven pay steps available for the staff pharmacist position at the Department. On July 1, 2000, as a result of negotiations with AFSCME, the State of Illinois implemented new salary ranges and pay steps for staff pharmacists. The purpose of the July 2000 salary reconfiguration was to allow staff pharmacists (who were capped at Step 7) the opportunity to receive a general increase and step increases in the future. Michael D. Murphy (who was the Division Manager of the Division of Technical Services at the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, from 1986 until November 2002) attests in his Affidavit that the July 2000 salary reconfiguration was due in part to "the longstanding and continued difficulty agencies had in recruiting pharmacists to work for the State at the existing pay levels and the significant gap between the available pay ranges within the State pay structure and the compensation for pharmacists in the private sector." Defendant's Mem., Exh. 15, Affidavit of Michael D. Murphy (Murphy Aff.), ¶ 5. Murphy further attests in his Affidavit that, prior to the July 2000 salary reconfiguration, "individuals in the position whose salaries were at Step 7 [(including Weinand)] were unable to receive pay increases by moving to a higher step, since employees were required to be paid at one of the steps in the range." Id. at ¶ 6. As a consequence of the July 2000 reconfiguration, staff pharmacists who were at Step 7 of the pay scale were moved to a step lower than 7 in order to enable them to earn step increases in the future. Id. at ¶ 7. Following the July 2000 salary reconfiguration, Weinand's salary, which was at Step 7 of the applicable salary range before the reevaluation, "fell at Step 4 of the [newly adjusted] salary range for the Staff Pharmacist position." Defendant's Mem., at 6. Under the pay scale implemented in July 2000, Weinand received not only a general pay increase, but also an increase in his pay step from Step 4 to Step 5.

According to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) Pay Plan (applicable to state agencies under the jurisdiction of the Governor, including the Department), an individual is normally hired at Step 1c of the salary grade. Plaintiff's Response, Exh. 6, CMS Pay Plan. Under the Pay Plan, an entry salary higher than Step 1c requires proper documentation establishing qualifications above the minimum requirements, and an entry salary higher than Step 3 requires approval from the Director of CMS. Id.

The Department was not only having problems retaining its staff pharmacists, but also in recruiting individuals for the staff pharmacist position at the Veterans Home. In 1998, Warren Winston was hired as a staff pharmacist at the highest available pay step (namely, Step 7), but he left the employ of the Department on April 27, 1999. In 1999, Wesley Zander was hired as a staff pharmacist at Step 7, but he left the employ of the Department on May 31, 2000. In order to fill the vacant staff pharmacist position following Zander's departure, the Department attempted to recruit individuals to fill the vacancy, but to no avail. Weinand was aware that the Department had difficulties recruiting individuals for the staff pharmacist position at the Veterans Home and so he actively participated in the Department's recruitment efforts. Ronald Frillman (Administrator of the Veterans Home from approximately 1998 until 2002) acknowledged the Department's retention and recruiting problems.

It took the Department almost one year to recruit an individual for the vacant staff pharmacist position (namely, Julie Huseman). According to Weinand, he informed Huseman's father, whom he had known since college, about the opening for the staff pharmacist position at the Department. Weinand stated that Huseman thereafter talked to him about the job opening. Huseman applied for the staff pharmacist position and was invited for an interview, which occurred in late January 2001. The interview was conducted by Frillman and Sharon Hendricks, Head of the Personnel Department at the Veterans Home.

At the interview, Huseman stated that she was particularly interested in the position because of "the hours and the time off that the position allowed" and the "mission of the Veterans Home". Plaintiff's Response, Excerpts from Deposition of Julie Huseman (Huseman Dep.), at 24. She also noted, "the salary wasn't as important to me." Id. At the time of her interview with the Department, Huseman had been a licensed pharmacist for approximately four months and was anticipating a doctorate degree in pharmacy from St. Louis College of Pharmacy. The staff pharmacist position did not require a doctorate degree in pharmacy, however.

The accounts of Huseman and her interviewers (namely, Frillman and Hendricks) differ regarding the discussion of salary during and after the interview. According to Huseman, during the interview Frillman asked whether a salary of $35,000.00 would be acceptable to her. Huseman Dep., at 26. In response, she stated that she could not justify that and that her husband would not allow her to take the job for that salary. Id. Huseman stated that she did not recall any other discussion concerning salary during the interview. Id. Huseman stated that, shortly following her interview, she received an offer letter from the Veterans Home, which noted an annual salary of $72,000.00. Id. at 27. She stated that she accepted the offer. Id. Shortly after Huseman's acceptance of the Department's offer, Huseman was told that Hendricks wanted her to stop by the Veterans Home because the Department was unable to offer her the salary mentioned in the offer letter. Id. at 42.

Huseman stated that she went to see Hendricks at the Veterans Home on or about March 18, 2007, at which time she was told that there had been a mistake and that the Department was unable to give her the salary noted in the letter. Huseman was further informed at the meeting that the Department would be able to offer a salary that would be $10,000.00 or $15,000.00 lower than the salary agreed upon in the letter. Id. at 44-45. Sometime before April 1, 2001, Huseman wrote a letter to Senator Donahue seeking her assistance in resolving the salary issue with the Department and in preventing such incidents from occurring in the future. Huseman Dep., at 53.*fn1 According to Huseman, sometime prior to April 1, 2001, Frillman contacted Huseman, informing her that "he was in Springfield and [that] he was trying to straighten out what had gone wrong and wanted to know more about [her] academic credentials." Id. at 57. Huseman stated in her deposition that Frillman knew her academic credentials when he interviewed her back in late January 2001. Id.

Hendricks' account of the salary discussion is as follows. Hendricks testified that she and Frillman had a meeting to determine Huseman's salary.*fn2 She stated that she advised Frillman "what the market was" and recommended a salary figure that would be acceptable to Huseman. Plaintiff's Response, Excerpts from Deposition of Sharon Hendricks (Hendricks Dep.), at 37-38. She stated that Frillman would have then instructed her to prepare a special salary request to CMS to hire Huseman at "a higher salary than an interim salary." Id. at 38. Hendricks testified that the Veterans Home submitted a salary request to CMS on behalf of Huseman on February 21, 2001. Id. at 42. Hendricks said that she did not have a copy of the February 2001 salary request form, but indicated that it would be in Huseman's personnel file. Id. at 43, 47. Hendricks testified that, due to a clerical error in the February 2001 salary request, another salary request was submitted to CMS, seeking permission to hire Huseman at Step 7, which was equivalent to a monthly salary of $5,684.00.*fn3 Hendricks did not recall discussing, with Frillman, hiring Huseman at Step 6, rather than Step 7. Id. at 47.

Frillman's account of the discussion of Huseman's starting salary during and after the interview is as follows. Frillman, who had the authority to offer Huseman any amount of salary within the applicable pay range, stated that Hendricks would have made an oral offer to Huseman at a salary he had approved. Plaintiff's Response, Excerpts from Deposition of Ronald Frillman (Frillman Dep.), at 39. Frillman testified that following the oral offer, Hendricks informed him that there was a discrepancy between the amount of salary offered orally and the amount noted in the paperwork. Id. at 37. He stated that he believed that the amount of salary offered orally was higher than what was stated in the paperwork. Id. He stated that he believed the salary offered orally was $5,684.00. Id. at 49. Frillman testified that Senator Donahue ...


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