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Moennich v. Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority

August 6, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall


Susan Moennich ("Moennich") sued her former employer, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority ("MPEA"), alleging that MPEA discriminated against her based on her gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (2006). MPEA has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, MPEA's motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.


Moennich was employed by MPEA from 1986 through 2001. She started in the Security and Safety Department, became an Assistant Construction Manager, and eventually became a Development Manager. In 1997, Moennich was promoted to Assistant Director of FOCUS One, a new department within the MPEA that handled electrical and plumbing issues as well as customer service. Overall, FOCUS One provided utility services such as plumbing, communications and electrical services for exhibitors at the Navy Pier and McCormick Place.

As Assistant Director, Moennich was responsible for training in the department and for order processing and placement. Her supervisor was Henry Walder ("Walder"), who was the Senior Director of Development/FOCUS One.

Through her employment with the MPEA, Moennich became acquainted with Freeman Companies ("Freeman"), a company that sets up trade shows and conventions in major convention centers throughout the United States and Canada. In the summer of 2001, Moennich told Joyce Rosinski, the Vice President and General Manager of Freeman, that her retirement benefits were vested with MPEA and that she was interested in a position at Freeman. Freeman created a new position for her, which would consist of conducting research, overseeing projects, and working with customers. On August 31, 2001, Freeman memorialized its offer of employment in writing and Moennich accepted.

On September 1, 2001, Moennich submitted a letter of resignation to MPEA, indicating that she was taking a position with another company and that her last day in the office would be September 14, 2001. She indicated she would be on vacation the weeks of September 17 and September 24 and that she would start her new job on October 1, 2001.

On September 6, 2001, MPEA Chief Executive Fawell announced that Walder would transition from Senior Director of Development/FOCUS One to oversee the McCormick Place expansion and that David Causton ("Causton") would work with FOCUS One during the transition period. Causton oversaw the day to day operations of FOCUS One from September 6, 2001 until November 30, 2001.

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Freeman experienced a loss of business. Robert Lozier, the executive vice president of Freeman, called Moennich and informed her that he anticipated layoffs within the company and that he did not think he could guarantee her job beyond December. However, Freeman did not withdraw its offer of employment to Moennich at the time.

Moennich spoke to Walder about returning to MPEA. There is significant dispute about the conditions of her return. MPEA asserts Moennich was allowed to return for two months. Walder testified that he spoke to Causton about allowing Moennich to return on a temporary basis to assist with the E-Commerce project, which she had been working on prior to her resignation. Causton agreed to allow her to work on the E-Commerce project for two months. However, Moennich contends she was being allowed to return permanently; she avers that Walder told her to "say she is back for a while and working on special projects. . . . Then after she is back noone [sic] would notice and she should just stay." Pl.'s Statement of Facts 8. It is undisputed that on October 1, 2001, Causton and Gloria Jackson, the Customer Service manager, met with Moennich. Causton averred that he and Jackson explained to her that her assignment was to work on the E-Commerce project, which would last for approximately two months. Def.'s Statement of Facts 56. Moennich admits that the meeting occurred but denies that Causton and Jackson told her the project would last only two months.

On October 3, 2001, Moennich wrote Tanya Navratil, the Assistant Director of Human Resources at MPEA, a letter stating that she was rescinding her resignation and that there should be no lapse in employment or benefits. There is no evidence that Navratil responded to Moennich's letter at the time.

That same day, Yolanda Green wrote Causton an e-mail requesting clarification regarding Moennich's position, stating, "I was under the impression that she was here to work on special projects." Def.'s Ex. 22. On October 9, Causton responded:

[L]et me be clear. Susan [sic] role is to only be involved in handling the e-commerce site project. She will be here for two months and then go to work for Freeman. I ...

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