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Bartholomew v. Wal-Mart Stores

September 12, 2008

JUDY BARTHOLOMEW, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Judy Bartholomew has sued Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., asserting a claim for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 626(c)(1) (ADEA), and a claim for gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1) (Title VII). Wal-Mart has moved for summary judgment on all of Bartholomew's claims. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion.

Facts

Because Wal-Mart has moved for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to Bartholomew and draws reasonable inferences in her favor. See, e.g., Nat'l Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008).

Bartholomew began her employment with Wal-Mart in 1993. She was terminated by Wal-Mart in April 2006. She was fifty-eight years old at the time of her termination. Bartholomew initially worked at Wal-Mart's Bedford Park store as a cashier. In 1994, she became the personnel manager responsible for the same store. At the time she became personnel manager, the then-manager of the Bedford Park Store, Paul Waldren, promised her a raise of $1.30 an hour. Though she received other compensation increases over the next twelve years, Bartholomew claims she never received the $1.30 raise promised by Waldren. Wal-Mart disputes that she was entitled to any such raise.

As personnel manager, Bartholomew's duties included making sure Wal-Mart's guidelines regarding personnel issues were followed and conducting reviews to ensure that the personnel files were accurate. This included conducting an annual review of every employee (the Week 52 Review). The Week 52 Review involved checking and confirming certain employment records and forms for each employee at an individual store. Bartholomew claims that she completed the Week 52 Review in the same manner for over ten years without objection or questioning by any of her supervisors. Her method involved a two-step process. Wal-Mart claims to be unaware of Bartholomew's two-step process for the Week 52 Review and that it is contrary to WalMart's requirements.

In March 2006, Bartholomew asked for assistance from an assistant manager at the Bedford Park store, Joe Ciaglia, in completing necessary paperwork regarding training plans for employees at the store. Ciaglia mentioned this request to the co-manager of the store, Todd Meldrum. Bartholomew also asked Meldrum and the Bedford Park store manager (the top manager located at the store), Tim Horan, for assistance in completing the Week 52 Review.

Around this time, Meldrum began an investigation to determine whether Bartholomew had accurately completed her Week 52 Review. At the end of his investigation, Meldrum claims to have found that Bartholomew falsified numerous documents in the Week 52 Review. Bartholomew denied that any falsifications existed, reiterated that she had not yet completed the Week 52 Review, and stated that the alleged falsifications were actually errors that would be corrected once she had completed the review. Meldrum reported the results of his investigation to Horan, who in turn reviewed a portion of the documents examined by Meldrum. Horan concluded that Bartholomew had committed gross misconduct in violation of Wal-Mart policies by falsifying records. After consulting with Wal-Mart's employment advisory service and his own supervisor, market manager Chad Donath, Horan terminated Bartholomew.

Bartholomew utilized a Wal-Mart policy allowing her to contest the termination. Wal-Mart's market human resource manager, Julie Gianneschi, initially expressed concern that termination was overly harsh after speaking with Bartholomew. At Donath's request, Gianneschi went to the Bedford Park store to investigate the circumstances of Bartholomew's termination. Horan and Meldrum were not involved in Gianneschi's investigation. Following her investigation, Gianneschi determined that it was appropriate to terminate Bartholomew. On the basis of that recommendation, Donath upheld Bartholomew's termination.

Bartholomew has alleged that Meldrum imposed less stringent disciplinary standards on male and younger female employees. Of the specific incidents Bartholomew recalls, none concerned a Week 52 Review. Bartholomew also believed a rumor she heard that Meldrum was dating a store employee in violation of Wal-Mart policy. No allegations of such conduct have been made against Horan or Donath.

Discussion

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

1. Employment Termination Claims

Claims for discrimination under Title VII "may be proved either directly . . . or indirectly under the burden-shifting method established in McDonnell Douglas." Scaife v. Cook County, 446 F.3d 735, 739 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-04 (1973)). The same standard is also used to prove ADEA claims. E.g., Rummery v. Ill. Bell Tel. Co., 250 F.3d 553, 556 (7th Cir. 2001). Bartholomew has not presented any direct evidence of discrimination; accordingly, she is required to proceed under the indirect method. Under the indirect method, Bartholomew must show (1) she was a member of a protected class; (2) she was meeting Wal-Mart's legitimate job expectations; (3) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated employees outside the protected class were treated more favorably. Gates v. Caterpillar, Inc., 513 F.3d 680, 690 (7th Cir. 2008). If Bartholomew can make this prima facie showing, the burden shifts to ...


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