Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hennessy v. University of Chicago

February 26, 2008

CAROL HENNESSY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before this court on Defendant University of Chicago's ("University") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Carol Hennessy ("Hennessy") alleges that she began working for the University in 1978. She contends that she performed her work satisfactorily and ultimately became the Department Secretary for the University's Department of East Asian Languages and Civilization ("EALC Department"), which is in the Humanities Division of the University. According to Hennessy, on January 17, 2005, Defendant Danielle Allen ("Allen"), an employee of the University, issued Hennessy termination papers indicating that Hennessy's employment was being terminated and that she was part of a pre-determined group being let go under a "layoff" and "reduction in workforce" plan. (Compl. Par. 20(a)). Hennessy claims that she was the most senior person in the pre-determined group. After Hennessy's employment was terminated, Allen allegedly created a new position to fill the gap left by Hennessy's former position. Hennessy claims that after her employment was terminated she applied for the new positions and the University denied her applications. Hennessy contends that the University terminated her employment and refused to rehire her because of her age. Hennessy includes in her complaint a claim alleging age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. On May 16, 2007, we granted Allen's motion to dismiss the claim brought against Allen. The University now moves for summary judgment on the termination and failure to hire claims brought against the University.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment, the moving party must identify "those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

A plaintiff bringing an ADEA claim can seek to defeat a defendant's motion for summary judgment under either the direct method of proof or the indirect method of proof. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.Com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007). Hennessy does not argue that she can prevail under the direct method of proof, but argues that she can prevail under the indirect method of proof. (Ans. 3-4).

I. Direct Method of Proof

Under the direct method of proof, a plaintiff can point to evidence of "near- admissions by [the defendant employer] that its decisions were based on a proscribed criterion," or "sufficient circumstantial evidence in the record to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact." Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490-91. Hennessy has not argued that she can prevail under the direct method of proof. We agree that she has not presented direct evidence of discrimination or sufficient circumstantial evidence to proceed under the direct method of proof for either her termination claim or her failure to hire claim and she must proceed under the indirect method of proof.

II. Indirect Method of Proof

Hennessy contends that she can prevail under the indirect method of proof for each of her claims. Under the indirect method of proof, a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Id. at 492. If a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to present a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the action. Id. If the employer presents such a reason, the plaintiff must show that the given reason is a pretext. Id.

A. Termination from Position

Hennessy contends that the University stated that it was terminating her employment because of a "reduction in workforce" plan, but alleges that the University was actually terminating her employment because of her age. (Compl. Par. 20(a)). For a reduction in work force ADEA claim, in order to establish a prima facie case, a plaintiff must show that: (1) she "'is a member of a protected class,'" (2) she "'was performing [her] job satisfactorily,'" (3) she "'suffered a materially adverse employment action,'" and (4) her "'job duties were absorbed by employees who were not members of [her] protected class.'" Id. (quoting Johal v. Little Lady Foods, Inc., 434 F.3d 943, 946 (7th Cir. 2006)). In ADEA cases based upon an employment termination, the Seventh Circuit has also stated that the fourth prong of the prima facie case requires a plaintiff to show that "similarly situated employees outside of her protected class were treated more favorably by the employer." Ptasznik v. St. Joseph Hosp., 464 F.3d 691, 696 (7th Cir. 2006). The University concedes in regards to Hennessy's termination, that Hennessy is a member of a protected class, that she was meeting the University's legitimate employment expectations, and that she suffered a material adverse employment action. (SJ Mem. 8). The University contends, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.