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Matranga v. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria

September 2, 2009

KATHRYN MATRANGA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF THE DIOCESE OF PEORIA, A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

The Defendant, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria ("Catholic Charities" or "the agency"), moved for summary judgment on February 2, 2009 (Doc. 32). On February 11, 2009, the Plaintiff, Kathryn Matranga, responded in opposition to the motion. Catholic Charities replied on February 25, 2009. For the reasons that follow, Catholic Charities' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Kathryn Matranga has sued her former employer, Catholic Charities, alleging that she was terminated because of her age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et. seq. Catholic Charities is a not-for-profit organization that provides a variety of social services to individuals and communities in central Illinois. The agency employs over 400 people in ten offices within the state. (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 2-4).

In 1990, Catholic Charities hired Matranga to work as a secretary/receptionist at the agency's North Office located at 413 Northeast Monroe, Peoria, Illinois. At that time, the North Office housed four of the agency's social programs: Adoption, Natural Family Planning, Women's Counseling and Support Services ("WCSS"), and Senior Services. Early in her career at Catholic Charities, Matranga served all North Office programs except for Adoption. (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 15-16) The Adoption program had its own full-time secretary.*fn1 (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 17). During her first ten years with Catholic Charities, Matranga regularly performed the following work duties: typing routine correspondence; preparing and sending out standardized letters and other mail; preparing new case files and sending closed case files to archives; answering incoming calls and routing messages; greeting clients and routing them to staff members; overseeing the use of the agency's automobiles; ordering supplies; supervising the housekeeper; and typing caseworkers' note dictation.

In subsequent years, Matranga's work responsibilities at Catholic Charities diminished. By 2004, many of the caseworkers at the North Office were typing their own case notes on personal computers. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 20; Exs. 1-2 to Def.'s Mot. for SJ, Matranga Dep., at pp. 42-43).*fn2 Also, in or around 2004, another Catholic Charities employee, Linda Williams, took over the secretarial work for the WCSS program. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 21; Matranga Dep. at pp. 42-43).*fn3 Linda Williams had worked for Catholic Charities since approximately 2003. (Matranga Dep. at p. 45; Ex. 4 to Def.'s Mot. for SJ, Rosemary Haynes Dep., at pp. 28-29). By July 2004, Matranga's primary job responsibilities were limited to greeting clients and answering incoming phone calls. (Matranga Dep. at pp. 61-63). She also spent some time typing note dictation for caseworkers in the Senior Services program, ordering office supplies, and assisting with maintenance/housekeeping issues. (Matranga Dep. at pp. 61-63). It is undisputed that Matranga satisfactorily performed the job duties assigned to her. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 25).

Proficiency in computer software was a topic of concern that arose in the course of Matranga's employment with Catholic Charities. According to the deposition testimony of North Office supervisor Chris Kelly, the job description for Matranga's secretary/reception position called for familiarity with the software programs Microsoft Excel and Adobe PageMaker. (Ex. 3 to Def.'s Mot. for SJ, Chris Kelly Dep., at p. 50). Further, Kelly testified that Catholic Charities' management had suggested to Matranga that she needed to enhance her computer skills in order to move forward with the agency. (Kelly Dep. at p. 50).

The parties dispute whether Matranga took adequate initiative to improve her proficiency in Excel and other software programs. It is undisputed that Matranga asked Catholic Charities' management at least a few times to provide her with software training. (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 26, 29). But, for various reasons, Matranga never received training. In one instance which occurred in or around 2004, Matranga asked Catholic Charities to sponsor her enrollment in a community college course focused specifically on Excel. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 31). Because of funding concerns, Catholic Charities denied the request. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 32). Around the same time, however, Catholic Charities apparently sponsored the enrollment of Matranga's co-worker Linda Williams in an online Excel course offered through a different community college. (Matranga Dep. at pp. 52-53).*fn4 Matranga did not seek outside computer training after 2004, and no in-house training sessions were offered. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 35).

In early 2006, Catholic Charities management determined that it would be necessary to relocate the North Office. At that time, the building which housed the North Office, at 413 Northeast Monroe, was owned by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 37). The Diocese allowed Catholic Charities to use the building in return for nominal rent. The annual occupancy costs for the facility at Northeast Monroe, including rent, utilities and other expenses, totaled less than $15,000. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 39). At some point in the beginning portion of 2006, Catholic Charities learned that the Diocese intended to demolish the facility. In response, Catholic Charities management began to search for an alternative location to house the four programs administered through the North Office as of 2006: Senior Services, Adoption, WCSS, and Counseling ("satellite programs"). (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 40). Before Catholic Charities made a final decision as to an alternative location for the satellite programs, the Senior Services program elected to move to Catholic Charities' main campus on West Heading Avenue in Peoria. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 46; Ex. 5 to Def.'s Mot. for SJ, 1/30/2009 A. Riordan Decl. ¶ 21). Accordingly, Catholic Charities management altered its real estate search to focus on a building that could accommodate the remaining three satellite programs.

