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Young v. Illinois Dep't of Revenue

March 12, 2009

ANGELA YOUNG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

Angela Young ("Young") sued her employer, the Illinois Department of Revenue ("Department"), for sex discrimination.

A jury found in Young's favor and awarded her $325,000. Concluding that the evidence was insufficient to impute liability to the Department, this Court now enters judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Department.

I. BACKGROUND

In October 2003, the Department ordered a number of lay-offs. Supervisors were instructed to identify "redundant or stacked" levels of management and eliminate those positions. Young was among those laid-off.*fn1

Young sued the Department, arguing that Jay Neposchlan ("Neposchlan") eliminated her position because of her sex. In response, the Department claimed that Young's position was eliminated solely because it was a stacked level of management, i.e., there were two supervisors between the head of the department and the front-line staff. After the denial of the Department's motion for summary judgment, the case went to a jury. Young prevailed and the jury awarded her $325,000.

Following trial, four sets of briefs were filed, two addressing liability and two addressing damages. The first of the liability briefs relate to the Department's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law [d/e 47, 48, & 66]. The second set of briefs was filed pursuant to the Court's request.

These filings address whether the Court's prior summary judgment order was correct in light of subsequent case law [d/e 67, 70, 71, 73].

Both parties have also briefed damages issues. The Department filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, a new trial regarding the $325,000 award [d/e 55, 56, & 62]. Young has also filed a "Brief of Plaintiff Regarding Equitable Remedies" [d/e 57, 65].

II. APPLICABLE STANDARDS

Judgment as a matter of law is proper where the trial evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, is insufficient to support the verdict.Massey v. Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Ill., 226 F.3d 922, 924 (7th Cir. 2000). The court does not re-weigh evidence or make credibility determinations but merely "assure[s] that the jury had a legally sufficient evidentiary basis for its verdict." Filipovich v. K & R Express Sys., Inc., 391 F.3d 859, (7th Cir. 2004). "[T]his is fundamentally the same standard that [courts] use in reviewing a decision on summary judgment, with the important difference that we now know exactly what evidence was put before the jury." Id.

Alternatively, the Department also seeks a new trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. "[N]ew trials granted because the verdict is against the weight of the evidence are proper only when the record shows that the jury's verdict resulted in a miscarriage of justice or where the verdict, on the record, cries out to be overturned or shocks our conscience." Latino v. Kaizer, 58 F.3d 310, 315 (7th Cir. 1995) (citing Williamson v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 1344, 1353 (3d Cir. 1991)).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Denial of Summary Judgment

Before addressing the motions, a preliminary issue must be settled. Prior to trial, this Court denied Defendant's motion for summary judgment, finding, in part, that Young had made out a prima facie case under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. In reaching this conclusion, the Court found that Young "[t]hough failing to qualify under the miniRIF" analysis, could nevertheless "establish a prima facie case by showing that a similarly situated male received more favorable treatment." Young v. Ill. Dep't of Rev., 2008 WL 686986, *4 (C.D. Ill. Jan. 16, 2008). Following trial and the briefing of the current motions, Petts v. Rockledge Furniture LLC, 534 F.3d 715 (7th Cir. 2008) was decided. In that case, the Seventh Circuit, with little elaboration, found that where the mini-RIF analysis applied, it applied exclusively:

[Plaintiff] next argues that a court need not apply the mini-RIF variation if doing so makes it more difficult for a plaintiff to prove her prima facie case. However, we have said that where the plaintiff's duties were reabsorbed by another employee after the plaintiff's termination . . . we must apply the indirect burden shifting method for a mini-reduction-in-force situation. [Plaintiff's] duties were absorbed by other ...


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