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Gill v. North Greene Unit School District No. 3

December 5, 2007

SHARON GILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTH GREENE UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 3, AND VICKI VANTUYLE, SUPERINTENDENT, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment (d/e 7 & 8). Plaintiff Sharon Gill (Gill) was a teacher employed by Defendant North Greene Unit School District No. 3 (District). Gill alleges that Defendants refused to pay her health insurance premiums while she was on unpaid leave because of her gender and her age, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. All parties ask for summary judgment. Gill asks for oral argument on the cross-motions. The parties have briefed the matter sufficiently, so oral argument is not necessary. Defendant Vicki VanTuyle is entitled to summary judgment because Title VII and ADEA claims can only be brought against the employer. The District employed Gill, not VanTuyle. VanTuyle was the Superintendent of the District. Otherwise, issues of fact preclude summary judgment for either party. Thus, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 8) is denied, and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 7) is allowed in part.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Gill is a woman. She was born on April 17, 1943. In the 2003-04 school year, Gill worked as a teacher for the District. She stopped working on March 18, 2004, because she suffered from an adrenal insufficiency and chronic fatigue syndrome. She used up her sick days on April 6, 2004. Thereafter, she was on unpaid leave for the rest of the school year.

Gill provided the District with a handwritten note from her doctor dated May 19, 2004, which stated: "Anticipate return to work August /2004." Plaintiff's Reply to Defendant's Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 14) (Plaintiff's Reply), Exhibit H, Collected Notes Regarding Work Status. In August 2004, Gill provided another handwritten note from her doctor which stated: "Please excuse from work. Last office visit 8/13/04. Next office visit 9/2/04." Id. Thereafter, Gill provided VanTuyle with memos periodically informing VanTuyle that Gill's physician had not released her to return to work. Id. In August 2006, Gill's doctor provided a handwritten note to the District that stated: "Pt. is medically unable to return to teaching duties at this time." Id. None of the notes and memoranda stated the diagnosis of Gill's medical condition, her prognosis, or any other medical information. Gill provided no other documentation of the nature or extent of her illness. Gill states that the District never asked for such information. Plaintiff's Reply, Exhibit M, Affidavit of Sharon Gill, ¶ 11.

In June 2004, Gill qualified to receive Temporary Disability Payments from the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System (TRS). The Temporary Disability Payments were effective from April 18, 2004. Gill continued to receive Temporary Disability Payments until she retired on September 23, 2006. She never returned to work for the District.

The District paid for Gill's health insurance through September 30, 2004. In September 2004, Defendant VanTuyle sent Gill a letter, which stated, in part:

The district, therefore, needs to be informed in writing of your desire to return to work on a specific date, to resign, to retire, to request leave for temporary or permanent disability or to request Family Medical Leave Act leave. The specific nature of your request is necessary to determine how your health insurance is to be handled. It is not the district's intention to interrupt employee insurance coverage, but the district paid insurance contribution, precisely like salary, must be earned by the employee having performed service to the district.

Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit 4. Gill responded with a memo to VanTuyle dated September 14, 2007. The memo stated, in part:

As per our telephone conversation on August 24, 2004, I will not be retiring or resigning at this time. I feel it should be apparent that I am on temporary disability since your office completed the papers for the TRS disability.

As further stated to you, neither my doctor nor I can give you the exact date I will be returning to work. You were informed that I have an appointment with my primary care physician on September 30, 2004 and that after this visit I would let you know the status of my returning to work.

Id., Exhibit 5.

VanTuyle responded with a letter dated September 14, 2004. The body of the letter stated:

Dear Sharon:

Thank you for your memo of September 14, 2004. Our view is that you are on a leave of absence without pay.

If you wish to continue insurance coverage, you must pay $495.10 by October 1, 2004 or you will be terminated from coverage effective October 1, 2004.

Id., Exhibit 6. Gill paid the insurance premiums from October 2004 until July 2005. Gill was no longer covered by the District's insurance after that date.

On May 3, 2005, Gill received an Intake Questionnaire from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the mail. She had requested the form to complain about the District's decision to stop paying her health insurance premiums. Plaintiff's Reply, Exhibit M, Affidavit of Sharon Gill, ¶ 4. She filled out the Intake Questionnaire. She included her name, address, Social Security Number, and the name and address of the District. She stated on the form that she believed she was discriminated against because of her age, disability, and sex. She described her situation as follows:

I became ill in March, 2004. The school district notified me that as of Oct. 1, 2004, they would no longer pay my health insurance and that I would be responsible for paying the premiums. Previously they had paid the insurance for Paul Rister, an employee, during his entire sick leave.

Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 10), Exhibit K, Intake Questionnaire. She signed the Intake Questionnaire on May 3, 2005, and mailed it to the EEOC on May 4, 2005. Plaintiff's Reply, Exhibit M, Affidavit of Sharon Gill, ¶ 4. The EEOC stamped the Intake Questionnaire as received on May 5, 2005. On July 15, 2005, Gill received from the EEOC by mail five copies of the typed Charge of Discrimination. She signed the typed forms and returned them on July 17, 2005. Id., ¶ 8. The EEOC issued her a right-to-sue letter on April 27, 2006. Complaint (d/e 1), Exhibit B. She filed this action on July 26, 2006.

During discovery, Gill submitted an interrogatory to the District which asked for information regarding its policy regarding the payment of health insurance premiums for teachers on unpaid leave who were receiving Temporary Disability Payments from TRS. The Defendants responded:

While Defendant had no policy directly pertaining to the payment of teachers' health insurance premiums while they were on disability leave, several provisions in Board Policy, as well as the Professional Negotiations Agreement between the Board of Education of North Greene Unit District No. 3 and the North Greene Education Association Local #3818 IFT/AFT-AFL/CIO, speak to issues involving leaves of absence and the health insurance benefits for District employees. Attached to this Response as Exhibit No. 1 are copies of Board Policies 5:180, 5:185, 5:250 and Articles 6.6 and 9.1 from the Professional Negotiations Agreement.

Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 9) (Plaintiff's Memorandum), Exhibit B, Answers to Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories to Defendant North Greene Unit School District #3, Answer to Interrogatory 9(a).

The attached documents, to which the District referred in the quoted answer to the interrogatory, say little about health insurance. Policy 5:180 discusses sick leave, but does not mention health insurance benefits. Policy 5:185 discusses eligibility for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 29 U.S.C. ยง 2601 et seq. This Policy states, in part: "During a family and medical leave, employees are entitled to continuation of health benefits that would have been provided if they were working." Id., Policy 5:185, at 2. Policy 5:250 discusses various types of leaves of absence, but does not mention health insurance benefits. Article 6.6 of the Professional Negotiations Agreement between the Board of Education of North Greene Unit District No. 3 and the North Greene Education Association Local #3818 IFT/AFT-AFL/CIO (CBA) obligates the District to provide health insurance for covered employees. The section states, in part: "Effective September 1998, and for the remaining life of this Agreement, the Board shall pay to the insurance carrier an amount equal to the single ...


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