In September 2006, Catholic Charities' management identified a suitable property located at 4806 North Sheridan Road in Peoria and negotiated a lease. (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 49-50). The annual occupancy costs for the North Sheridan facility totaled $49,000, an amount over three times the total occupancy cost of the old Northeast Monroe facility. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 51). Despite the substantial increase in occupancy costs, however, Catholic Charities' management understood that the agency would receive no additional funding to cover the difference. (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 45). Accordingly, site supervisor Chris Kelly conducted a budget review to determine how best to reduce operating expenses. The budget analysis revealed that the North Office exceeded Catholic Charities' accepted staffing ratio of fourteen staff members to every one clerical position (14:1). (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 53-54). As of October 2006, the North Office had a staffing ratio of 9:2 -- the two clerical employees being Matranga, who occupied the secretary/receptionist position, and Linda Williams, who occupied the adoption secretary/search intake worker position. (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 55-56). Kelly determined that it cost Catholic Charities $25,986 per year to employ Matranga and $25,382 per year to employ Williams. (Ex. 7 to Def.'s Mot. for SJ, 10/10/2006 Kelly Mem. to T. Riordan re Staff Reduction at p. 2).

Based on her budget review and her evaluation of program needs, Kelly decided that Matranga's position and Williams' position could be combined into a single position. On October 10, 2006, Kelly transmitted a memorandum to Catholic Charities' Associate Director, Tony Riordan, recommending that the agency retain Williams to occupy the combined position (adoption secretary/search intake worker/counseling secretary).*fn5 The memo also recommended that Catholic Charities terminate Matranga's employment. (10/10/2006 Kelly Mem. to Riordan re Staff Reduction at p. 3). In making her official written recommendation to keep Williams and terminate Matranga, Kelly expressly adhered to Catholic Charities' staff reduction policy as set forth in the agency's employee handbook. (10/10/2006 Kelly Mem. to Riordan re Staff Reduction at p. 2; Ex. 6 to Def.'s Mot. for SJ, Excerpts from Catholic Charities Employee Handbook at pp. 54-55). Under the agency's staff reduction policy, management took into account the following considerations when selecting the employees who would be affected by a cut in workforce: (1) program needs; (2) job classification; (3) budgetary concerns; (4) performance; and (5) qualifications and length of service. Touching upon these considerations in her October 10, 2006 memo to Tony Riordan, Kelly stated as follows:

Currently Linda Williams and Kay Matranga have different and distinct job descriptions. Kay's primary responsibilities are answering the phones and greeting clients. Kay has no experience with the adoption, search intake, and counseling responsibilities that this position will require. Linda has experience doing Kay's job. Program needs, qualifications, and seniority were all considered in determining this staff reduction. We are requesting to eliminate the full-time secretary position prior to the relocation of the counseling and adoption programs. (10/10/2006 Kelly Mem. to Riordan re Staff Reduction at p. 3).*fn6 At her deposition, Kelly testified that she essentially gave equal weight to all staff reduction policy considerations -- including seniority -- in arriving at the decision to terminate Matranga. (Kelly Dep. at pp. 44-48). Kelly also testified that Matranga's lack of proficiency in Excel and PageMaker factored into the decision, as did Matranga's perceived lack of initiative to become proficient in these software programs. (Kelly Dep. at pp. 49-51).

On October 19, 2006, Riordan accepted and approved Kelly's recommended plan for staff reduction, i.e. Matranga's termination. The same day, Catholic Charities' Human Resources Director, Rosemary Haynes, and the agency's Executive Director, Peggy Arizzi, also approved the plan. (10/10/2006 Kelly Mem. to Riordan re Staff Reduction at p. 3; Haynes Dep. at pp. 14-15). In deposition testimony, Haynes, like Kelly, indicated that Williams had a much higher level of aptitude than Matranga in Excel and in computer-related matters generally. (Haynes Dep. at p. 37). Haynes further testified that Williams' superior qualifications for the new position outweighed Matranga's seniority. (Haynes Dep. at pp. 34-36). At the time management approved the staff reduction plan, Matranga was 62 years old and Williams was 47. (Matranga Dep. at pp. 98-99; Def.'s SUMF ¶ 56).

On the afternoon of October 19, 2006, Rosemary Haynes and Chris Kelly met with Matranga to let her know that her position was being terminated ("termination meeting"). Haynes explained to Matranga that Catholic Charities had decided to combine the secretary/receptionist position and the adoption secretary/search intake worker position. Haynes told Matranga that Catholic Charities had selected Linda Williams to fill the combined position and that Matranga's employment would be terminated on November 10, 2006. (Def.'s SUMF ΒΆΒΆ 81-85). There seems to be an issue of fact as to whether Matranga mentioned retirement at the meeting. Both Kelly and Haynes testified at their depositions that after Matranga was notified of her termination, she commented about her family's wish for her to retire. (Haynes ...


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