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Schneider v. Protestant Memorial Medical Center

March 10, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge


I. Introduction

Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support (Doc. 21). Plaintiff has filed a response to the motion (Doc. 34). Defendant has filed a reply (Doc. 34).

Plaintiff has filed a four count Complaint alleging gender and age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff also seeks relief for retaliation under both statutes. Plaintiff contends that when he applied for several open transfer positions after his own position was eliminated by Defendant in December 2006, Defendant did not award the position to Plaintiff even though he was well qualified and informed by his supervisor and the head of personnel that he had "first priority" in transferring to an open position. Plaintiff believes that the decision not to award him the job was based on his gender and age. Further, Plaintiff claims that when he opposed Defendant's decision to hire other applicants for the positions and voiced his belief that Defendant's decision was based on Plaintiff's age and gender, that Defendant then terminated Plaintiff's position early. Plaintiff believes that the reason for not hiring him for the open position, conducting an investigation into the alleged sexual harassment complaints, and ultimately discharging him were pretextual.

Defendant seeks summary judgment on all four of Plaintiff's claims. The Court, having reviewed the parties briefing and relevant exhibits, rules as follows.

II. Factual Background

Plaintiff was employed by Defendant since 1990 (Doc. 34, Ex. 1 at ¶1). At the time of his separation, Plaintiff was employed as a Business Operations Assistant at Memorial Convalescent Center (Doc. 21-2 at p. 37; Doc. 34, Ex. 1 at ¶2). At Plaintiff's position as a Business Operations Assistant, Plaintiff handled the admission of patients and residents. (Doc. 21-2 at p. 26-30). Part of Plaintiff's position required him to hold patient's valuables (Doc.21, Ex. 1 p. 37; Doc. 34, Ex. 11 p. 26; Ex. 12 p. MEM/SCH 0156-59; Ex. 13 Answer to Request 5, MEM/SCH 639, 645, 679-81).

Beginning in 2006, Defendant began implementing several procedural changes which resulted in a reassignment of a number of Plaintiff's responsiiblites to other positions. As a result of that restructuring, Plaintiff was informed that his position would be eliminated as of March 1, 2007 due to the position's limited responsibilities (Doc. 34-1 at ¶11; Ex. 2 at p.62; Doc 21-1 at ¶¶ 11, 12; 21-4 pp.4-5; 21-2 pp. 62-64). Plaintiff was informed of this decision on December 1, 2006 by Anne Crook, Plaintiff's supervisor and Director of Nursing, and Barbara Schneider,*fn1 Director of Personnel (Id.). Plaintiff was informed by both Crook and Schneider that he would be able to apply for open positions with both MCC and Memorial Hospital (the "Hospital"), but if he did not secure a position before his eliminate date his employment with Defendant would come to an end (Doc. 21-1 at ¶13; 21-2 at pp. 62-64 & Ex. I). The letter given to Plaintiff by Crook and Schneider informed him at this meeting that he would have "first priority" in applying for transfer positions (Doc. 34-1 at ¶12; Ex. 1 at ¶ 3, Attachment A p. 1). Plaintiff was instructed to meet with Jeanne Holder, Defendant's Personnel Recruiter to discuss available positions (Doc. 21-1 at ¶ 16; 21-2 at pp. 64-65).

On December 13, 2006, Plaintiff met with Ms. Holder to discuss job posting (Doc. 34-1 at ¶13; 21-2 at p.66). Subsequently, Plaintiff applied for an open position as a Patient Accounts Representative in the Patient Accounts Department at Memorial Hospital (Doc. 34-1 at ¶13, Ex. 7 at p. 40 & Ex. 10).

Plaintiff interviewed for the open position in the Patient Accounts Department on December 18, 2006 (Doc. 34-1 at ¶ 23, Ex. 5 at pp. 4-5; Doc. 21-2 at pp.77-79). He was interviewed by Mary farmer, the Assistant Director of Patients Accounts. Farmer informed Plaintiff that there were three PAR openings (Doc. 34-1 at ¶ 25, Ex. 2 at p. 85). Ultimately, Farmer did not select Plaintiff for the Patient Accounts Representative position (Doc. 21-1 at ¶ 27). When Plaintiff discovered that he had not been fired for the position in the Accounts Department, he complained to Holder that he had not been hired because of his age and gender (Doc. 34-1 at ¶59, Ex. 2 at pp. 108-09, 126-27).

Plaintiff also submitted an application for a position as a Transporter/Dispatcher and was interviewed for the position by Brenda Nuernberger, Transport Supervisor, and Barbarare Jany, Director over the Transport Department. Plaintiff also did not receive an offer for that position (Doc. 21-2 at ¶68; 21-2 at pp.93-95; 21-8 at pp. 5,9). Sometime within the past year before Plaintiff applied for the position, Nuernberger had learned from other employees that they were uncomfortable working with Plaintiff (Doc. 21-8 at pp.10-15). Two employees sometime within a year prior to the interviews had informed Nuernberger on separate occasions that Plaintiff made them uncomfortable and had asked them out on a date. In discussing the qualifications of Plaintiff, Nuernberger informed Jany of her concerns who subsequently instructed her to follow-up with Schneider (Id. at 9-10, 20-21). Nuernberger met with Schneider who told her she would look into the matter and set up interviews with the employees who had previously expressed concern over working with Plaintiff (Id. at pp. 20-22).

In response to the concerns raised by Nuernberger, Scheider launched an investigation into the incidents. Schneider spoke with the employees who had been mentioned by Nuernberger as the ones who had voiced concerns in the past. Schneider conducted interviews from February 9 to February 14 and on February 16 she, along with Anne Crook, informed Plaintiff that he would be suspended pending an investigation. At that time Plaintiff was instructed to submit a response to the allegations which he did on February 19, 2007 (Doc. 34-1 at ¶¶ 80-81, Ex. 7 at pp. 19-21 & Ex. 4; Doc. 21-1 at ¶¶ 78-80; 21-3 at pp. 18-19). Schneider reviewed Plaintiff's response and found the concerns to be inconclusive (Id.).

Prior to informing Plaintiff that he could return to work, Colleen Mueller entered Plaintiff's office to search for a resident's money. During her search, Mueller located a valuables envelope containing valuables of former residents which Mueller believed to be unusual and showed the envelope to Crook (Doc. 21-1 at ¶¶88-89; 21-9 at pp. 20-23; 21-3 at pp. 24, 30-33,35 & Ex. 5). In response to the discovery, Schneider and Crook typed a "Letter of Discharge" and informed Plaintiff that his date of departure was being expedited from March 1, 2007 to February 26, 2007 but that he would still be paid through March 1, 2007 (Doc. 34-1 at ¶102; 21-1 at ¶¶ 97-98; 21-2 at pp. 120-24 & Ex. T; 21-4 at pp. 36-38; 21-3 at pp. 35-40).

III. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate under the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE when "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 a judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P.56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of factual issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Wollin v. Gondert, 192 F.3d 616, 621-22 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court must consider the entire record, drawing reasonable inferences and resolving factual disputes in favor of the non-movant. Schneiker v. Fortis Inc. Co., 200 F.3d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir. 2000); Baron v. City of Highland Park, 195 F.3d 333, 337-38 (7th Cir. 1999); Santaella, 123 F.3d at 461 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323); Regensburger v. China Adoption Consultants, Ltd., 138 F.3d 1201, 1205 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Summary judgment is also appropriate if a ...

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