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Hinko v. Schindler Elevator Corp.

May 23, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge


Plaintiff Thomas Hinko is a mechanic who has worked for several elevator and escalator companies throughout his career. At age 54, Hinko lost his job with defendant Schindler Elevator Corporation, which told him that due to economic reasons, it had to reduce its work force. Contending that Schindler fired him based on his age, Hinko sued Schindler for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination Employment Act (the "ADEA"). Schindler's motion for summary judgment on Hinko's age discrimination claim is before the court. Because Hinko has failed to set forth a prima facie case of age discrimination, Schindler's motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Local Rule 56.1

Under Local Rule 56.1, a party seeking summary judgment must submit a statement of material facts, consisting of short numbered paragraphs accompanied by citations to admissible evidence. Loc. R. 56.1(a). The opposing party must admit or deny each paragraph and cite to supporting evidence. Loc. R. 56.1(b)(3)(A). Failure to include "specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon" in support of a denial may cause the movant's facts to be deemed admitted to the extent that they are supported by the record. See id.; Brasic v. Heinemann's Inc., 121 F.3d 281, 284 (7th Cir. 1997); Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 924 (7th Cir. 1994).

Many of Hinko's responses to Schindler's facts indicate that the facts are "disputed" or "otherwise disputed" and then cite to the entirety of Hinko's own statement of additional facts. This is improper. Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Services, Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817-18 (7th Cir. 2004). Moreover, the court is not required to scour the record to unearth evidentiary support for a party's position. See id. Nevertheless, in the interests of justice, the court examined Hinko's statement of facts and attempted to match the relevant evidence to the disputed paragraphs in Schindler's statement of facts. This task properly belongs to Hinko, whose failure to comply with the longstanding local rules governing summary judgment motions means that he has forfeited any ability to express dissatisfaction with the court's efforts to reach the merits despite the problems with his Rule 56 submissions.

The court will thus consider facts in Schinder's statement of facts as disputed where Hinko properly directed the court's attention to evidence supporting his position or the court was able to readily identify the relevant evidence in Hinko's statement of additional facts. All other facts are deemed admitted. With this understanding, the following facts are derived from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements.

B. Facts

1. Schindler's Business

Schindler Elevator Corporation constructs, installs, modernizes, repairs, and services elevators, escalators and related equipment throughout the United States, including Illinois. Schindler's Chicago-Suburban office is responsible for Schindler's business operations in the greater Chicago area. The Chicago-Suburban office consists of three departments: (1) the construction department (which installs new elevators and escalators in buildings under construction); (2) the modernization department (which upgrades or replaces equipment in existing buildings); and (3) the service department (which provides maintenance and repair services for customers with existing equipment).

Maintenance mechanics (who perform work on elevator and escalator equipment to keep it running) and repair mechanics (who fix equipment when it breaks down) work in the service department. Maintenance mechanics generally work alone on specific routes, each of which consists of numerous buildings in a specific geographic area that the mechanic regularly visits. In contrast, repair mechanics generally work as a team with an apprentice and perform specific repair jobs as needed.

There are three geographic zones in Schindler's Chicago-Suburban office: north, west, and south. Each zone currently contains nine to eleven maintenance routes, has its own repair team, and is managed by a service superintendent. Before 2005, Schindler had six repair teams who were not assigned to specific zones. Instead, they were assigned as needed in any zone and were managed by a separate service superintendent.

2. Hinko's Background

Plaintiff Thomas Hinko has repaired escalators and elevators for over 25 years. He worked for various elevator and escalator companies throughout his career, including Peelle Door Company, Schindler Westinghouse (a predecessor of Schindler's), Mitsubishi, KONE, and Thyssen-Krupp. Although Hinko has held a mechanic's license in the elevator industry since 1977, he has focused his career on escalators since about 1980 and has not received continuing training on elevators. Hinko concedes that he has worked mostly on escalators since 1980, prefers working on escalators over working on elevators, and has not received continuing training on elevators or kept up-to-date on technological advances in elevators. At his deposition, Hinko also testified that he would not have been interested in a route if it required substantial elevator work.

In the fall of 2005, Hinko worked as a mechanic on a repair team in the service department in Schindler's Chicago-Suburban office. At this time, Hinko's repair team was one of three in the Chicago-Suburban office that performed ...

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